Supplier Spotlights: Swedish Match, Forte Products & Heineken USA


NATIONAL REPORT — While it's important for convenience store retailers to market themselves, new products, services, promotions and other initiatives by c-store suppliers are a major part of capturing consumer interest. Convenience Store News will regularly highlight such efforts in this roundup.

Here are the latest supplier spotlights:

Farmer Brothers

Farmer Bros Co. completed its acquisition of China Mist Brands Inc., which is will operate as a subsidiary.

"We are excited to welcome China Mist into the Farmer Brothers family. China Mist's focus on quality products, customer service and sustainable business practices make the business a great strategic and cultural fit for Farmer Brothers," said Mike Keown, CEO of Farmer Brothers. "We believe the addition of this premium tea brand and its strong consumer appeal will accelerate the Company's growth in the fresh brewed tea segment and complement our sustainable, direct trade specialty coffee portfolio."

China Mist will continue to operate from its Scottsdale, Ariz. offices. Members of its management team will continue in their existing roles.

Forte Products

Forte Product Solutions changed its name to Forte Products. The launch of the shorter, fresher name and a new logo are part of the ongoing evolution of the brand, the company stated.

"As we work to develop our company's capabilities to propel our organization into one of the industry's most innovative and recognized leaders, it is the perfect opportunity to evaluate our brand and logo to ensure that they are in sync with who we are, where we are going and the future growth we expect. We felt it was time for an update while still keeping core elements of our identity," stated Brad Robertson, CEO of Forte Products.

The rebranding represents its mission to bring optimal, cutting edge and valued products to existing and prospective customers and the markets Forte serves, the company added.

Heineken USA

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, Heineken USA will launch Five Points Trading Co., a new venture aimed at incubating a range of popular global beers in the U.S. Under this new umbrella, Five Points Trading Co. will assume U.S. importer of record responsibility for Red Stripe, Tiger, Birra Moretti, Affligem, Murphy's Stout, Prestige, Sagres and Mort Subite.

With the development of Five Points, Heineken USA will be able to bring these emerging premium brands back in-house, while taking them to new heights by utilizing the resources and expertise of the company's established distribution network, the company said. The venture is named in reference to the five points of Heineken's iconic red start and America's first melting pot neighborhood in lower Manhattan.

The brands that will be represented by Five Points are established in the U.S market and currently imported and sold by other importing companies whose contracts are set to expire at the end of 2016. General Manager Charles Littlefield will lead Five Points and manage the new brands separately from Heineken USA's current portfolio.

"Keeping the Five Point and Heineken USA portfolios separate will allow our current marketing and sales organization to maintain focus on our four core brands — Heineken, Dos Equis, Tecate and Strongbow — while enabling Five Points to direct its energy and resources to developing the potential of these new to the company acquisitions," Littlefield said. "We are grateful to our current wholesaler partners, whose enthusiasm and dedication to cultivating these brands, to date, has been integral to their success."

Mondelēz International

In mid-September, Mondelēz International confirmed a $65-million investment to build a global Research, Development & Quality (RDQ) network of the future. This will enable the company to better recruit, retain and develop talent across a range of science and technical disciplines while also creating a stronger presence in both emerging and developed markets, Mondelēz said.

Once complete, the redesigned network will consist of a combination of new and existing technical centers that will be more flexible and agile in responding to the company's growth and innovation needs.

Over the next two years, Mondelēz will focus its RDQ network at nine advantaged technical centers, concentrating people and resources into better equipped hubs:

  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • East Hanover, N.J., United States
  • Bournville, United Kingdom
  • Reading, United Kingdom
  • Wroclaw, Poland
  • Thane, India
  • Suzhou, China
  • Jurong, Singapore
  • Curitiba, Brazil

"With these advantaged technical centers, we're focusing our investment in research, equipment and capabilities to drive innovation to support our growth strategy and innovation, margin and quality platforms," said Rob Hargrove, executive vice president, RDQ. "These hubs will enable improved efficiency, effectiveness and accelerated project delivery, while the increased scale across key markets will provide rapid access to changing consumer needs and trends."


PDI, a provider of automation software systems to the convenience retail and wholesale petroleum industries, has formed a strategic alliance with IRI, a provider of innovative solutions and services for consumer, retailer, and over-the-counter healthcare companies.

As manufacturers and retailers search for innovative ways to market to consumers, the new business relationship strategically positions PDI and IRI to become the primary accumulators and suppliers of actionable, transaction-level data to the convenience industry, according to PDI.

