Day 1: New Products Conference Highlights

September 28th, 2012 (franklin)

By Rocco Cardinale

The Prepared Foods 2012 New Products Conference kicked off on Monday, Sept. 9 in Palm Beach, Fla. This is my third conference and the combination of intimate setting, information-packed presentations and diverse industry professionals make this a worthwhile event.

This year started off with a timely and informative keynote presentation by Rick Lenny. Rick is an accomplished industry veteran and former chairman, president, and CEO of the Hershey Company and former president of the Nabisco Biscuit Company. Currently, Rick is the operating partner of Friedman Fleischer & Lowe, LLC. The key theme of Rick’s presentation was “relevance” and how important it is for companies and brands to maintain their relevance with consumers. As Rick pointed out, in just over 20 years half the companies that comprise the Dow are no longer on the Dow. Obviously, these companies didn’t plan for this to happen. Today, consumer-oriented companies dominate the Dow, and the big question is, how do companies today stay relevant for the future? To address this critical question, Rick laid out his E³ strategic framework: Enhance Relevance, Extend Reach, and Enhance Growth. This comprehensive presentation is worth viewing at the conclusion of the conference on

Next, Tulin Tuzel, chief technology officer of the Sabra Dipping Company, spoke about the growth of the Sabra brand and the hummus category in the US. In three years, the hummus industry in the US has grown by 61% and is now a $600MM category. With 2011 sales of $401MM, Sabra is now 50/50 JV between Pepsi and Straus Group. What’s next? Now the Sabra mission is to expand the Sabra brand into other fresh dip categories, and under Tuzel’s leadership the company is building the R&D infrastructure to make it happen. Sabra is committed to delivering what today’s consumers desire –“enriching everyday life with culinary experiences from other places.”  Stay tuned – it looks like Sabra is just getting started.

Lastly, Lori Klein, vice president, and Chris Olesen, director of strategy development & innovation of The Family Room, presented “Exploring Highest Common Ground Decision Making.” Marketing and new product development teams need to take notice of how family decision making, shifting grocery-shopping gatekeepers, family relationships, and the redefinition of the family unit are impacting product and brand choices. For example, with 39% of dads making purchases at the grocery store at least once a week (present company included), why is marketing still focused on women? Lori gave a robust presentation, which is worth reviewing in more detail. Please message me directly @RoccoCardinale, and if I’m able to get a copy of the presentation, I will be happy to share it.

Next, putting the “highest common ground decision making” to test, Chris moderated a live panel composed of four parents and their children. Each parent and child was tasked with choosing food and beverage items to satisfy specific parts of the day. The choices, reasons, and eventual “highest common ground compromise” are sure to make every parent and marketing and product development professional take notice. Now I know why Honey Nut Cheerios, Oreos, M&Ms, Ritz, and Lays always make their way into the shopping basket. Go to after the conference, and if the presentation and panel have been uploaded, they’re worth watching.

Family Room Panel

Family Room Panel

Day one also featured the 2012 Excellence in Innovation Awards, cosponsored by the American Egg Board and Prepared Foods, which acknowledge products and teams in both retail and foodservice channels. Each first-place winner was presented with a check for $2,500 that was donated in their name to two top culinary programs – The Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales.

2012 Foodservice Award Winners

1st Place: Sandridge Foods – Ancient Grain Salads

2012 Retail Award Winners

1st Place: Tofutti, Inc. – Hooray Hooray Crispy Crunch Bars

Check back tomorrow for Day 2 conference highlights.

Rocco Cardinale

Rocco Cardinale

Rocco has over 15 years of marketing and branding experience in the food and beverage, and consumer packaged goods industry. His background stretches from founding a specialty coffee company in California to his current role as director of marketing with Franklin Foods, an innovative dairy manufacturer. Rocco’s marketing successes have appeared in Bon Appetit, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, The Wall Street Journal and Wired Magazine. Connect with Rocco on LinkedIn and Twitter @RoccoCardinale.

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