Talking Shop with… Jesse Garcia

The senior vice president of sales and chief customer officer for Minneapolis-based MOM Brands says his company is well-positioned to grow in the cereal category.

Grocery Headquarters: What is currently driving sales in the cereal business?

Jesse Garcia: Sales are down in the cereal category overall. MOM Brands and private label are the only two that have realized any real growth. In 2011, MOM Brands grew 12.2% in the grocery channel, according to Nielsen. I believe this is due to consumer expectations and their goal to find great product at a great price. MOM Brands has saved consumers more than  $1 billion since 2005 and we are proud of that. The total value equation, both quality product and great price, is the key.

Innovation is also a big part of what is needed and what we are committed to in the ready-to-eat cereal and hot cereal categories. Of course, consumers want value, but offering products that satisfy their needs is a huge part of driving growth.

Tell us about how MOM Brands has performed recently.
The one big thing for us is the simple fact that we have tripled in size in the past 10 years. For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 17, we reached the number three position in the category based on pounds sold, according to Nielsen.

This shows our retailers that the MOM brands mission has never been more relevant to consumers and retailers. It shows that we are part of the solution, especially as we live in these very unsettling times from an economic viewpoint. We deliver that solution day in and day out. For our retailers, we deliver a product that turns quickly and offers great margins.

What are the company’s strategies for moving forward?
Of course, we have been known as Malt-O-Meal for many years. We got our start in the hot wheat cereal segment in 1919. Today, we are still a family-owned company, which makes us different from our larger competitors.

Now, we are also focusing on other segments and products in addition to our core Malt-O-Meal brand cereal. We have introduced a number of new brands to our company portfolio and we felt it was the right time to re-brand ourselves as MOM Brands. These new lines include MOM’s Best Naturals cereals, the Better Oats line of instant oatmeal, Bear River Valley all natural bag cereals, Isabel’s Way all natural bag cereals and Sally’s all-natural bag cereals.

We truly feel that quality is our secret. Our company has long succeeded on offering consumers quality product at great prices. Price will get people to buy a product once, but quality will get them to buy it over and over again. The two factors combined is the magic and now we are using this strategy across all of our brands.

How does this help retailers?
Our selection of products, our pricing and our quality, allows retailers to offer solutions day-in and day-out in the cold and hot cereal sections that turn rapidly and deliver consistent returns. We listen to the shoppers and we listen to our retailers. We know that consumers need value today more than ever. We know that our retailers need to offer relevant consumer solutions while maximizing returns on their space. Our job is to help retailers offer their consumers better ways to make a better breakfast at a better price.

Tell us about innovation happening in the marketplace and specifically at MOM.
We think we have a lot to offer. We are the only cereal company that has built two new state-of-the-art production facilities in the last 10 years. We are committed to the categories we compete in and are reinvesting in them. That, along with our overall corporate philosophy, is allowing us to be innovative and bring new products to the marketplace. In my opinion, we are an organization that has introduced new, radically differentiated packaging and products into the marketplace.

We were named one of magazine’s top 25 hottest brands in 2011. Although we don’t participate in a lot of traditional advertising methods, we do leverage social media and one of the big campaigns we have is “Bag the Box,” which continues to gain traction in the marketplace.

We are committed to working with our retail customers to focus on driving mutual growth. MOM Brands provides them with the sizes, varieties, packaging and prices that will help them grow their cereal business. We are truly passionate about cereal and we are in it for the long term. I think we show this by re-investing in the ready-to-eat and hot cereal categories and our customers’ business.

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