Talking Shop with… Paul Huckins, Huhtamaki

Paul Huckins, vice president, Huhtamaki retail division, says the company is uniquely positioned to respond to consumer and retailer disposable tableware needs.

Tell us about Huhtamaki. What makes your company unique?
Paul Huckins: Huhtamaki is unique because not only do we work across a wide range of product formats and technologiPaulHuckins1-13es backed by world-class manufacturing and supply chain capabilities, we also provide leading consumer insight and brand marketing know-how. We leverage these resources and infrastructure across both our Chinet brand and retailer-owned brands to drive category growth. By participating in distinct, non-competing segments with retail brands across the whole disposable tableware category, we are uniquely positioned to objectively assess and respond to retailer and consumer needs.

The disposable dinnerware category is an interesting one for retailers. Why is it growing?
There are certainly pockets of growth, coming largely from new and innovative products. A good example is insulated hot cups. This segment has taken off in the last few years and continues to expand as single-cup home brewing machines gain popularity. The need for the product and the role it fulfills for the consumer creates interest and organic growth in the category.

What do retailers need to do to maximize sales and profits from this category?
There is no substitute for knowing your shopper and thinking of new ways to exceed his or her expectations every day. Retailers need to have an optimized assortment of products. This means providing a balanced portfolio of choices without making the shelf confusing. It is important to have a range of sizes, shapes and counts, but do not stop with just imitating the national brand or allowing them to “pick” what they want on the shelf. Create preference and loyalty by offering a product, design or signature promotion that no one else has.

How important is cross merchandising?
While cross merchandising is important, basic merchandising tactics like a floor shipper or creative end cap that grab a shopper’s attention can be equally effective. It is particularly important to provide a reminder at the point of decision in the grocery channel as purchases of household staples have experienced shifts to club, dollar and mass channels. And, of course, take advantage of items that are typically purchased together or seasonal needs and opportunities to cross-merchandise and increase the basket size. A smart promotion during summer months is to place disposable tableware next to charcoal as a one-stop grilling solution.

What is your company doing to build sales in terms of promotional activity and new items?
Huhtamaki offers a range of display-ready packaging, and we also work with retailers to ensure they have the right product assortment and price-points to create efficient promotional programs with the potential to drive incremental sales. We continue to be a leader in bringing new items like microwavable plastic and insulated hot cups to retail brands. With our recent entry into printed pressboard, we are excited to bring fresh, on-trend, custom designs to the shelf to provide growth in retail brand pressboard sales.

What does the future hold for the category and the company?
Consumer lifestyles will continue to drive demand for high-quality products that are a great value and make it easier to spend time with family and friends. That bodes well for our category. Retailers will continue to look for ways to build their brands by creating an exceptional shopping experience for their customers. These market realities create opportunities, and we believe the future is very bright at Huhtamaki. We look forward to expanding our collaborative and objective approach, category and consumer insights, creativity and innovation into new segments as we grow the category for retail brands and our Chinet brand.

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