Talking Shop with… J.R. Rigley

J.R. Rigley, president and chief marketing officer for The J.R. Watkins Co., says new demands mean new opportunities for the spices/extract category.

What are the latest trends in the spices/extract category and what is driving sales? JRRigley_cropped
J.R. Rigley: This category has shown solid growth over the last few years, but it is changing as consumers seek new and different options as their needs evolve. Today, it is all about value and options for preparing a better meal or product. That is also impacting the premium end of the business, where freshness of product and how a brand sources its spices are playing a much larger role with consumers.

Within the spice category, consumers want improved efficacy of the product in terms of freshness. Interestingly, there is also a value component to the gourmet end of this category.

What do retailers need to do to build sales in the market?
Retailers need to provide a variety of products within the category by types of spices and brands. It has to be about solutions. A brand that has a rich heritage but offers value and selection while providing options in terms of size is something that retailers need to look at. For example, today many consumers are preparing more food so a standard 1-ounce bottle of extract may not be enough any longer. They may need to also stock a 2-ounce bottle.

Merchants must also be aware of cooking solutions and recipe options. We are finding that there are lots of recipes that take less time and consumers are looking for the ingredients necessary to make this happen. Retailers need to have those products available and provide the information that is critical to getting the job done.

What merchandising tips do you have to build sales?
Obviously, retailers need to merchandise spices/extracts in the baking aisle and where ever there is a baking opportunity. The consumer sees the category as hard to shop. That makes having the right signage and merchandising adjacencies key. It is not always just about the retailer providing merchandising solutions, so we are doing our part as well. For example, we color coordinate our label with the color that consumers perceive a product is related to. Cinnamon has a red label, sage has a muted green label, poppy seed has a grey label and mustard has a yellow label. We make sure that our packaging stands out in a crowd.

Are there cross merchandising and seasonal opportunities such as during Christmas and other holiday periods?
The consumer is trained to go to the baking aisle, but there are so many other opportunities with spices and extracts. This is an impulse category that does well by placing pepper with meats and the grilling section, vanilla extract with chocolate chip cookies or cinnamon with applesauce and cereal. Just give the consumer the opportunity to match these products up by placing them near each other.

At the right time of year, retailers should consider creating a section that gathers all the various items for a baking section, including spices and extract, flour and other ingredients. The consumer does not want to go down eight aisles of the store to get all the necessary ingredients. Placing them together makes it easier for the consumer, saves time and builds incremental sales.

What does the future look like for the category and how do you see your company fitting in?
The future looks great and I think our company, with our great history and reputation in flavoring, is going to be a big part of it. The key for us is to continue to bring new items to the category and still emphasize value. Retailers can help it grow by offering multiple varieties of product because consumers are looking for different tastes that different brands of spices and extracts offe

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