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Pundit’s Mailbag —
Sunkist Jarred Fruit
Just The Beginning

Our piece, New Sunkist Jarred Fruit Line May Lift Sales Of All Produce Items, pointed out that Sunkist was introducing a new jarred fruit line which would compete with the line sold by Del Monte Foods. The deal is that Sunkist has given a license to Old World Enterprise Group, which will produce the product but the Sunkist fresh fruit sales team will sell the product.

The article prompted a letter from Woody Johnson, Vice President Sales & Marketing for Green Giant Fresh by Growers Express, which we published under the title, Pundit’s Mailbag — ‘Sunkist Has A Winner’ With Jarred Fruit Line. Woody expressed his informed assessment that the product line should be a big success.

Now we have received a note from the President of Sunkist’s licensee on this product:

As the president of Old World Enterprise Group, I appreciate the interest and comments being made about our new Sunkist product line.

Our emphasis through the new product development process has been on differentiation, through fresher, natural taste and less emphasis on added syrup. We employed Mattson, one of the leading food development firms in the country, to help us with formulation, specifications and consumer research.

We also have our own advertising and marketing firm, Noble Communications, that contributed what we believe to be a winning consumer strategy and brand proposition.

And, lastly, our plans go well beyond this core product line to include additional, unique flavors and category ‘adjacencies’, that we believe will add more value to our customer/partners. By offering consumers a choice, we believe there will be ‘stimulation’ to the category — another key benefit for our customers.

— Dick Sanderson
Old World Enterprise Group

We appreciate hearing from Mr. Sanderson. It is interesting to learn that Old World is going to try to differentiate the product. The samples we received were delicious but we can’t say that we saw, at least in these preliminary products, any clear differentiation on taste or flavor.

But time will tell. Without a doubt, more varieties and “adjacencies” could help boost the category. However, refrigerated space is always at a premium and the amount of space produce retailers are willing to allocate for jarred product is limited, so it is not necessarily easy to expand the range.

In fact, in the majority of cases when a vendor makes a presentation to boost its new line, the retailer responds with enthusiasm and then asks the vendor which variety the retailer should discontinue to make room for the new line.

Produce isn’t canned goods, and it is unlikely that many retailers will offer consumers a choice. Retailers will select one line or the other to carry. In fact, a powerful argument for the Number 2 player in the market to come out with unusual varieties is that it gives retailers a reason to give the second player a slot. If they do well enough, the Number 2 player might get the whole gig.

Mr. Sanderson is certainly on the right track — differentiated product, less syrup to ride the anti-obesity wave, consumer research leading to a brand proposition and consumer strategy. How it will play out depends much on Mr. Sanderson.

Sometimes a licensee arrangement works out great, as everyone is acting within their comfort zone. But, sometimes, the division — brand owned by one party, the product by another — can make it difficult to spend money on brand-building… and on slotting fees.

We will see how it works and, certainly, another major entrant is a win for the category, and all these brand impressions will be a win for Sunkist and, we hope, is a win for Old World Enterprise Group as well.

Many thanks to Dick Sanderson for his letter.

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