Hero/WhiteWave introduces Europe’s popular chilled real fruit snack to U.S. markets.


by Bob Garrison

It’s a product that’s here today – because of its yesterdays.

It was in 2003 when Switzerland’s Hero Group introduced Fruit2day, a retail chilled snack and drink containing bits of real fruit as well as fruit purees and all natural fruit juice. A global fruit and infant nutrition company, Hero hoped consumers would appreciate Fruit2day’s appeal as an on-the-go, no-hassle way to get more fruit in their diets.

It worked. After successful testing in the Netherlands, Hero expanded product distribution to several other European countries while it eyed North America. The plan here – rolled out in 2007 and 2008 – was to establish a domestic operation plant and find a U.S. partner.

Hero found that a joint venture partner in WhiteWave Foods, the Broomfield, Colo., maker of Silk soymilk and Horizon Organic milks. A division of Dean Foods, WhiteWave has both marketing muscle and expertise in national chilled foods distribution. Together, the two companies invested a combined $35 million to build a chilled fruit processing and bottling plant in Mount Crawford, Va.

Hero/WhiteWave debuted last May with Fruit2day’s national rollout to mass, grocery and natural food stores.

“Fruit2day has been very successful in Europe. Just like Europeans, many Americans today want to live healthier and make better choices when it comes to snacking on-the-go,” says Scott Stevens, Hero/WhiteWave vice president of marketing. “Consumers want new, fresh and healthy ways to consume fruit and Fruit2day – a drinkable and edible fruit snack that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before – meets that need perfectly.

“Retailers are also telling us that they have long been waiting for real innovations in the chilled produce section and this innovation hits the mark . . . Fruit2day provides natural fruit nutrition without peels, pits, bruising, spoiling or even sticky fingers.”

Hero/WhiteWave launched four all-natural varieties, which come in two-packs (of 6.75-ounce bottles for a suggested retail of $3.79. Initial Fruit2day varieties included Strawberry Orange, Mango Peach, Pineapple Banana and Cherry Grape. Officials say each bottle contains two servings of fruit (half of daily U.S. requirements) with just 110 to 120 calories with no added sugars. Each variety also features high levels of Vitamin C, which Stevens notes is a natural antioxidant supporting a healthy immune system and skin. 
Officials say they’re also supporting fresh produce department merchandisers and buyers, who have looking for more value-added products. Hero/WhiteWave estimates that chilled cut fruit and super premium produce juices account for an estimated $700 million in annual sales.

Notes Stevens, “We’ve received very positive feedback from customers in all channels of trade all across the United States. They are excited about the innovation Fruit2day is bringing to the produce department and see the value in offering a healthy, convenient fruit snack for consumers.”

Although it had established relationships with dairy department buyers, WhiteWave admittedly needed to do some homework before it branched into the fresh produce aisles.

“Before launching Fruit2day, we wanted to better understand their category, their challenges, what they look for and how they make decisions,” Stevens notes.

Additionally, Hero/WhiteWave hired sales brokers – nationwide – with extensive experience in produce.

“In our eyes, the biggest achievement [during 2009] has been launching Fruit2day for the U.S. consumer in a challenging economic environment,” says Stevens “So far, we’ve had tremendous response from retailers and consumers, we’re achieving our sales velocity targets and are excited to continue this momentum in 2010.”

He continues, “In 2010, we aim to continue expanding distribution of Fruit2day throughout the United States in more grocery, natural and mass merchandiser outlets.  We’re also expanding into other channels such convenience stores and other away-from-home outlets. Additionally, we’ll continue to build awareness and trial among consumers with advertising, sampling, word-of-mouth and in-store retail programs.”

FAST FACTS
Hero/WhiteWave

Location: Broomfield, Colo.

Top executive(s): Hanno Holm, President and CEO; Scott Stevens, vice president-marketing

Founded: 2009*

Product line(s): Chilled fruit snack

Brands: Fruit2day

Distribution: Nationwide in mass, grocery and natural food stores

Web site: www.fruit2day.com

*Debut of Hero/WhiteWave joint venture