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A major trend in the sauce and meal solution category, as in many other center store categories, is an emphasis on "clean-label" products, as exemplified by Victoria Fine Foods' redesign of the label that appears on its jars of authentic pasta sauce, in which the ingredients appear front and center.
"Victoria has conducted multiple rounds of consumer research to arrive at their new label design, which features their all-natural ingredients on the front of the label, in addition to qualifiers such as 'no preservatives,' 'no water' [and] 'no paste,'" says Don Davide, chief strategy officer for the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company.
The reason for the redesign, according to Davide, is simplicity itself. "We found through research that consumers are increasingly more concerned about the ingredients in the foods they are shopping for," he explains. "They want authentic, great taste, but they don't want to feed their families ingredients that they would not use at home themselves. This is why Victoria is unique: They not only use all-natural ingredients and feature them on the front of their label, but they also cook their sauces slowly in large kettles for a truly homemade taste. That is why Victoria's overall theme, which is featured on the front of their label, is 'Ingredients Come First.'"
Victoria's 12-SKU, 10-flavor line of premium pasta sauces adopted the new label in June 2014, and early indications are that it's a hit. "Since our advertising support and full launch just recently began in September 2014, sales results are looking positive across the line among all retailers for the September-October period," notes Davide, adding that the company has garnered "great feedback from customers about our sauce in terms of taste profile as well as quality of ingredients. We feel this is due to our label design, which clearly places our all natural ingredients on the front of the label for consumers to compare to other leading brands. We have found consumers value this information and ability to make a choice about what they are feeding their family."
In addition to periodic promotions, Victoria supported the label launch with TV advertising, radio advertising, free-standing inserts, shelf talkers, corrugated and pallet display programs.
Naturally enough, Victoria isn't the only company to make such a change. Pendleton, Ore.-based Barhyte Specialty Foods, maker of the Saucy Mama product line, has also embraced the idea of a clean label -- in both senses of the word. "We redesigned the labels to make them cleaner," says Marketing and PR Manager Colette Harris. "We added a different subtle color to each of the items to make them stand out on the shelf. While the Saucy Mama product line looks cohesive on the shelf, it’s also easier for customers to see that the products are different without reading details on the label."
Beyond a more streamlined look, however, "I think people will keep pushing the limits on new and unique flavors, as well as heading down the road to making the products as 'clean' as possible, with fewer preservatives and locally sourced ingredients," adds Harris.
And another Victoria – Ms. Hoke, COO of Irvine Calif.-based Victoria's Garden Grown – concurs with that assessment, tying shoppers' interest in purer products to a concern with the healthfulness of the foods they eat. "I think innovation is the name of the game, as well as cleaning up ingredient lists," affirms Hoke. "Consumers are demanding quality; they're getting better educated on what they should be putting in their bodies, and want food companies to meet the demand for what they care about -- the perfect combination of flavor and health."