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Celebrating 150 Years With Focus On The Future

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.”

Innovation for Dry Grocery: A Private Label Opportunity

CHICAGO – With three independent areas of its North American business, Baxters Food Group is using this year’s PLMA show to demonstrate its full breadth of Store Brands capabilities – delivering on innovation and inciting interest in what’s to come for Dry Grocery Store Brands programs.

Unlike its tailored innovation for its co-manufacturing partnerships through its Wornick co-manufacturing 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 Mark A. Fields, Vice President of Store Brands. “We were the first to invest in private brands ‘on-the-go’ RTS Soups and have a long-standing capability in pouched 90-Second Rice and Infant Feeding. 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.”

This is especially true when it comes to the supporting data steering that vision and focus. “We’ve invested our resources and capabilities in the right areas, and we’re eager to partner with Retailers to do the same,” said Sharvari Dayal, Product Marketing Manager. “When you look at the data for many legacy, shelf stable categories, they have had a tendency to remain flat or even declining. However, there are really bright spots – and that’s where we’re focusing.” Dayal elaborates, “The most compelling reasons we hear that Retailers are partnering with us is that our capabilities lend them a first mover advantage for their Private Label brands where National Brands and Niche Brands are seeing growth, too – even in struggling categories. But, the twist is the absolute price value delivered by Private Brands. That’s the really compelling part.”

Fields builds, “Exactly. When you look at the growth opportunity for Private Brands in historically stagnant categories – like RTS Soup – our solutions really are reflecting changing consumer and Shopper attitudes. To be part of the wave of innovation with value priced solutions is key to success across the private label industry.”

But it’s not just about innovating a value price for the Baxters Store Brands team – it’s also about remaining on the cuttiing edge of trends, even when gradual. “When you look at the data, it cannot be ignored that Organic will remain a key focus of Consumers, Shoppers and Retailers in the coming years. So, naturally, we’re focusing there now and will continue to focus there,” said Ms. Dayal.

This year’s PLMA won’t just showcase Baxters’ core areas of capability, but also announces the introduction of its full range of Conventional and Organic products. “Commanding a leading role in the innovation of RTS Soups in a microwave convenience format is something we take great pride in. But we know it’s not enough to just fast follow the brand. Private Label has become so much more, so we have to be ahead of that curve to capture the opportunity with our Retailer partners.”

“This year, we’re announcing the launch of our new line of Organic, RTS Soups in microwaveable bowls. Unlike our conventional line, this product line focuses on vegan and gluten free formulations in some of the top-ranking Organic RTS Soup flavors on the market. The twist is the value story and the ability to enjoy that goodness on the go,” elaborates Dayal.
“As a long-standing manufacturer of premium products, we wanted to really listen to the voice of consumers and Retailer strategies to inform where we went next. And, it’s a complete nod to our heritage. We started with a ‘farm to table’ approach and we continue to deliver that experience to Shoppers across the Private Label landscape today. It’s not enough anymore to focus on just great taste and best price – consumers are relying on Retailers to deliver more. We have to go the extra mile and we’re excited to do that with our expanded capabilities across Soup, Rice and retort fitment pouched Baby Food to align with emerging consumer needs. It’s not just who we are, it’s the foundation of where we’re going”, Fields summarizes.

With a 150-year long story, Baxters continues to focus on its future – relying on a legacy of ingredient integrity enabled by culinary and technical capability. And, with a rich heritage and strategic outlook, that future looks pretty ideal and a little more real.

Innovating On The Edge: Capabilities For Branded Growth

CHICAGO – With three independent areas of its North American business, the Wornick Foods division of Baxters Food Group is excited to engage with attendees at this year’s PLMA show seeking solutions in Co-Manufacturing support and strategic partnership for their Brands.

With a strong reputation in collaborative and tailored innovation with its co-manufacturing business, Wornick Foods has been a legacy player in the space of helping Branded players accelerate their opportunities in category innovation. “We’ve been pleased to be part of this show for over ten years and have a reputation in the industry for leveraging our flexible manufacturing model to help deliver on our partners’ needs,” said Jack Fields, Vice President of Wornick Co-Manufacturing.

“And, we’re continuing to increase our focus in this area of our business,” Fields expands. “The past few years have been a really great expansion of our capabilities – and partnerships – in some really innovative and unexpected areas that aren’t necessarily associated with the ‘classic’ Grocery or Retail segments. In fact, one of those areas has been in the vein of Functional Nutrition and Enteral feeding solutions. With predicted growth in this category, and our capabilities in great tasting, SQF Level 3-certified quality food, we are positioned to continue to grow in this market segment and accelerate innovation in a variety of package types and formulations.”

So why the focus here? “If you look at the data, we have an aging population and a rise in chronic conditions that surround specific needs for dietary and feeding constraints. Added, certain reports showed the market opportunity to be just north of $4 Billion in 2016 with a projected CAGR of 7%. So, we see our flexible packaging capabilities as a method to work with Branded partners to deliver innovation to meet this growth trend with tangible – and affordable solutions – across their various channels of trade” Fields confirms.

Fields expands, “The other aspect that we see as mission critical isn’t just about the production capability to manufacture for a Brand in the Enteral Feeding market; it’s also about how we innovate to deliver together to create new offerings in a space that’s growing dramatically. One thing we’ve seen is that legacy offerings have been very clinical and not necessarily reflective of more ‘whole food’ options. Because we have the capability to use real, fresh ingredients and even validate them as Organic, we can deliver a solution in this space that doesn’t just deliver on daily nutrition values, but can do so with a cleaner and more legible ingredient deck. We see that as a key need state as this format becomes more widely embraced.”

And what does this mean for where the Wornick Foods Co-Manufacturing business is going? “Honestly, while we’re excited about the opportunity we’re seeing for products in the Enteral space, we’re just as passionate about our Branded partners’ focus in mainstream products like Soup, Rice & Grains and Baby Food,“ Fields summarizes. “Our mission is simple: we want to be an innovation partner for Brands that have a clear purpose and need help bringing that ideal to life. That’s why our theme for this year’s PLMA made so much sense. We want to deliver a real solution for an ideal offering. That’s where we have been most successful and what will keep us on the leading edge.”