Branding together

by Allison Sebolt
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Sara Lee’s Hillshire Farm brand isn’t known for using beer flavors in products, and Rudolph Foods doesn’t offer a spicy hot sauce, but both now have products featuring such flavors thanks to the use of licensing and co-branding.

Hillshire Farm Miller High Life Beer Brats have been introduced for the coming summer grilling season so consumers may enjoy easy-to-prepare brats with a beer flavor. Rudolph Foods’ Louisiana Hot OnYums is an onion ring product extension designed to have a hot spice.

"We could have certainly had a Southern hot sauce flavor in a generic way," said Mark Singleton, vice-president of sales and marketing for Rudolph Foods, Lima, Ohio. "But we felt that combining with the Louisiana Hot Sauce brand and their incredibly well-recognized product market we could align consumer’s expectations immediately with what they were going to get in the bag. In other words, we took the risk out of it for a new item for a new consumer."

Mr. Singleton said in the process of developing the product, the company used samples of seasonings they thought represented the flavor profile of Louisiana Hot Sauce — a brand of Bruce Foods, New Iberia, La. — and tried it on some of their products. He said the specific brand came to mind as a potential sauce because it has a large market presence and unique flavor.

Rudolph Foods found Louisiana Hot Sauce worked well on the onion ring, and the company was looking for a flavor extension for that product anyway. So Rudolph Foods began working with Bruce Foods on the product.

Mr. Singleton said one of the most important aspects of the new product is the packaging and the fact the Louisiana Hot Sauce brand and bottle are represented on the packaging.

"The Louisiana Hot Sauce people are getting their image in a new part of the store and on a new product they have never had before," Mr. Singleton said. "So hopefully what’s in it for them is the fact that they are exposing different consumers to their flavor profile."

Mr. Singleton said the OnYums product was in development for nine months, and Rudolph Foods currently has other products using licensing in the pipeline.

"We think this is a wonderful idea and a wonderful concept … and we will look at branded flavor extensions or co-branded flavor extensions where applicable," Mr. Singleton said.

When it came to the Hillshire Farm product, Sara Lee, Downers Grove, Ill., saw it as an opportunity to increase convenience for a type of product consumers already prepare themselves.

"Hillshire Farm has partnered with Miller for in-store grilling promotions in the past," said Amy Grabow, director of marketing for Hillshire Farm. "Building on this success was a natural fit for our brand. Our consumer behavior insights clearly told us our consumers were already boiling Hillshire Farm brats in beer to create the perfect beer brat experience. Bringing this product directly to our consumers with the support of Miller was truly the perfect proposal."

Ms. Grabow said the product just made sense because it leverages the expertise of sausage from Hillshire Farm and the expertise of Miller for beer. She said both companies are long-standing, strong brands known in the marketplace and have similar interests.

"We see this as an opportunity to maximize the exposure of both brands … we both can gain awareness by cross-promoting and cross-partnering," Ms. Grabow said.

She said the process to begin developing the product involved getting Hillshire Farm and MillerCoors, Chicago, to come together and talk about their brands to see if the brands fit together. She said Hillshire Farm presented MillerCoors with its marketing plans and experience in the marketplace as well as information on consumers. In return, MillerCoors presented Hillshire Farm with the same information for its brand and products.

Another recent example of licensing are the Good Food pantry products, which are being offered through a joint endeavor through Good Housekeeping magazine and Hearst Brand Development teaming up with Tulocay & Co.

"The Good Housekeeping Good Food collection offers our readers the opportunity to create delicious, healthy and affordable meals with ease from the brand they already welcome into their homes, …" said Glen Ellen Brown, vice-president of Hearst brand development. "This collection is perfectly suited to Good Housekeeping readers’ desire for simple and versatile meal planning. Tulocay & Co. was a natural partner for us given their passion for quality and history of success in developing their own house brands."

Other traditionally successful examples of licensing include Lay’s KC Masterpiece Barbecue Potato Chips, and Jack Daniel’s Sauces, which are under license to H.J. Heinz Co.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, April 28, 2009, starting on Page 42. Click here to search that archive.

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