Revitalizing Center Store

As supermarkets devote more and more real estate to perishables, prepared foods, foodservice, and seasonal items, space devoted to traditional canned, boxed and jarred groceries continues to shrink. In an attempt to make center store more profitable, many retailers are reducing facings and culling sizes of national and regional brands.

But don’t count packaged foods out, because astute manufacturers are wooing consumers with updated versions of time-honored classics.

Reimagining Canned Foods

In the canned seafood set, for example. Season Brand has cast its net to lure in new customers with the new Season Savories. These ready-to-eat meal kits, available in Sweet & Spicy, Lemon Veggie and Mediterranean varieties, feature skinless and boneless sardine salad, six fat-free organic rice crackers and a foldable spoon, along with a novel “EZ-Peel” lid that is splash free and safer than conventional metal lids.

“Season Savories deliver more than twice the protein and calcium of existing tuna salad kits and are also packed with iron and omega 3s,” says David Sugarman, president and CEO of The Manischewitz Company, the Newark, NJ-based owner of Season Brand. “These convenient kits are a great choice for people who are looking for a healthy and delicious option that can fit their fast-paced lifestyle – making them a game-changer in the canned fish category.”

A few feet down the aisle, Safe Catch is hooking consumers concerned about mercury levels in tuna with a line of innovative canned and pouched tuna and salmon featuring fish that are individually tested for mercury to a limit ten times stricter than FDA recommendations.

“We are bringing people back to tuna,” says Craig Cuffney, international account and partnership manager at Safe Catch Inc., based in Sausalito, Calif. “Since 2004, when the FDA started regulating and warning people about mercury in tuna, sales have declined a lot.”

Safe Catch has not only been named the official tuna of the American Pregnancy Association, but is actually processed differently than its big three national brand counterparts. “We hand-pack a tuna steak in the can, don’t add anything to it, seal the can and cook it once, so it is cooked in its own fats and oils,” Cuffney says. “The consumer shouldn’t drain it, just mix it up so the fats and oils are reabsorbed. The consumer is getting more tuna for their money because they are not draining anything away.”

Peanut butter and jelly is another popular lunch option that has seen better days. Adrian M. Silversmith is revitalizing that category with Sprelly, a line of gourmet flavored nut butters and accompanying jellies (Sweet Thai Chili Peanut and Raspberry Zinfandel jelly, to name two) that can be paired – like one would pair a protein and bottle of wine – to create a delicious dining experience. “I want to be the wall that divides the peanut butter section from the jelly section,” says Silversmith, founder of Fredericksburg, Va.-based Sprelly. “There could be a recommended pairing that could be wrapped together,” he says, envisioning a cellophane wrapped peanut butter and jelly duo, bundled similar to a twin pack of deodorant one would find in Costco.


Innovations in Boxed Dinners

With the rise of vastly improved frozen entrees, hot prepared food counters and gourmet meal kits, the boxed packaged dinner category has been treated as a joke by many retailers. But the punchline is that the goat cheese-based macaroni & cheese dinners from Funny Farm by La Loo’s is seeing phenomenal growth. In fact, the Frisco, Texas-based company’s Creamy Goat Cheddar Cheese, Creamy Goat Shaped Cheddar Cheese and Creamy Goat White Cheddar with Jalapeno dinners have been such hits, it recently added several new flavors, including Alfredo and Tomato Basil.

Funny Farm works with 21 family farms in Wisconsin that supply it with its goat cheese. The company gained fame for its internationally distributed La Loo’s goat milk ice cream, and then expanded to Funny Farm by La Loo’s frozen goat cheese pizzas. The packaged dinners are its newest offering.

“We’re the fastest growing mac-and-cheese out there,” says Tim Millson, who calls himself Funny Farm’s “mayor,” and notes that the brand is carried in some 2,000 natural stores and supermarkets across the country. It has caught the attention of industry powerhouse Kraft Heinz. “In fact, we’ve been taking such big chunks out of Kraft, that they are watching us real close,” Millson notes.


Modernizing Instant Tea

Excitement is also brewing in the tea set, where 10th Avenue Tea has introduced a line of instant green tea matcha packaged in novel aluminum bottles with shaker tops. “We created this bottle to get rid of packaging waste,” says Ann Foley, CEO & co-founder of the Chicago-based firm. “This tiny bottle makes 45 cups, so it eliminates packaging from 45 tea bags or 45 K-Cups.”

That not only helps save the environment, but also helps save space on the shelves. “A lot of the stores that we are getting into are not even taking anything out on their planograms,” Foley says. “We initially had a case pack where the store could rip the top off and display the bottles in the case, but managers were taking it out because the bottle itself is so attractive and the box was kind of hiding its uniqueness.”

10th Avenue Tea instant matcha is available in Green Tea Matcha, Chai Matcha, Black Tea Matcha and Tropical Tea Matcha and Herbal Berry Tea varieties. “We’re trying to make matcha more mainstream,” Foley says. “With regular matcha you have to measure it and whisk it. It is a whole process. With ours you just sprinkle four or five shakes into a cup or glass and add hot or cold water.”

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