Makers of Dips, Dressings Highlight Health, Convenience, Flavor

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Makers of Dips, Dressings Highlight Health, Convenience, Flavor

By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ - 03/02/2016

There’s no doubt about it: Americans are eating differently. Not only are many turning from traditional meals to snacks, but they’re choosing to fill up on more nutritious items, which they’d frequently prefer to eat on the go. But the products still have to taste great, too.

The intersections of these trends are where manufacturers of refrigerated dips and dressings see opportunities to expand their segments, which are already looking up: refrigerated salad dressings’ dollar sales were up 6.1 percent, according to Nielsen figures for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 19, 2015, while those of refrigerated dips had grown 1.9 percent, after several years of flat to negative sales.

“These days, consumers are looking for dips that are made with high-quality, clean ingredients, but still pack bold flavor combinations,” asserts Stephanie Robbins, director of brand development at Union City, Calif-based La Terra Fina, which offers various dips and quiches. “They want their dips to complement not only chips, but also a range of dippers like crackers, vegetables and fries, as well as sandwiches and wraps. We think this can be largely attributed to consumers’ busy lifestyles and the trend of healthy snacking over large sit-down meals. [Shoppers are] increasingly turning to versatile products that are both convenient and healthy.”

Continues Robbins, “At La Terra Fina, we’ve always kept our consumers’ shifting lifestyles in mind — which is why our dips and spreads are made without artificial preservatives and we use only clean, recognizable ingredients.”

Stacey Miller, senior brand manager at Sandpoint, Idaho-based dressing and dip maker Litehouse Foods, affirms, “Consumers are looking for healthier, cleaner foods for themselves and their families,” pointing to the explosive growth of organic products, led by fruit and vegetables, and shoppers’ rising interest in such other attributes as non-GMO and gluten-free. “As a company, we are moving towards providing natural-channel consumers with the healthy products they are looking for,” she adds, while noting, “The consumer’s appetite for new flavors continues to grow, and according to Packaged Facts, 53 percent of consumers are seeking bolder flavors.”

None of this is news to Lynn Stachnick, brand manager at Taunton, Mass.-based Tribe, who observes that consumers, while seeking better nutrition and ease of preparation/ portability, “know they like regular hummus, so now they’re on the hunt for new, standout flavors to serve as their snacks. Exciting flavors are really driving the category.”

Continuing Innovation

Recently introduced products from all three companies strive to meet these consumer needs.

“We’re seeing consumers looking for more ways to increase their plant-based food intake as well, so we have varieties such as Spinach, Artichoke & Parmesan Dip & Spread and Spinach & Kale Dip & Spread made with Greek yogurt,” says La Terra Fina’s Robbins. “Not only do our products offer a yummy way to enjoy more vegetables, but when you scoop with carrots, sweet peppers, cucumber, celery and the like, it’s a very satisfying eating experience with tons of veggies.”

Another on-trend offering is the company’s segment-straddling Organic Ranch Dip & Dressing, introduced last year. “This is made with organic Greek yogurt and was created with our health-conscious consumers in mind,” explains Robbins. “We were very mindful that ‘healthful’ cannot be without deep, rich favors. With just 50 calories per serving, this new product offers naturally delicious flavor, coupled with the kind of ingredients and nutritionals consumers are demanding.”

Litehouse, the top-selling refrigerated organic salad dressing brand, has been similarly busy in the realms of product and packaging innovation. For instance, the company recently refreshed its bottle design and launched two additions to its Organic Dressings & Vinaigrettes line. “The new look reflects the fresh goodness of the product and features the certifications that consumers are seeking: USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and Gluten-Free Certified,” notes Miller. “The new flavors, Rosemary Balsamic and Ginger with Honey, join the Litehouse Organics family of award-winning dressings made with care by its employee-owners.”

Further, in answer to consumer demand for clean ingredients and transparency, Litehouse last year rolled out Green Garden, which Miller describes as “a line of wholesome, clean, refrigerated dressings that are Non-GMO Project Verified, USDA Certified Organic and Gluten-Free Certified.” The dressings feature USDA Certified Organic ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil, pomegranate, lime and orange juice, and are seasoned with rosemary, cumin and hibiscus.

