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Juicing up a thirsty market that eats lots of pizza and fries.

Juicing Up a Thirsty Market That Eats Lots of Pizza and Fries

McCain, long the biggest frozen french fry producer in the world, now lays claim to being the fastest growing frozen food organization in the highly competitive USA market. Three branches of the McCain Group of companies - separately specializing in potatoes, juice and pizza - are represented from coast to coast. And their product lines are increasingly visible on the nation's major interstate highways as well as on supermarker shelves, thanks to a large fleet of refrigerated transporters that do double duty as colorful billboards on wheels.

In the mid-1970s McCain opened its first American plants just across the Canadian border in Washburn and Easton, Maine. In the '80s factories were added in Washington state, South Dakota and New England. In Washington recently, some $35 million was spent on a major plant expansion and modernization project that put Othello at the cutting edge of technological efficiency. In addition to renovating the existing facility, an investment was made to build a brand new potato specialty line for the production of such items as potato puffs and hash browns. Another french fry line was also tacked on. The added capacity was needed to supply expanding retail accounts and fill value added specialty product orders from customers in western US markets.

The second corporate branch, McCain Citrus, operates continentally from a network of plants in Chicago, Hillside, N.J., and Fontana, Calif. The highly automated California plant features an $8.1 million packing facility that turns out a full line of frozen concentrate juices as well as orange, lemonade apple and grape beverages. East coast juice operations have been consolidated in New Jersey in order to take advantage of the location's proximity to both raw materials and major markets.

The McCain Citrus subsidiary was formed in 1985 to produce and market innovative fruit juices. And the emphasis has been on innovative ever since. One such example is Boku Juice Cooler, a new drink positioned to capitalize on the trends in adult beverage consumption. Flavors formulated to appeal to a more sophisticated palate are: white grape raspberry, apple raspberry, apple peach, black cherry white grape, seven fruit blend, orange peach, orange banana.

An all-natural fruit blend, Boku contains no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors. Sized at 12 ounces per unit to better quench grownup thirsts, Boku's lightweight aseptic package features a convenient pull tab to accommodate on-the-go lifestyles of today's adults.

Taking a lesson from the pages of successful soft drink marketers, Boku is building an image as the bold, contemporary refresher. Packaging design reinforces the theme with strong graphics placed against a clean, fresh field of white. Advertising and consumer promotion extend the image even further through aggressive broadcast and print support.

Junior Juice for Kids

While the adult market is being slaked with vigor, so too is the kiddie segment. Especially the niche that is too little for adult drinks and too big for baby beverages. Toddlers, age one to six, have long been left in a consumer product void. No more, says McCain, which believes that its Junior Juice product is the answer.

Produced with the toddler in mind, Junior Juice packaging features four memorable characters: Uncle Froggy, Emily, Ronald and Nick the Fox. Its convenience goes over well with today's busy homemakers. The product, made of 100% juice to provide superior nutrition, is not a repositioned adult drink but is rather specifically formulated for toddlers. The packaging, a 4.2 ounce (125 ml.) aseptic box, is not only a handy size for their small hands and tummies, but is designed to be portable and mess-free.

Junior Juice exemplifies the concept that a new product should offer reason for purchase and re-purchase. It is available in six flavors: apple, mixed fruit, apple cherry, apple grape, apple pear, orange.

McCain is especially positive about this line, in part because toddlers consume more fruit juices and drinks than their adult counterparts, which makes them heavy users of juice beverages And while no one has ever tried to measure the size of the toddler juice market before, looking to the baby juice segment may show direction.

The increase in births associated with the recent baby boomlet in North America initiated by the original post World War II baby boom generation is swelling the ranks of infant and toddler populations. What does all this mean? Baby juices are growing as a result, reaching up to $139 million in value in 1990. So dollar sales of juice products for toddlers must also be increasing.

It is common knowledge that once a child is past infancy (generally at one plus years of age), parents no longer shop the baby food aisle. Toddlers' needs are met by products merchandised elsewhere in the store.

