Chiquita’s launch this summer of frozen fruit smoothies through Michigan-based Old Orchard Brands follows the launch in Europe a few years ago of ‘Just fruit in a bottle’. IMC Licensing, Chiquita’s licensing agency for this category, secured and negotiated the deal between Chiquita and Old Orchard Brands.
Claire Phoenix interviews Chiquita chief marketing officer, Tanios Viviani.
With the stated vision of becoming the global leader in branded, healthy, fresh foods, how is Chiquita delivering innovation in higher margin products, and what led you here?
Tanios Viviani: After more than 100 years of selling commodity bananas, we’re transforming the company to be the leader in branded, healthy, fresh foods. Our goal is to win customers’ hearts and minds with these products. The Chiquita brand commands respect in the marketplace. When consumers think of Chiquita, they think of quality and freshness. Chiquita and Fresh Express are the strongest brands in produce.
A major focus of Chiquita’s innovation efforts is developing new product offerings to meet consumers’ growing desire for healthy, convenient and fresh food choices. To win more consumers, we simply need to do two things: continue innovating towards more value-added products, and make our products more convenient and available to consumers.
Some recent examples of our new products are: Chiquita to Go, Gourmet Café and Fruit Bites. The introduction of Fresh Express Tender Ruby Reds and Sweet Tender Greens last autumn achieved more than 30% distribution in just eight weeks. We also launched family-size clamshell packs that have outperformed sales of similar bags by 60%.
Apparently, 78% of Americans and 64% of Europeans are trying to eat more healthily. How do bananas help with this aim?
Viviani: We have the right strategy in place to leverage global health and wellness trends. Consumers know and trust our brands, and our products are in basic categories that are very affordable. Bananas are among the cheapest form of great nutrition. They’re a food staple and great value compared to other food items, especially in North America, where a banana sells on average for only 30 cents at retail. Nowhere else in the grocery store can consumers find such a great nutritional and monetary value in any single food item.
Tell me more about the ‘Just fruit in a bottle’ concept.
Viviani: Just Fruit in a Bottle (JFIB) is now available in seven countries. It’s a line of frozen, 100% fresh-fruit smoothies that Chiquita introduced in Europe (Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Austria) in 2006. JFIB recently launched in Italy, and the brand continues to gain distribution in convenience stores and traditional grocery channels throughout Europe.
The frozen fruit smoothies are being produced through a brand licensing partnership with Old Orchard Brands, one of the fastest growing fruit juice brands in the US. These all-natural products contain no artificial colouring or preservatives, and are gluten and dairy free. Each smoothie serving contains at least half a cup of fruit and 100% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C.
Chiquita Frozen Fruit Smoothie concentrates are available in recyclable 12oz plastic cans that provide three 8oz servings when blended with ice and water. Flavours are peach mango, banana colada, mixed berry and strawberry banana. At a suggested retail price of $2.69 for each 12oz can, or less than a dollar per serving, this is great value for consumers looking for a natural, nutritional drink.
Why did you choose to partner with Old Orchard Brands, and how are you letting people know about the new product?
Viviani: Old Orchard was chosen as key development partner due in part to its leading position in the frozen fruit juice concentrate category and its fully developed distribution network across the US. A national consumer campaign began recently that includes traditional print advertisements, coupon inserts within the top 100 US newspapers, and a multimedia ‘Smooth-Stakes’ contest where consumers ‘text’ entries or play games found at the website for chances to win prizes that include a year’s supply of smoothies. Traditional in-store merchandising includes floor-graphics, shelf signage and sampling events.
From your figures, I see that you invest $10m each year in food safety. In what areas of production/distribution is most spent?
Viviani: We’ve taken pioneering steps in the area of food safety as part of the commitment to bring fresh, safe, quality produce to consumers. In April 2007, our Fresh Express operation provided $2m in funding for research under the guidance of an independent scientific advisory panel, as a means to support industry-wide food safety solutions to study the E. coli O157:H7 pathogen to advance science-based practices to prevent its occurrence in fresh produce.
Fulfilling the company’s commitment to share the research findings broadly with the fresh produce industry, Chiquita Fresh Express hosted the Fresh Produce Safety Research Conference in Monterey, California, in September 2008. At this conference, findings from the nine funded research projects were initially reported.
Your investor statement underlines that you’re positioned to outperform in the economic downturn. Please can you give a few figures to justify this, and where you hope to be in a few years’ time?
Viviani: Historically, bananas and salads haven’t been affected by the economy. In general, our products are among the most affordable in the grocery store. Even in difficult economic times, our business benefits from consumers who decide to eat meals prepared at home.
What are the big issues for you right now at Chiquita?
Viviani: We will continue to focus on improving execution in four areas:
Across the organisation, we’re doing things to strengthen our business and position ourselves to consistently win in a competitive global marketplace.
Tanios Viviani is Chiquita chief marketing officer. North America’s Chiquita Brands International is a leading international marketer and distributor of high-quality fresh and value-added food products, from energy-rich bananas and other fruits to green salads.
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