Newsclip: Talking Shop with Bob Sewall
BY GROCERY HEADQUARTERS STAFF
Bob Sewall, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Blount Fine Foods, says the more Blount elevates its products, the more success its retail customers enjoy.
What is happening in the soup market at retail?
Bob Sewall: The quality of the soups available continues to improve, especially in refrigerated soup, where the growth is and where it will continue to be. The important players in the space continue to bring wholesome, premium soups made with simple ingredients that truly give a restaurant-like experience to consumers.
Ingredient sourcing and handling continue to improve, which means a company like Blount can bring delicious, premium quality organic soups to market that have a 50- to 70-day shelf life, and which are consistent in every way, from batch to batch and season to season.
While the quality of premium soups continues to elevate, the variety of soups and recipes continues to expand just as fast, both of which further marginalize the lower end of the marketplace. Retailers are embracing the new premium soup recipes our culinary team develops and are immediately asking us for private label options to test in the marketplace.
What can retailers do to maximize sales in the category?
Picking up on the idea of embracing the newest flavors, our most successful retailers are the ones that are willing to test new recipes, whether as a branded soup from Panera Bread, Legal Sea Foods, Blount Organics, our newest brand Blount Eating Well—which is made with simple ingredients—or as a private label offering. To maximize the exposure of a new flavor, these retailers do not just make it available, and maybe promote it in a circular or online, but they drive trial by sampling the flavor in their hot-to-go soup bar, while letting shoppers know it is also available in their refrigerated soup section.
When foodservice soup sales at lunch also inspire retail purchase for later, you have struck on a winning recipe. Testing new flavors means the retailer is also rotating options in and out of the ongoing soup program, and everyone knows younger shoppers appreciate options and variety.
Blount has introduced a new line of premium products. Tell us about them.
We have been so thrilled with the incredible success of our premium soup business over the last 15 years. When you think about it, we have created a whole new category, because there is no comparing a premium refrigerated soup with what comes out of a can.
To build on that success, we are applying our expertise and capabilities to expand into prepared entrées and side dishes, which we will be launching and showcasing at this year’s IDDBA show. We call this our “bowls” line.
This is a line of restaurant-quality small-batch, layered, flavored, sautéed and slow-simmered dishes consumers will love, which we will offer across the Panera Bread, Blount Organics and Blount Eating Well brands.
The Panera Bread bowl line will include favorites like 12-ounce chicken, broccoli and cheddar cheese with orzo pasta, and of course, Panera’s very successful 16-ounce mac and cheese. The Blount Organics line will include 12-ounce sides like butternut squash and lentil and chickpea.
All of the products come packaged in microwavable heat-and-eat bowls.
Do these products need to be treated differently on the shelves to make a difference with consumers?
Like our soups, and in fact all premium value-added products, they are best presented at any number of locations on the perimeter of the store. Ideally, placement will be with other premium heat-and-eat foods. Several retailers we are working with have indicated they intend to slot them in more than one location while shoppers get to know the line.
What cross-merchandising opportunities exist?
Consumers often seek out the refrigerated soups we sell under the Panera Bread, Legal Sea Foods and now the Blount Organics and Eating Well brands. There is similar preference for the private label soups we make as well.
With our “bowls” category of appetizers and sides, we are betting that there will be a halo effect, and we believe the retailers that cross-merchandise between not only soups and bowls, but between their hot bar and bowls, will be the ones that most quickly enjoy the results they need to justify providing the required shelf space.