Talking Shop with… Bob Sewall

The executive vice president-sales and marketing for Blount Fine Foods says that his company’s soup lines enable retailers to offer higher-end, gourmet soups.

Grocery Headquarters: Tell us about Blount Fine Foods and the various products that the company offers for grocers.

Bob Sewall: For years, Blount Fine Foods has made hand-crafted soups for many of the finest restaurants in the country and has done so with great success and continued expansion.

More and more, as consumer tastes and behaviors have evolved, we have seen the opportunity to upgrade America’s soup experience at home as well. To capitalize on this, we packaged some of our favorite recipes under the Blount brand as well as those of some of our partners. These soups are now available in grocery, specialty and club stores around the country under the Blount, Panera, and Legal Sea Foods brands. In addition, we have enjoyed building private label programs for many of the nation’s top retailers in bulk, hot-to-go and retail cups.

Our retail soups enable grocers to offer consumers the opportunity to enjoy gourmet, restaurant-quality soup at home without spending the day in the kitchen—a Уnight-outФ experience at home without the toil or the mess.

Something we are extremely excited about has been our success over the past 18 months at expanding our product offering to include fresh salads and dips.

Blount is using some well-known names with its products. What is the strategy?

Licensing agreements have allowed us to grow and elevate the category quickly and efficiently. By partnering with quality brands consumers know, trust and seek out, and then also ensuring the product we put in the package is just as high-quality as it is in restaurants, we present consumers with an easy decision.

The added benefit for retailers is that a successful fresh, gourmet soup, salad and dip program inevitably creates opportunity to introduce or expand that store’s private label program as well.  We love to see that level of success taking place.

Why should retailers carry these soups and dips and what makes them different than the competition?

Quality ingredients and product consistency are first and foremost. Of equal importance is the reliability Blount brings as a partner. We deliver exactly what we say we will, and we deliver it when the customer tells us they need it.

As I mentioned earlier, these are restaurant-quality products that consumers know and love. They perform very well and create a halo effect that benefits other products in the store.

Where should they be stocked?

The best home for fresh soups is the deli and prepared foods sections. But it also depends on the merchandising strategy of the retailer. Our products do best when shoppers find them where they expect to find gourmet products. Some of it is intuitive; seafood products do well in the fresh seafood section and there is some cross-over with organic or gluten-free in or near the fresh produce. We also offer a selection of seasonal flavors—pumpkin bisque in autumn is one example—which perform especially well when presented with other foods of the season.

How are you helping retailers promote the products and educate consumers to the various items you offer?

At Blount, we pride ourselves on the high level of partnership and collaboration we bring to our customers.

Because of this, we tend to tailor our promotional support to the strategies and needs of any specific retailer. We have avoided a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to retail support of our products.

What does the future look like for these categories?

I am very bullish on these categories. It is no secret that consumers seek quality and convenience in just about every part of their lives. Capitalizing on this, retailers have done an excellent job of taking business away from restaurants.

What could be easier than preparing a delicious, wholesome restaurant-quality meal at home in minutes? Or using a gourmet salad to anchor a luncheon menu for a group of friends? I expect to see more products emerge at retail that mirror the evolving trends we currently see in restaurants around the country.

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