Ones to Watch: Prepared Fruits and Vegetables: Thinking outside the tub
In any case, when it came to creating his own guacamole company, Fresherized Foods, this former restaurateur eschewed traditional avocado processing steps involving heat, chemicals or preservatives.
You could say that Don Bowden is a nonconformist. Or that - as a Texan - he simply chooses to do things a little differently.
In any case, when it came to creating his own guacamole company, Fresherized Foods, this former restaurateur eschewed traditional avocado processing steps involving heat, chemicals or preservatives. Instead, Bowden decided to run avocados through a high pressure processing (HPP) treatment, an application that wasn’t used for foodservice in the United States in 1993.
Going against the grain seemed to pay off. Bowden believed HPP gave his products fresher taste and longer shelf life.
So, it’s no surprise that when it came to packaging, Bowden made another unusual choice. Despite the fact that the competition all packed their guacamole in tubs, he chose pouches in boxes for his product.
Jay Alley, vice president of sales and marketing for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company, explains: “From the day that Don made the first round it was a pouch in a box. Everybody told him that it wouldn’t sell because it had to be in a tub.”
Despite the nay-sayers, creativity and outside-the-box thinking continue to define the way this company operates.
“We try to be innovative. We like to think it’s in our DNA - being creative and bringing new products to market,” Alley says.
And clearly, the strategy works.
Including its four plants (two in Mexico, one in Chile and one in Lima, Peru), Fresherized Foods is the largest user of HPP technology in the world and Bowden is considered an HPP industry pioneer. The company now makes more than 90 SKUs of avocado products and rings up sales of about $100 million annually split evenly between its retail and foodservice businesses.
Recent changes have sparked even greater sales. Just 18 months ago, Fresherized Foods embarked on a re-branding effort. Although its guacamole was successful under the AvoClassic brand, officials wanted more consumer brand name recognition. Alley explains, “We decided to re-energize our brand. We had a lot of product that had a great following but consumers just didn’t know our name. So, we had a consumer contest. We had consumers actually vote on the name.”
The chosen name? Wholly Guacamole, which not only is catchy, but also is an accurate description of Fresherized’s all-natural, preservative-free dips.
“The success of the name change and the increase in consumer brand awareness for our product have been really great and still continue to amaze us on a weekly basis when we look at year-over-year sales from a year ago,” Alley adds.
Significant marketing efforts accompanied the re-branding. A 60-foot “guacmobile” travels to retail locations and offers free samples to consumers and e-coupons are sent to loyal customers monthly.
“Since we’ve re-branded, we’ve seen tremendous growth. We’re back to a double-digit growth pace, which is where we were in the early stages of guacamole when customers first started finding it,” Alley says.
Also feeding the company’s growth are 100-calorie snack packs. This February saw Fresherized launch boxed three- and six-packs of 2-ounce guacamole portions.
“Snack packs have brought us a lot of consumer interest,” Alley says. “Everyone had the perception that guacamole was bad for you or high in fat and actually it’s got the good kind of oil in it that actually lowers cholesterol. … [Consumers] appreciate the fact that they can portion control and they know 2-ounces is 100 calories. It’s just been overwhelming the interest we’ve had in them.”
In fact, the snack packs have garnered attention from a whole new sales channel for the company - convenience stores.
“7-Eleven saw the product in the 100-calorie pack, so we’re doing an individual 100-calorie pack for them,” Alley says. “It goes great with all the items in a 7-Eleven … chips, hot dogs, taquitos and tacos. C-store is now on our radar of distribution.”
Fresherized continues to explore other new products as well. In October, the company will launch Wholly Salsa, an HPP treated all-natural, refrigerated salsa line and last April saw the company launch Simply Avo - a line of HPP avocado halves and pure avocado pulp.
At the same time, the company plans to re-focus its marketing efforts moving into next year.
“The first [re-branding] year was all branding and helping build the brand,” notes Alley. “This next year will be more about consumer usage and messaging on how to continue to use the product.
“You can put it on a pita sandwich, a hamburger, a hot dog, dip it with baby carrots. You can use it instead of mayonnaise or ranch dip,” he says.
He also adds that Fresherized Foods makes sure it communicates one important overall point to its customers and consumers: this product is fresh and safe.
“Probably the biggest opportunity for the whole produce section is continuing to maintain consumer trust and confidence so that they know what they’re picking up is safe. If people don’t trust what they’re buying then none of us are going to be successful.”
FAST FACTSFresherized Foods
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Top executive(s): Don Bowden, founder; Steve Parnell, president
Annual sales: More than $100 million
Primary product(s): Refrigerated guacamole, salsa and pico de gallo for retail; organic guacamole; avocados, avocado pulp, chunky avocado and avocado halves for foodservice and private label.
Brands: Wholly Guacamole, Dancing Iguana, Simply Avo, Fresherized Foods
On the Web: www.fresherizedfoods.com