$700 Million Market

If one assumes that baby juices satisfy the needs of infants up to one year old, and that mothers of toddlers aged one to six are securing products for them outside the baby juice aisle, then the toddler juice beverage category could be fully five times the size of the baby juice category. That translates to a market potentially worth roughly $700 million.

It is important to note that of this $139 million baby juice business, apple and apple blends represent a majority of total dollar sales and constitute the most important flavor segment.

The Pizza Scene

The Group's third branch, McCain Ellio's Inc., owns a major pizza plant in Lodi, New Jersey. This gives the company a strong presence in the major northeastern markets of New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore, where it is the brand leader. McCain Ellio's 9-Slice Cheese Pizza is the No. 1 dollar volume frozen food item in the entire northeast. And the brand name enjoys the greatest share of voice for measured media for frozen pizza in the market.

On the new product front, Healthy Slices Pizza in three varieties has been introduced to the general retail market. For the kids, Alien Pizza Raiders comic book characters have been enlisted Cut-outs of same are on the backs of cartons. And several promotions with the ever-popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been tied in to sell a line bearing their licensed likenesses.

McCain Ellio's is also introducing microwave pizza slices for convenience stores and supermarkets. The product is offered with three different toppings: cheese, pepperoni and deluxe combination. A fourth pizza is being developed (cheese) for preparation in conventional ovens only. Serving size is 4 to 4 1/2 ounces per slice.

$16 Million Expansion

Having gone from fourth to first place in frozen pizza sales since it was acquired by McCain in 1988, Ellio's has outgrown its Lodi plant, and a $16 million expansion is now under way.

The project includes a new state-of-the-art processing line, complete with sheeting, proofing, backing, processing, freezing and packaging facilities, according to Gene Welka, president of McCain Ellio's. It is being housed in a new 40,000-square foot building adjacent to the old plant.

Work was scheduled to begin on the steel frame building with insulated wall panels and ceiling this fall. The plant is scheduled for completion late next year. The additional capacity will let McCain Ellio's provide both more products and more of them.

Chicago Is On Line

To further enhance customer service for all McCain Foods Inc. product lines sold in the United States, a sales office has been established in Chicago. Headed up by Michael McCain, chief executive officer, the operation is directly wired into the McCain global computer network. It is on line with a powerful IBS MS 400 system at world headquarters in Canada. This enables up-to-the-minute inventory control, sales analysis, accounts payable information and other data to be quickly accessed.

McCain products are turned out to meet the needs of all sectors in the industry: branded retail, private label retail and foodservice. Contract customers include the USA's leading fast food restaurants. Hospitals, schools and institutions are also catered to.

Just how well is McCain placed in four of the largest frozen food and dry grocery business segments (frozen potatoes, where the market size is 5.5 billion pounds; frozen orange juice, frozen pizza and aseptic juice)? Very well, thank you.

Improvements in product quality are ongoing. McCain Gold French Fries are longer, have higher solids and are more consistent than other competitive products.

Innovation has brought a wide range of new products like Dinosaurs, Alphabites, and SuperSpirals. McCain scored a triple "first" with its new 32-ounce retail products which are 95% fat-free, cholesterol-free, and also come in a brand new zip-lock bag. And a new $35 million state-of-the-art potato processing plant on Prince Edward Island is now on stream. Indeed, the company is gearing up to supply more volume to the hungry North American marketplace.

PHOTO : McCain U.S.A., Inc., includes McCain Foods, Inc., specializing in potatoes; McCain Citrus, Inc., for beverages, and McCain Ellio's, Inc., for pizza products.

PHOTO : While adults can have their thirst quenched with Boku, the children may enjoy the tasty Junior Juice line.

PHOTO : Distributed in Canada, this aseptically-packed line of McCain fruit juices appeals to all ages.

PHOTO : McCain Ellio's has launched the first frozen pizza product positioned for the healthy-eating market in the USA.

PHOTO : A microwaveable line of pizza products is also packed by McCain Ellio's for the retail market.

PHOTO : These creative graphics go over very well with children.
COPYRIGHT 1991 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Section: Canada's International Frozen Food Company; McCain group of companies
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:McCain Foods officially opens new Carleton plant on P.E.I.
Next Article:The McCain story: Canada's international food company.

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