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Heinz expects uninterrupted growth: expands new weight watchers program.

Heinz Expects Uninterrupted Growth; Expands New Weight Watchers Program

H.J. Heinz Company should continue to chart growth rates of 10% to 12% during the 1990s, "so long as inflation remains at low levels." That is what Anthony J.F. O'Reilly told analysts meeting recently in San Francisco.

"Heinz is a basket of companies and a basket of currencies," said the chairman, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh, Pa.-headquartered concern. "This gives us flexibility to advance where we are strong while contending with the challenges launched by our competitors."

And competition has been picking up against the company whose leading frozen food brands include Ore-Ida and Weight Watchers. The latter, in particular, is now facing a host of newcomers to the weight-loss and wellness market. One way the Heinz affiliate is responding is by expanding the test market for its Personal Cuisine Food Option program into 12 centers in three additional urban areas.

"Personal Cuisine represents the first major program that provides our own range of specialized, portion-controlled foods at a Weight Watchers meeting center," explained O'Reilly.

Here's how it works: members purchase five-day packs of convenient foods, with three meal kits for each day. The packs include everything from breakfast entrees to evening snacks. Members supplement the foods with fresh fruits, vegetables and skim milk bought in the grocery store.

Weight Watchers is following a similar path in Europe, where it is testing the sale of a new range of portion-controlled foods to members at meeting centers. "We are also using our meeting distribution system to direct attention to those retail outlets that carry a wide range of our retail food products," noted O'Reilly.

The chairman singled out frozen unbaked pastries and doughs for the foodservice trade as an "entirely new business" the company has addressed during the past three years. Heinz already is the third largest manufacturer of frozen dough products in North America and expects this niche market to generate up to $500 million in sales within the next five years.

Growth in Europe

Continued growth is also expected in Europe. Heinz-UK will keep generating a double-digit rise in sales and income, according to O'Reilly. "We see equal promise in the south, along the Mediterranean crescent - a vast arc that extends from Portugal in the Atlantic to Greece in the Aegean," he commented. "These countries have displayed a faster GNP and population growth rate than their northern neighbors. . ."

With the recent acquisition of Copais Canning, an Athens-based tomato processor, Heinz has in place what O'Reilly calls a "full-blown Mediterranean strategy." In two years, he noted, "we expect sales of over $1 billion in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece."
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Title Annotation:H.J. Heinz Co.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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