What’s more, on the Greek yogurt front, the manufacturer expanded its successful OPA by Litehouse Greek Yogurt Dressings line to include the industry’s first pourable Greek yogurt-based dressing, and grew its Opadipity Greek Yogurt Dip line with three new options: Spicy Asiago Artichoke, Greek Olive and Cinnamon Swirl. “Since launching Opadipity in 2014, the dip quickly became a category leader,” notes Miller, citing IRI data that the brand “is responsible for fueling 48 percent of the veggie dip category growth in the U.S.”

She adds: “Litehouse continues to innovate to meet consumers’ desires for innovative tastes, convenient packaging and healthy products.”

Last summer, Tribe introduced Tribe Swirl, which Stachnick calls “a first-of-its kind hummus innovation that takes the topping out of the middle of the hummus and instead weaves it throughout the entire bowl. Having a product that is both bold in flavor and packaging has done really well for us. Tribe Swirl has been a great seller since it hit the market.”

Also new from the company — as well as another segment mash-up — is Tribe Ranch Hummus. “Ranch is America’s most popular salad dressing, and since it has successfully moved from a salad dressing to a dip, we decided to add it to our lineup,” explains Stachnick. “Tribe Ranch Hummus blends the popular, herb-filled taste of ranch with the creamy texture of traditional hummus to create a smooth, dairy-free dip.”

Overcoming Challenges

Marketing and merchandising a limited-shelf-life product that many shoppers expect to find in center store isn’t the easiest proposition, as the manufacturers attest.

“Our products are made to order and are very fresh and perishable,” admits La Terra Fina’s Robbins. “This can be a challenge in regard to distribution, but for the consumer, it’s what’s in demand.… This simply means we have to be smarter about how we move the product from our plant to the store shelves. We work closely with our retail and logistics partners to ensure fresh, long-lasting product.”

While conceding that “[m]erchandising in the refrigerated set has its challenges,” Litehouse’s Miller insists that “those can be easily overcome [by] implementing secondary displays in the bunkers — tying in our product with other complementary refrigerated items — [and] using point-of-sale materials such as shelf blades, coupon boxes, coupons on-pack and neck hangers. We also have great partners throughout the produce department where we can cross-promote our product with theirs, showing the consumer where to purchase.”

Further, she notes: “Keeping the shelf fresh with new flavors, new look and feel to the packaging … and cross-promoting with other brands helps keep the [refrigerated salad dressing] category as fresh as the produce we sit next to on the shelf. Our consumer-driven promotions throughout the year — specifically, How do you Ranch, Salad Revolution and Backyard BBQ — our holiday Holidazzle; and our recent Dip it, Dunk it, Wing it are engaging for the consumer, offering new recipe ideas and highlighting versatility with our products.”

Litehouse’s efforts in this regard appear to be paying off: According to Miller, “We are … taking a bite out of the shelf-stable dressings, whose sales are down 1 percent from a year ago.” For Tribe, commonly found in the deli section, “[b]eing in a refrigerated section of the grocery store is both challenging and rewarding in different ways,” notes Stachnick. “More and more consumers are being told to shop the perimeter of the store, filling their baskets with fresh foods. Although our products are in a high-traffic area of the grocery store, it is challenging to receive secondary placement or display opportunities. That said, the brand has had great success having effective signage in-store as well as ensuring retailers are carrying a wide assortment of SKUs, allowing for the best visibility on shelf.”

Adds Stachnick: “With many retail stores carrying over 50 different SKUs of just hummus, it’s very easy for a new product to get lost in the mix. Having clear signage that effectively communicates the benefit of Tribe Swirl has very much contributed to the success of this new product launch.”

The three companies are optimistic about the future. “We anticipate consumers continuing to seek out dressings and dips that are free from ingredients such as trans fats, MSG and artificial preservatives,” predicts Miller. “The consumers’ interest [in] and desire for new and exciting flavors will increase, as will the desire for easy, fresh meal solutions. Packaging will also continue to adapt to meet the needs of the on-the-go and time-starved shopper. Consumers’ desire for healthy labels and fresh products will increase and drive the ongoing growth of the perimeter of the store,” where they’re sure to stock up on refrigerated dips and dressings.

“Keeping the shelf fresh with new flavors, new look and feel to the packaging, and cross-promoting with other brands helps keep the category as fresh as the produce we sit next to on the shelf.”
—Stacey Miller, Litehouse Foods