- THE MAGAZINE
Strike while the iron is hot. Make hay while the sun shines. No matter what idiom you pick, the goal is taking advantage of favorable conditions. That’s the approach at Neco Foods LLC. This Lantana, Fla., refrigerated foods processor is investing in every facet of its business to make the most of market opportunities.
Strike while the iron is hot. Make hay while the sun shines. No matter what idiom you pick, the goal is taking advantage of favorable conditions.
That’s the approach at Neco Foods LLC. This Lantana, Fla., refrigerated foods processor is investing in every facet of its business to make the most of market opportunities.
“Consumers are entertaining at home more and using the supermarket/deli for solutions,” says John McGeough Jr., Neco’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Gourmet shops may be perceived as too pricey. Now, the available selection and quality are drawing customers to supermarket deli departments.”
A national supplier to retail, foodservice and club channels, Neco processes about 150 different types of refrigerated dips, spreads, soups, wet salads and compound butters.
To McGeough’s point, foodservice market researcher Technomic just reported that more than a third of consumers (36 percent) are entertaining at home more often than a year ago. Only 13 percent said they are doing so less often. Results of a study titled, “POP: Parties Off Premise,” were released late this July.
“Consumers tell us that they are enjoying reconnecting with friends in their homes,” said Melissa Wilson, a principal with Chicago firm. “The appeal is tied to socializing in a very casual atmosphere where everyone brings a dish to share, often sourced from local restaurants or food retailers.”
Following a reorganization last year (providing both new management and financial backing) Neco has moved squarely toward retail opportunities with its brands as well as an extensive private label program. The latter involves processing and packaging items in finished, grab-and-go deli containers or – alternatively – simple “generic” labels so that a product looks like store employees prepared it in the back room.
“We can bring retail customers the latest, on-trend products with unique flavors,” McGeough notes. “For example, we’ve developed a Mozzarella Cranberry Dill Spread, Shrimp Scampi Dip, Moroccan Hummus, Tuscan Gorgonzola Spread and Lemon Dill Finishing Butter.”
Behind the scenes, McGeough says Neco has created several new products lines, grown its culinary and customer service-sales efforts, and drawn up plans to expand its food safety and processing operations. Here’s a brief look at the latest news in …
… new products: Last year saw Neco introduce 12 all natural, organic cheese dips and spreads. It also has developed a line of pre-made protein, grain and seafood salad kits where employees simply assemble and serve the components for a fresher finished salad. Neco also introduced a six-item line of compound finishing butters, a new business segment, which consumers can use for multiple purposes.
… product development. In May 2009, Neco hired a third certified chef to enhance the business’ innovation and new product capabilities.
… retail sales / customer support. Neco’s products can be supported with in-store cross merchandizing materials in different departments as well as merchandising racks (including a spring-loaded version for Finishing Butters), demo stations and programs with manufacturer partners offering complementary products (cracker or chips, vegetables and or fruit with a Neco dip or spread).
… packaging. McGeough says Neco improved label graphics for better presentation and is reviewing heat-shrink labels to reduce the business’ dependency on pre-printed cups with large productions runs. Neco also has the ability to package in more merchandising-friendly square cups (versus round) and offers butter tubes (instead of 3.5-ounce cups) for added convenience in commissary and foodservice applications.
… food safety. Quality assurance personnel are preparing the company to meet stricter requirements of The Food Business Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative.
… processing. Neco is drawing up plans for a 46,000-square-foot processing facility in Palm Beach County, Fla., to upgrade and meet future demands.
Not one to put the cart before the horse, McGeough isn’t saying that Neco Foods has “arrived.” Rather, he believes the revitalized business is on track for bigger and better things.
“We’re diversifying our customer base, [distribution] channels and product categories to build a sustainable business model for the future,” he says. “Most importantly, we have the financial resources, management expertise, and supply relationships to meet future growth.”
Who are they?
Company, location: Neco Foods LLC, Lantana, Fla.
Top exec: John McGeough, V.P.-Sales & Marketing
Products: Refrigerated dips, spreads, deli salads, soups and specialty butters. Approximately 150 SKUs.
Brand(s): Hope’s Kitchen
Channels: Packaged retail and private label, in-store deli and seafood departments, foodservice, club store, co-pack
Web site: www.necofoods.com