KANSAS CITY, Mo. – British 17th and 18th Century writer Charles Caleb Colton is credited for coining the internationally known-and-used phrase: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This phrase definitely addresses many of the “me-too” products in the US food industry as for every truly unique new product that enters the industry, many knockoffs always follow.
No doubt, it’s forward-thinking food-industry CEOs who lead the charge when it comes to developing truly unique new products. Here’s another perhaps lesser known yet equally significant phrase, Originate, don’t imitate. This particular phrase was coined by none other than George A. Hormel, founder of Hormel Foods, Austin, Minn. For more than a century, the company has honored his edict by introducing many new, value-added products ranging from its iconic Hormel Chili to constantly expanding varieties of SPAM to Hormel Compleats microwave meals, just to mention a few. If he could see the company’s latest new product—Hormel REV wraps—being produced at Hormel’s flagship 1.1 million sq.-ft. Austin plant, he’d be proud but not surprised, mused Tim Fritz, Austin plant manager. “I would like to think this is exactly what he intended [developing truly unique new products] when he started his company,” he added.
Launched nationwide in eight varieties in July 2013 and sold in supermarket meat cases, Hormel REV wraps are made with slices of cheese and meat that are rolled inside of white or Italian herb wraps and packed in single-serve packages. This line has since expanded to 12 varieties.
Hormel Foods relays that REV wraps were specifically designed for teens who snack throughout the day. Each wrap contains at least 15 grams of protein. The company states that with 83 percent of teenagers participating in at least one extracurricular activity, moms value protein-packed snacks that can fuel their kids throughout the day with long-lasting energy that satiate hunger.
“REV wraps are ready-to-eat,” said Holly Drennan, Hormel Foods Director of Marketing for its Meat Products Division. “You can microwave these products, but we’re finding most consumers are eating them cold. To bring real meat and real cheese into the snacking world and in the form of a more versatile, portable sandwich is really exciting. The package fits right in your hand. It fits vertically right on the retailers’ shelves.”
Drennan says of the REV’s R&D process: “The Hormel new-products team was looking at our total product portfolio and company CEO Jeffrey Ettinger recognized an opportunity to align our portfolio more closely with portable foods for the snacking world as meals become less prevalent and people eat more throughout the day. There was a huge cross-functional Hormel Foods team involved in creating this new product, including scientists, marketers, innovation people and ultimately lots of research with consumers. Even our local Austin High School students helped participate in this product’s development plus helped us come up with the brand name.”
It took REV wraps approximately three years from conception to launch last July. Many plans and deadlines had to be established quickly, and thanks to the multi-disciplined Hormel team a string of goals set for this new line were always met on time.
Sure, being first to market with a unique, new product like REV wraps is a real win, but unless you have the management, marketing, sales and operations team and production facility to ensure market success of this new product intro down the road — such as Hormel has with its new REV wraps line — a unique new product with potential can fizzle out.
And the Hormel team isn’t resting on its oars. In fact, Fritz said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hormel R&D is already looking at further REV product diversification.
For more information on the REV wraps line and its production operation, read about it exclusively in the June issue of Meat&Poultry.