Progressive Grocer Product

Fall 2014

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cover feature Fall 2014 / Progressive Grocer Products Showcase 7 "We're always challenging CPG manufacturers to come up with new, cutting-edge, innovative products," says Maria Brous, director of community and media relations at Publix, which has 1,077 locations across the Southeast. This is the story of how Truly Tomatoes traveled from the drawing board to store shelves, a path attempted by thousands of products each year. Minimum Space, Maximum Products There are a lot of canned tomato products on the market. Whole, chopped, diced, stewed, organic, seasoned — the list seems endless. But Nielsen reported a 4.2 percent decline in sales in the canned tomato segment from 2010 to 2013. Tomato companies, thus, face a challenge: How do they innovate in a crowded, mature category that is slowly shrinking? "There is a lot of competition in this category, and a number of new items are introduced yearly," says Steve Hirzel, president of Hirzel Canning Company in Northwood, Ohio, which makes the Dei Fratelli brand. "But the products are almost exclusively packed in cans." In early 2012, Hirzel was discussing new products with a customer for whom they co- pack when the idea of trying diferent packaging emerged. An Italian brand of tomato products sold in specialty stores, Pomi, had been using cardboard cartons for several years, and Hirzel felt there might be an opportunity for a domestic brand to use cardboard cartons, too. He discussed the concept with SIG Combibloc, a manufacturer of food and beverage cartons and flling equipment headquartered in Switzerland. Combibloc convinced Hirzel that cartons, which could potentially attract environmentally savvy customers turned of by canned goods, were feasible for his products. The next challenge was creating special recipes especially for the cartons. Tomato products packed in cartons are flled cold and remain that way; tomatoes packed in cans are generally cooked inside the cans. Thus tomato products packed in cartons can have diferent textures and favors than those in cans. Steve Hirzel's cousin, Otto Hirzel, is a chef by trade and the primary new product developer at the company. Keeping in mind the conditions allowed by cartons, Otto Hirzel tried a range of recipes and textures. "I would say roughly eight basic concepts were tried in recipes in our test kitchens, and three rose to the top," Steve Hirzel remembers. Those three are the varieties now found on shelves: Rustic Cut Tomatoes in a Light Puree; Petite Cut Tomatoes in a Light Puree; and Finely Chopped Tomatoes in a Light Puree with Onion, Carrot & Celery. Retailer Collaboration on New Products Naturally, not all new products begin the way Truly Tomatoes did. Sometimes manufacturers get product ideas from retailers. "There are defnitely instances where retailers say, 'Customers are asking for this product and you should develop it,'" says Kurt Jetta, CEO and founder of TABS Group, a consumer analytics consulting frm in Shelton, Conn. "Walmart and Target, in particular, are leaders in that area." However, despite the wealth of consumer knowledge retailers have, Jetta notes that large manufacturers simply cannot act on retailer suggestions every time. "If you took a poll in confdence and asked manufacturers if they solicit help [from retailers], they'd say, 'Well, not really,'" Jetta says. "Some legitimately embrace it, but I'd say most do not. Retailers have their fnger on the pulse of their market, but every market is diferent, and a manufacturer has to appeal to many diferent markets." As for small manufacturers like Hirzel Canning, collaborating with retailers during product development is even less likely, Jetta says. "Small manufacturers don't [use] retailer input because they can't get an audience with the retailers, and the retailers don't really care. That's largely the domain of larger manufacturers," he says. Dimitry Erez, vice president – practice lead for Boston Retail Partners, says one area of product 'Retailers have their finger on the pulse of their market, but every market is different, and a manufacturer has to appeal to many different markets.' K u r t J e t t a , T A B S G r o u p

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