"IRI has nearly four decades of experience helping companies turn big data into bottom-line growth," said David Hoodis, president of Americas retail for IRI. "We've been able to do that, in large part, by aligning ourselves with other industry leaders who have the same vision of success for their customers as we do for ours. PDI is one such company, and I'm thrilled to join them in this business venture."

PDI also added scan data collection company KLS Technologies LLC to its list of recent acquisitions.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for PDI," said Greg Gilkerson, CEO of PDI. "While the industry has talked about big data for years, I believe we're just beginning to realize its tangible applications. IRI is a respected pioneer in that field, and our alliance with them —coupled with our acquisition of KLS — positions PDI and its customers incredibly well for the future."

Sparkling Ice

Talking Rain Beverage Co., maker of Sparkling Ice flavored sparkling waters, teamed with DreamWorks Animation in support of the November release of the film "TROLLS."

Leading up to the film's Nov. 4 premiere, Sparkling Ice kicked off its UnconTROLLable Flavor campaign, which features a variety of elements. This includes a major sweepstakes, limited-edition product packaging, advertising and in-store marketing support, field marketing, and a shopper rewards program that will offer more than 3,000 prizes throughout the three-month program.

Through the UnconTROLLable Rewards program, consumers can make purchases of Sparkling Ice products to earn movie-related rewards.

Sparkling Ice will also activate an UnconTROLLable Screening Sweepstakes through a Facebook contest that allows fans to enter to win a hometown screening of "TROLLS." One winner and 100 of their friends will receive a private showing at their local theater, including concessions.

Sparkling Ice will also introduce a series of TROLLS fridge packs that include limited-edition "coloring cans" that let kids color directly on the packaging.

Swedish Match

Swedish Match held a grand opening for its Owensboro Research & Development Center in Owensboro, Ky. The $3.5-million, 10,000-square-foot expansion includes a two story manufacturing facility that houses:

  • Newly designed laboratories
  • Dedicated sensory test zone
  • Controlled environment chamber storage
  • Microbiological testing area
  • Open office and meeting spaces

"Constant innovation is a top priority for Swedish Match and a primary driver toward our vision of a world without cigarettes," said Thord Hassler, vice president of Swedish Match research and development. "The expanded Research & Development Center supports our commitment to that vision by providing an environment for cross functional teams to collaborate on consumer and technology advancements."

The facility doubles Swedish Match's testing capability in the United States to better satisfy consumer and regulatory demands, according to the company.

Utz Quality Foods

Utz Quality Foods LLC has formed a strategic partnership with investment firm Metropoulos & Co., which will make a significant investment in Utz. The Metropoulos & Co. investment, which was used to finance Utz's acquisition of the Golden Flake brand, is the largest initial private equity transaction for a U.S. snack company since 2013, the company said in news release.

"Nearly a century ago, the Utz company was born in a small town kitchen by an entrepreneurial couple, Bill and Salie Utz, who created a fast-growing business making fresh potato chips for local markets with an intense focus on premier quality products," said Dylan Lissette, president & CEO of Utz. "For the past 95-plus years, Utz has not only defied the odds as a successful family-owned business, we have thrived, by continuously reinvesting in our company, expanding our offerings and reach through key acquisitions, and never deviating from our core values and our commitment to our people and our high quality products.

Added Evan Metropoulos, principal of Metropoulos & Co.: "Under the family's strong stewardship, Utz has quietly grown into a snack powerhouse, expanding its product portfolio and geographic reach, while remaining true to its core beliefs and storied history. We are delighted to unite our talents, under a shared respect for great American entities, to celebrate and build upon the brand's legacy, while helping to chart an exciting course forward."

White Castle

White Castle partnered with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to host an "X-Men"-themed sweepstakes timed to the Digital HD release of "X-Men: Apocalypse" on Sept. 9. The winner will receive a three-night trip for two to New York City and the opportunity to meet with a team of Hollywood special effects artists to transform into his or her favorite "X-Men" character, including a photo shoot.

"Most people have a favorite super hero. But, what if they had the chance to actually become their favorite super hero for a day? With this fun sweepstakes, they can," said Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle. "We encourage all of our Cravers, near and far, to apply."

Customers who buy a medium or large soda in-store or a specially marked White Castle Slider six-pack in retail locations will receive a scratch off card for a chance to win a trip for two to New York City to "Be an X-Men for a Day" and thousands of other White Castle and X-Men instant win prizes.

The sweepstakes opened Aug. 25 and runs through Dec. 31, or while game pieces last. The grand prizewinner will be selected by Jan. 31. No purchase is necessary to win.

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