NEW YORK — The peanut butter category is rebounding quicker than expected, eating-at-home trends are driving Hungry Jack sales and new products are making their way to the baking aisle. Those were the key messages delivered by Mark Belgya, chief financial officer of J.M. Smucker Co., as part of an update on the company’s consumer foods businesses at the Stephens Spring Investment Conference held June 2 in New York.
Although none of its products were involved in the Food and Drug Administration peanut butter recall that occurred in January, sales of the company’s Jif, Smucker’s, Adam and Laura Scudder’s brands were affected. Earlier this year, the company indicated the category would rebound about the start of Smucker’s new fiscal year and probably would affect fourth-quarter results to the tune of 5c to 7c per share. But in his comments June 2, Mr. Belgya said the outlook has changed.
"Due to a combination of peanut industry initiatives and marketing efforts by the branded peanut butter players, including ourselves, the category has rebounded a little quicker than originally expected," he said. "Looking at the I.R.I. (Information Resources, Inc.) 12-week period ending May 17, the peanut butter category was actually up a little over 6% in dollars, and the Jif brand was slightly better, growing at 7% in dollars. Compare this to the January four-week date just following the recall where the overall category was down 3% in dollars and 22% in volume."
As peanut butter sales have improved, so too has demand for products in the Hungry Jack portfolio, Mr. Belgya said.
"Hungry Jack has benefited the most from eating-at-home trends with sales up double digits over last year," he said. "Hungry Jack potato side dishes and pancake mixes and syrups provide value-seeking families great-tasting additions to their breakfast or dinner table."
Mr. Belgya noted a "significant accomplishment" within the company’s Pillsbury frostings business, which has achieved No. 1 status in a number of geographic markets. That business figures to get a boost from the recently launched Pillsbury Easy Frost, frosting that comes in a 13.5-oz aerosol can for a suggested retail price of $3.49.
"This innovative product takes the same great taste that Pillsbury frosting itself has and puts it into an easy-to-use spray can and offers a consumer a fun, convenient and less messy way to frost and decorate their favorite desserts," Mr. Belgya said. The new product is available in three varieties: Decadent Chocolate Fudge, Vanilla Dream and Velvety Cream Cheese.
Two other new products are hitting store shelves this month: Pillsbury Brownie Minis brownie mix and Pillsbury Cookie Mix.
Available in chocolate fudge and milk chocolate, the Pillsbury Brownie Minis brownie mix requires only water and bakes in half the time of traditional brownies.
Pillsbury Cookie Mix is available in three varieties — Funfetti Cookie Mix, Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix, and Reduced-Sugar Sugar Cookie Mix — and offers consumers "a convenient alternative to pre-baked, hand-scratch baking," Mr. Belgya said.
"This level of activity clearly demonstrates how we have consistently met our 1% new product growth objectives in the baking category," he said.