Revitalized Creations

Revitalized Creations

Smith, Pamela Accetta

A savory review of sour cream and refrigerated dips.

It’s been said that category management is an evolutionary process. When it comes to sour cream and refrigerated dips, manufacturers are revitalizing these otherwise ordinary segments by creating refreshing assortments based on consumers’ commanding desires.

Gone are the days when sour cream only came full-fat in tubs or chip dip in onion flavor. These categories are boomine with new flavors, fresh varieties, creative packaging and more healthful options.

Overall, sour cream continues to experience modest gains. The growing popularity of Mexican foods, as well as the increasing affluence of the burgeoning Hispanic-American population, has helped boost the consumption of sour cream.

Also, a number of manufacturers have developed squeezable sour cream in order to make dining occasions more convenient. For example, Shamrock Farms continues to enjoy the success of its Squeeze Sour Cream, available in traditional and chive and onion varieties. Northfield, Ill-based Kraft Foods North America introduced a Knudsen brand of squeezable sour cream on a regional basis last year, while Minneapolis-based Marigold Foods Inc. continues to produce its Kemps Easy to Squeeze sour cream in traditional, light and Potato Topper varieties.

The Land O’Lakes® brand, owned by Arden Hills, Minn.-based Land O’Lakes Inc. and used by license, has also turned the sour cream category upside down. The new squeezable packaging helps keep the product fresher longer and makes topping consumers’ favorite treats easier than ever. The squeezable sour cream is available in regular and chive flavors. Regular, light and fat-free sour creams in conveniently sized plastic tubs are also available.

The convenient packaging and heightened product performan.ce of squeezable sour cream have met a definite consumer need, added variety to an otherwise plain container cup and consequently brought new users to the category.

However, some say while squeeze-bottle sour creams may be a handy alternative for special occasions, they are not exactly jumping off the shelf. For example, Molly Murphy, marketing director, Quality Chekd Dairies Inc., Naperville, Ill., says that people have a tendency to stick with the normal tub. “They may use the squeezable as a convenience while on the go, at a picnic or throwing a party, but for day-to-day use, they stick with the tub,” she says.

In fact, many manufacturers have witnessed a growing trend towards larger tub sizes of sour cream, as value-conscious consumers are constantly on the lookout for the best deal. In addition to traditional sour cream, many dairies also produce low-fat and fat-free varieties. Despite the widely publicized move towards indulgent, full-fat dairy products, there still remains a strong demand for reducedfat sour cream.

Likewise, consumers are embracing healthier and lower-fat alternatives when it comes to dips, which have traditionally been considered highly indulgent. Carla Laylin, senior marketing manager for T. Marzetti Co., Columbus, Ohio, says a growing number of people are seeking small containers of low-fat dip that can be used for dipping fruit or vegetables while on the run. “People aren’t sitting down and eating dinner as much as they used to, so the dips and vegetables come into play for minimeals or healthful snacks,” she explains. “They’ve become more like, ‘Let me grab a handful of carrots and my little container of dip.'”

Despite the relative flatness of the category, dip manufacturers don’t seem to have cut back 1 on their R&D efforts. Marzetti recently added a Light Ranch variety to its line of single-serve Veggie Dip, while Buffalo, N.Y-based Upstate Farms introduced Nacho Jalapeno dip under its Bison brand. According to Mark Serling, director of marketing, the company is also working on developing a line of junior dip flavors.

There’s more variety than ever out there in the dip category – many choices of flavors and sizes. For example, Old Home Foods has rolled out Old Home’s Pride Smoked Salmon Dip in an 8-ounce resealable container and FiveLayer Party Dip in a 16-ounce party size. The company says the products are part of its plan to focus on new tastes in order to offer some excitement that will revitalize the category.

Unique flavors and highly seasoned dips are experiencing strong growth, but it seems that nothing will ever overtake such mainstays as ranch or French onion. For instance, Dallasbased Dean Foods Co. reports that onion and ranch are two of the company’s best sellers.

Out-of-the-ordinary flavors are all the rage in the dip category. Heluva Good Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Dip, for example, combines Heluva Good’s real sour cream dip with the barbecue flavor featured at the popular upstate New York Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant chain. In fact, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Dip’s first week sales were four times higher than any previous feature flavor. The product has quickly become one of the best sellers in the four-year history of the company’s feature flavor program and now is a permanent flavor of the Heluva Good dip line. It’s also Heluva Good’s first co-branded product.

Answering the call for convenient heat-and-serve dips, Gordo’s Queso Loco(TM) Cheese Dip by Charley and Sons, Lake City, Ga., comes in a microwaveable container for easy-to-prepare snacking.

It can also be used in various recipes like nachos, fajitas, quesadillas and fondues.

Known for its dairy case innovation, Dean Foods’ dips are found in both the dairy case and the produce section of the grocery store and are marketed under the national Dean’s”9 and Marie’s® (produced by Morningstar Foods, a division of Dean Foods) brands as well as several regional brand names. Dean’s Dips are available in such flavors as French Onion, Veggie, Ranch, Guacamole, Zesty Guacamole, Green Onion, Light French Onion, Dill, Creamy Taco and Bacon & Horseradish.

To allow for consumer convenience, says Julie Cary, vice president of marketing for Dean Foods, the company has redesigned the packaging for Dean’s Dips with clearer graphics and welldefined flavor recognition. “The new package label allows for a more convenient shopping experience with easier-to-identify flavors and extra emphasis on fresh ingredients,” she says.

According to Cary, the company sees significant opportunities in the dip category as they maintain a very healthy product pipeline in which to grow organically. “Our focus moving forward in the category is to change the character of the dairy case by providing quality products, new products to address changing consumer tastes and leveraging new technology in order to offer new products in convenient packaging,” she says.

As consumer tastes for ethnic flavors are getting popular so has their continued desire for convenience, says Cary. “We have introduced flavors like Creamy Taco Dip, Guacamole and Zesty Guacamole to satisfy that flavor craving while we continue to look for innovative ways to make the ‘dipping’ experience more convenient,” she says.

According to Cary, the dip category is a growing segment with new flavors and new formulas. The dip category is also seasonal, she says. “Consumers are looking for convenient ways to enhance their snacking experience. Dean Food’s looks to capture those moments and allow consumers to indulge in their products,” she says.

The company is a leader in the dairy case, says Gary. “We welcome competition, however, as it will only help to raise awareness and fuel the growth of the entire category,” she says. “Competition continues to challenge Dean Foods to strive to produce the highest quality and innovative products. We consistently strive to anticipate the changing preferences of our consumers.”

Copyright Stagnito Publishing Nov 2003

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