CHICAGO – “Be different, be better”. These were the words of George Baxter, the founder of the Scotland-based Baxters Food Group. Now celebrating its 150th year and spanning four generations of family ownership, his words still ring true as the manufacturer looks to its future in North American Retail.
“We’ve participated in the PLMA historically but, this year, we have an even clearer message of celebration and reminder that our focus continues to be on growth as an enterprise organization,” said Randy Newbold, SVP of Sales & Marketing. “That’s clearly the case when it comes to our investment in supporting Store Brands. We’ve had a legacy of branded innovation anchored in our roots, as well as through our innovation partnerships in co-manufacturing through our Wornick division. We really see Store Brands as our next wave of focus and increased partnership. When we chose this year’s theme – ‘Ideal, Made Real’ – we wanted to send the message that no matter where you are in your innovation journey, we’re here to support our partners.”
Though Baxters has primarily operated as a branded manufacturer in the UK and European Union, its Managing Director, Audrey Baxter, acquired the Wornick business from private equity ownership in 2014, heralding another bright chapter in the company’s rich history. Newbold explains, “The decision to enter the US market was a bold step, but indicated the objective that our North American operations continue to be used for a diverse growth strategy. We’ll always be a partner for the US government and for branded CPGs seeking to innovate, but we also knew that our expertise could translate to the realm of Retailers who were also seeking to innovate. That’s a really exciting aspect of where we’re focusing intentionally now.”
And intentional focus it has been. As Baxters continues to evolve and focus its efforts in the realm of Private Label capabilities, its new Store Brands leadership is equally focused on aligning strategy to Retailer needs, Categories and Shoppers alike. “With the investment we’ve made in manufacturing capabilities, we’re really focusing on investing in category disruption,” stated Mark A. Fields, VP of Store Brands. “It’s not enough anymore that you can manufacture something for the Private Label retail landscape – you have to know why you’re investing there. That’s why we’re really excited about our portfolio, how it’s evolving and where that all aligns with Consumer and Shopper need states so our Retail partners are positioned for success.”
Unlike its tailored innovation for its co-manufacturing partnerships through its Wornick business, the Baxters Store Brands team is narrowing its focus on what it sees as the big bets for the industry. “In order to be successful in this industry, you really have to have a focused base business on which to innovate, so I am really pleased with the work we’re doing in that space,” said Fields. “We were the first to invest in a private brands ‘on-the-go’ RTS Soup solution and have a long-standing capability in the pouched 90-Second Rice and Infant Feeding categories. We’re doubling down on the ‘why’ and ‘where’ when it comes to how we position and partner to bring these categories to life with innovative Private Brand solutions.”
So, what does the future hold? “We’re optimistic that what we can deliver as a manufacturing partner aligns nicely with where Retailers are articulating that they want to go – especially in Store Brand Dry Grocery. When it comes to ‘better for you’ options – and what that means from a full spectrum view – we can be that partner”, Newbold said. “It really does live up to our show theme this year, ‘Ideal, Made Real’, and why we’re hosting an invitation to show attendees to our 15th Toast & Taste at this show. We aren’t just celebrating 150 years of excellence; we’re celebrating what’s to come, as well.”