The star of the party

With football season nearing its grand finale, retailers have one last shot at tackling game day sales. Teaming up with produce companies is the winning play.

Hot-Wings One of the biggest at-home party days of the year is on the horizon. Super Bowl Sunday.
All across the country, football and non-football fans alike will come together to celebrate, indulge and get caught up in the excitement of one of America’s favorite sporting events. It does not matter what teams are playing or where it is held; most Super Bowl viewers are in it for the party.

Those hosting the fun have a lot on their plate. Game day parties are not just about the action: Super Bowl Sunday is as much a culmination of recipe experimentation and snack ideas as it is the finale of the football season. One key fact that dictates a party’s menu, according to industry observers, is that consumers will not bring something new; they want tried and true recipes.

“The idea is to get them to try new things using their products so when it comes to the Super Bowl, they will have recipes,” says Jennifer Sawyer, marketing manager for Fresherized Foods, the Saginaw, Texas-based company behind Wholly Guacamole. “For the Super Bowl they want the best food and will take no chances.”

Increasingly, they also want something healthy. Partygoers walk a fine line between sticking to their healthy eating New Year’s resolutions—and going home without guilt—and indulging in infrequently devoured snacks. The health craze has turned a once pizza, wings and chips event into a produce party.

Retailers who focus on cross merchandising within the produce department will tackle Super Bowl sales. “Consumers are looking to infuse healthy ingredients into recipes and to offer healthier snack options when entertaining or snacking,” says Marc Sequin, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based sister companies Paramount Farms and POM Wonderful, makers of Wonderful Brands.

The two companies, like many others, are focusing on consumers’ health concerns. For instance, they launched a national FSI with all its products under the Wonderful Brands umbrella that will tie-in with the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. According to company officials, they are one of only a few brands investing in FSIs that offers healthy snacks.

“Wonderful Pistachios has created world class in-store displays that tie directly to our national FSI drop on January 19. These are two of the biggest snacking periods of the year, so we encourage retailers to partake in two rounds of displays, one for each of these events,” says Sequin, adding that they will also offer retailers a host of Super Bowl-themed bins, balloons, floor graphics and danglers.

“Our sales team takes pride in partnering with retailers, providing them with the best displays possible that help tell the Wonderful Brands story within the produce aisle,” adds Sequin.

Partner up

Southwestern-Crispy-Egg-RollsTapping into manufacturers’ Super Bowl programs is a surefire way for retailers to appeal to consumers. After all, before shoppers are wandering the grocery store aisles, they are often at home searching for creative recipes on the Internet.

For example, Wholly Guacamole has an entire website devoted to football parties: homegating.eatwholly.com. This year, they enlisted Chef Nathan Lippy to come up with a handful of Super Bowl-friendly recipes and a video series walking viewers through them. His recipes included things like BBQ ribs and nachos with homemade nacho cheese, and are available on the company’s website and through social media.

Some of the recipes mix in a health element, says Sawyer. “We are just asking people to consider a little healthier option. If you can dip a few more veggies into avocado ranch dip or if you can add guacamole to a hamburger, they are little added benefits. Consumers are still enjoying the flavors and food they really love—which is what game day is all about.”

The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) is also focused on helping consumers add some novelty to their menus. The Eagle, Idaho-based organization looks to restaurant trends for inspiration, particularly appetizers, and tries to offer simple at-home solutions. “Obviously, the quicker a consumer can make something the better. No one wants to spend all their time in the kitchen when they are trying to watch a football game,” says Frank Muir, president and CEO for the IPC.

To add that health element, the IPC is hosting the Russet Recipe Rescue, inviting people to send the IPC their favorite recipes using Idaho potatoes that they think are too fattening or have too many calories. “We will select some as winners and turn them over to our chefs for a makeover. The goal is to minimize loss of flavor but reduce the fat and/or calories,” says Muir.

The Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Committee (IEOOC) has also found its way into the center of tailgating at Bronco Stadium. The Parma, Idaho-based organization featured a grilling competition series this season in conjunction with its promotional partner, Weber Grills.

Throughout the season, there were six different grilling events prior to Boise State University’s home games. The result of the grill-offs was a range of new interesting recipes—and a lot of excitement, according to Sherise Jones, marketing director for the IEOOC.

“We are just trying to make sure that tailgaters and people at home don’t forget the inclusion of produce,” she says. “In addition to offering retailers Weber Grill recipes that include onions, we are building booklets from the grilling competitions. We have seen tremendous variety and great sauces, with people doing different things beyond the regular proteins, such as a lamb with a curry sauce developed by our executive chef, Nick Duncan.” 

Veggie’s best sellers

Partygoers can eat only so many carrot sticks with ranch dip. Those hosting Super Bowl parties are looking for creative ways to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into their party snacks. Here are some selling points for retailers looking to score with game day party hosts, straight from the experts themselves.

New combinations: “Novel, fresh vegetables are always a party hit,” says Cali Tanguay, director of marketing and technology for Apio, based in Guadalupe, Calif. “Finding a way to combine snacking favorites with fresh vegetables is fun and a great conversation starter. For example, our new Sweet Kale Salad Vegetable Salad blend is delicious in a taco and our Chipotle Salad features Julienned Broccoli Florets that make for a delicious wrap when rolled into a tomato or spinach tortilla.”

Prep-free: “We have introduced mixed vegetable grill trays along with our kabob kits,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce. The grill trays can be placed directly on the grill so there is virtually no preparation or cleaning needed.

Healthy with taste: The biggest obstacle continues to be the perception that eating healthy means sacrificing taste, says Bil Goldfield, director of communications, Dole Fresh Fruit, based in Westlake Village, Calif. “It is all about offering sports fans a healthier tailgating and home-gating experience that doesn’t sacrifice taste. We continue to surprise America about what is possible.”

Location is key: “Vegetable trays do very well when merchandised in a secondary prime traffic location within produce as they offer a nice impulse purchase to those looking to stock their party snack table,” says Apio’s Tanguay.

Dessert without the guilt: “Dole continues to surprise consumers with our Grilled Bananas and other naturally sweet desserts,” says Goldfield. “Last summer we featured our Grilled Bananas and Grilled Banana S’mores dishes. We are also kicking off our 2014 Peel the Love initiative with a promotional partnership with the Yonanas frozen banana dessert maker, which provides a healthier alternative to ice cream.”

Convenience: Mixed vegetables have become popular grilling items. “Del Monte’s mixed vegetable grill trays are popular during football season, which may include Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple, green, yellow and red peppers, grape tomatoes and red onions, all pre-cut and ready to be skewered.”

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