Cherry Hill, N.J. - Swanson announced it will launch the largest new product introduction and manufacturing reconfiguration for its "Swanson" frozen foods business since the firm originated the TV dinner in 1954. The launch will also enter Swanson into a new product category - boneless fried chicken - which is growing at double-digit rates. The new product and manufacturing initiatives will make the Company's $75 million fried chicken business - which had been consistently unprofitable - a solid contributor.
The introduction will be backed by a major new advertising campaign for Swanson frozen foods carrying the theme "Make New Memories with Swanson" that will tap into the family memories conjured by this American icon. On average, more than 3 million Swanson dinners are consumed each week in the U.S. and the original Swanson aluminum tray, retired in 1987 in place of a microwavable tray, resides in the Smithsonian.
The major product introduction involves replacing and redesigning the top- selling segment in the Swanson line - Fried Chicken dinners, which account for approximately 25% of the total $300 million in Swanson dinner sales - with five new items:
New Swanson Boneless White Meat Fried Chicken Breast dinner New Swanson Hungry-Man Boneless White Meat Fried Chicken Breast dinner New Swanson Fried Chicken dinner (mix of white, dark meat) New Swanson Hungry-Man Fried Chicken dinner (mix of white, dark meat) New Swanson Fun Feast all White Meat Fried Chicken kids dinner
The new dinners will begin selling to retailers on August 3 and will be available to consumers beginning in October.
Robert F. Bernstock, Vlasic Foods International President and Chief Executive Officer, said this is the first of many initiatives for the Swanson business that meets three newly developed business criteria: 1) introduce or re- launch a major business segment, based on consumer research, that is large enough to advertise nationally; 2) contemporize the Swanson brand and improve product quality; and 3) improve the overall economics and profit of the business.
"We started this process to provide consumers with demonstrably superior quality products while returning the fried chicken business to profitability," said Bernstock. "We reviewed thousands of consumer comments we've received over the years and they made it clear that our products didn't have enough meat. In fact, some consumers said the bones exceeded the meat. With the spin-off, our new team immediately began to re-engineer our systems to address these comments and tap into the phenomenal growth in boneless chicken. If the number one comment on our all white meat dinner was `too many bones,' we said why not introduce boneless fried chicken that tastes great?"
New Swanson Boneless White Meat Fried Chicken dinners will have approximately 40% less calories from fat than the previous dinner. Swanson will also improve its all dark meat fried chicken dinner by offering natural proportions of white and dark meat pieces. Consumer research shows this is significantly preferred.
"By re-engineering the way we manufacture fried chicken and changing the product design of our dinners we'll move from utilizing only 60-65% of the chicken in our plant to approximately 90%," said Bernstock. "By reducing manufacturing complexity and improving utilization, we'll change the economics of this business overnight.
"In implementing our business model and re-engineering process, we've taken our largest business from a financial drain to a good, solid contributor," Bernstock noted. "Consumers win, retailers win and our Swanson business wins. This is a perfect example of how we will build shareowner wealth using consumer- based initiatives and tapping the potential of our core branded businesses.
Beginning in September, Swanson will launch its new "Make New Memories with Swanson" advertising campaign that leverages the memories and emotional bond consumers - primarily parents - have with Swanson dinners. Swanson plans to triple its advertising expenditures over the next two years behind this campaign.
"Our new campaign will mark a return to families for the Swanson brand," said Murray S. Kessler, President of the Swanson Frozen Food division. "In the past we didn't have the resources to market our products as they were during the hey-day of the brand when everything centered on the family. Now we will.
"When we spoke to parents about Swanson dinners each had a fond memory of growing up enjoying Swanson dinners," said Kessler. "Everyone cites stories such as eating the dessert first despite their parents' protests, or getting excited knowing that their parents were going out for the evening and they would get to select which Swanson dinner to have. We will tap into the nostalgia and incredibly strong equities of the Swanson brand and bring these types of memories into the present and share them with new generations."
The campaign, developed by Young & Rubicam _ New York, will feature the first television advertising for Swanson in five years. The 30-second spots are scheduled to begin airing in January. The campaign also includes a network radio initiative and consumer promotions scheduled to begin in September.
Meat Industry Insights News Service
P.O. Box 553
Northport, NY 11768
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