Hillshire opening the innovation spigot
by Keith Nunes
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BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Hillshire Brands Company has a full slate of innovation on tap for 2014, according to Sean Connolly, president and CEO. New applications that will hit store shelves throughout the year include those that move Jimmy Dean beyond breakfast, lines of clean label “super-premium” products and value products targeting families.
“The big news this year for us is the time has come to extend Jimmy Dean beyond breakfast,” Connolly said Feb. 19 during the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference. “Jimmy Dean is one of the, if not the, strongest performers in the frozen section. It's a billion-dollar brand. And we have driven significant profitable growth, and we continue to grow market share in this space.
“The frozen section in general hasn't performed quite at the standards of Jimmy Dean. We have built a loyal legion of followers. And we asked them, does Jimmy Dean have permission to go beyond breakfast? And the answer was an emphatic yes, as long as we deliver on the Jimmy Dean promise of superior quality.”
Hillshire Brands will start shipping a new line of Jimmy Dean branded single-serve sandwiches in July. Initial varieties available will include shredded beef, pulled pork, hickory-smoked sausage and smoked turkey. In addition, the company will launch a line of Jimmy Dean bowls targeting the lunch occasion.
|Jimmy Dean branded single-serve sandwiches
Connolly said the company’s Delights brand will not be left out of the equation. The brand will launch sandwiches intended for the lunch occasion as well as entrees.
“There is a separate consumer segment that is looking for more of a wellness benefit,” he said. “So we are launching Delights sandwiches, but we are tailoring these innovations for the audience which skews to women. So these are smaller sandwiches. They fit better in your hand. You get two small sandwiches instead of one big sandwich, which is what the guy wants.”
Calorie counts for the Delights sandwiches and entrees will range between 200 and 300 calories.
Hillshire Brands also plans to focus on extending the reach of its lunch meat brands in 2014 with the introduction of Hillshire Farm Naturals, Farm Classics and Aidells lunchmeat.
“Our strategy here is to compete across the big, better, best continuum,” Connolly said.
The Naturals line is a clean label product targeting the “high end” of the market, Connolly said. The Farm Classics line falls into the value end of the equation.
“Here you have large families. Moms are making sandwiches for a number of kids,” Connolly said. “They need a pound, not 8 or 9 oz., like our other products. But they also need good value. We are giving them great value, the right pack size. But we are giving them a superior product than what they can get in the marketplace today. So collectively, these two initiatives really round out our Hillshire Farm lunchmeat portfolio and really position us for growth.”
The company categorizes the Aidells lunchmeat as a “super-premium” product, and it comes in such flavors as chicken and apple, Cajun style, garlic and basil, and chipotle and pineapple.
“Like we do with Aidells sausages and Aidells meatballs, this is about unique, powerful flavor combinations,” Connolly said. “And unlike topical innovations that you see on other lunchmeat, this (is) actually infused into the meats. So there's no other product like this in the United States.”
|Hillshire Snacking line includes two varieties
The launch of Hillshire Snacking is a new venture for the company. The line of products is scheduled to roll out in the fourth quarter of the company’s fiscal year. The Snacking line is available in two varieties. One features Italian salami or hot Calabrese salami with cheese and crackers. The other variety is grilled meats in such flavors as sweet chili, honey mustard or teriyaki.
“Snacking is a priority for our company,” Connolly said. “We think protein snacking is a significant growth area, and we think it's margin-accretive.”