Center store’s summer side

Sales of baked beans, condiments and other barbecue “fixins” rise with the temperatures.

By Richard Turcsik

Backyard barbecues con­jure up memories of an unforgettable dish of baked beans, “secret family recipe” potato salad or the best finger lickin’ ribs ever. Of course, the key ingredients for those items came from—where else—center store.

“The nice thing about our mustards is that they add such a special zing to your deviled eggs, potato salads or pasta salads without having to use so much mayonnaise,” says Diane Van Laningham, a partner in Rose City Delicacies, LLC, a Portland, Ore.-based manufacturer of artisan wine- and spirits-based mustards that are available in five varieties, including Pinot Gris and Grand Mariner. “Because we are an egg and butter based mustard, a lot of people even substitute our mustard for mayonnaise, and with everyone trying to be more health and calorie conscious, that is where we really come into play. We’re adding a real zip or zing and reducing the calories.”

A couple aisles over, several manufacturers are adding their own “zip and zing” to the one-time staid canned baked bean shelf set.

ConAgra Foods boasts that its 140-plus-year-old Van Camp’s brand is “America’s Original Bean” but that doesn’t mean the Omaha, Neb.-based company is resting on its laurels. “Canned beans are the right fit for the current economy,” says spokeswoman Sue Christensen. She notes that one serving of beans costs only about 25-cents, and beans cost three times less per gram of protein than steak and two times less than chicken.

Flavor boost

Recognizing that flavors are driving the growth in the beans with sauce subsegment, Van Camp’s is introducing Flavored Pork & Beans, available in Maple & Brown Sugar and Sweet Onion varieties. Van Camp’s research shows the 28-ounce size is preferable to consumers than the 31-ounce size, so the new varieties will be available in 28-ounce cans and will replace Van Camp’s current 31-ounce offerings.

Rival Campbell’s Pork & Beans also has a proud heritage—and is standing by it. “Campbell Soup Company has been offering Campbell’s Pork & Beans for over 100 years,” says Jina Sohn, brand manager at the Camden, N.J.-based company. “Campbell’s Pork & Beans has a loyal following of consumers, who appreciate the longstanding tradition behind the product and the taste.”

Sohn says Campbell’s Pork & Beans is priced at an everyday low price point to offer the best value to consumers, with its flagship 11-ounce can sold at an average price of 50-cents. “It’s a great source of protein at an outstanding value,” Sohn says, adding that over the past year sales have been up almost 5%.

The only change Campbell’s is planning for the line is a label redesign to communicate the heritage and value of Campbell’s Pork & Beans, Sohn says.

With its Trappey’s and Allens brand baked beans, Siloam Springs, Ark.-based Allens, Inc. is another key player that has been expanding its product offering. “The thing with baked beans is that you have so many different varieties—Original, Onion, Home Style, Maple Sugar. Barbecue Beans, and even Vegetarian Beans,” says David Brown, director of sales.

In recent years Allens has been watching sales of its Trappey’s brand take off. Popular for generations in New Orleans and the rest of the Deep South, Trappey’s takes a spicier twist on traditional baked beans with varieties like Dark Red Kidney Beans with Jalapeños and New Orleans Light Red Kidney Beans with Bacon.

And even though fresh produce is in abundance during the summer, retailers also shouldn’t forget to promote traditional canned vegetables, Brown suggests. “People don’t necessarily think of canned vegetables during the summertime, but they are very easy side dishes. You can just put it in a saucepan and heat it for four or five minutes and it’s done, and a lot of people are even just microwaving them now,” he says.

One item always at the top of retailers’ summer merchandising lists is mustard, and with good reason. It pairs perfectly with scores of products from hot dogs to deviled eggs.

Merchandising mustard

“The obvious way for retailers to make sure they increase their mustard sales during the summer is to make sure they have adequate displays in the varieties that customers are looking for,” says Rick Schmidt, vice president, national sales, Woeber Mustard Manu­facturing Co., based in Springfield, Ohio. “The store that does it right is the store that cross-merchandises. They’ll put mustard in the meat department above the coffin case; they’ll throw it in the bread aisle. Summer is traditionally the time of year when [mustard] goes on sale,” he says.

Value doesn’t necessarily mean cheap price, says Elliott Penner, president, food products, at Reckitt Benckiser, the Chester, N.J.-based manufacturer of Cattlemen’s Barbecue Sauce, French’s mustard, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and other products. “Many retailers think ‘value’ means it has got to be cheap and less than a dollar, but that’s not what consumers told us,” he says. They want to see quality and value.”

This summer, the company will be promoting its new French’s Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce, which officials say is an ideal accompaniment for chicken nuggets.

Sassy sauce

In April, Northbrook, Ill.-based Kraft Foods is launching four new sauces under its Bull’s-Eye Barbecue Sauce brand. “The sauces are inspired by the ‘birthplaces’ of barbecue sauce,” says Noelle O’Mara, brand manager. With a suggested retail of $2.49, they are available in Carolina Style (tangy, sweet and spicy with the snap of mustard), Memphis Style (mustard and spices with a sidekick of brown sugar), Kansas City Style (hickory spices with a lick of sticky molasses), and Texas Style (smoky mesquite with the sting of hot peppers).

“This is the 25th year since we introduced our Bull’s-Eye barbecue sauce,” O’Mara says. “We’ll be supporting our new regional Bull’s Eye barbecue sauce varieties with national spot radio advertising and a digital campaign online.”

O’Mara adds that Kraft Barbecue Sauce will be sporting contemporary new bottles and labels this summer and the line is being supported by a national IRC coupon campaign.

Dennis M. Sherman, president of DennyMike’s has been working overtime to get retailers to forget the South and try his line of four barbecue sauces and five rubs that are made in York, Maine. He started the business after putting a barbecue restaurant in an Old Orchard Beach, Maine real estate venture and not being able to find a suitable commercial sauce. “Our rubs are made with real sugars, light brown sugar and in the rubs, turbinado sugar exclusively. We also use pure clover honey and Barbados molasses.”  Glass flask-shaped bottles stand out on the shelf.

Sherman is on another mission too. “There’s a certain stigma about sauces and rubs that ways we can only use them during what’s referred to as ‘barbecue season,’” he says. “Retailers can make more money out of the category if they extend the season.”

Oakland, Calif.-based KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauces is adding Smoky Bourbon Barbecue Sauce and Spicy Mango Marinade to its product lineup. “KC Masterpiece is also refreshing its packaging to reflect its Kansas City roots,” says Alison Logan, associate marketing manager. She notes that the brand was founded in Kansas City 30 years ago by Dr. Rich Davis, a local physician and barbecue aficionado who developed his own sauce. It’s still the No. 1 brand in Kansas City, she says.

Like mustards, barbecue sauce is one of the most cluttered categories, with just about every manufacturer and his grandmother vying for shelf space. “To help shoppers navigate the shelf, we always recommend carrying just the three largest, national brands and a couple local favorites,” Logan says. “Too many national brands create clutter and shopper confusion. But to capitalize on the popularity of ‘mom & pop’ barbecue sauces, national retailers can customize their shelves by offering regional brands.

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