Hain’s big three

by Monica Watrous
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BOSTON – Driving double-digit growth for the Hain Celestial Group, Inc. are three powerful platforms: salty snacks, baby food and yogurt.

Success of these businesses reflects the company’s two top-line staples of distribution and innovation, said John Carroll, executive vice-president and chief executive officer of Hain Celestial U.S.

“So, for example, one of the lines in our snacks business, Sensible Portions, went from one shelf at Wal-Mart to two full shelves across the chain,” Mr. Carroll said March 13 during a presentation at RBC Capital Markets Consumer & Retail Conference in Boston. “That’s a huge move for us.”

Other snack brands in the Lake Success, N.Y.-based company’s portfolio, Terra and Garden of Eatin’, landed shelf space at Publix stores.

“Next piece is innovation on those lines,” he said. “We brought out a fruit chip line, a coconut chip line on Terra. And we brought in some new Garden of Eatin’, and we've brought in a new straw mix for our Sensible Portions, just continuing to refresh the line. Same thing happened on yogurt.”

Hain Celestial’s yogurt products have gained distribution at Sprouts, Safeway and Wal-Mart, and the company said it has received a strong response to recent innovation with the addition of a salted caramel flavor in its Greek Gods line.

As for Hain’s baby food business, the company last year set out to regain leadership of the pouch category with the Earth’s Best brand through its one-two punch of innovation and distribution.

“And that’s exactly what happened,” Mr. Carroll said. “We now are the leading pouch brand in the U.S. We've done it by innovation. We've done it by driving distribution into grocery, where many of the smaller pouch brands have not served as well, and we've done it by driving distribution in mass where pouches really got started.”

Bringing pouch manufacturing in-house generated savings Hain funneled into marketing support for the product, helping to further drive share.

“In the Earth’s Best pouch business, pouches have done a great job in aging up the category because people no longer just keep kids on baby food for nine months,” Mr. Carroll said. “We are bringing out bigger pouches, because if you want to serve a child who is to 3 to 5, they need more than a baby. So we're bringing out 5.5-oz to 6-oz pouches versus the 3.5-oz to 4-oz pouches for babies.”

On display at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., March 7-9, 100 new products from Hain Celestial included pouch products from Earth’s Best called Fruit & Sunflower Wave, a PB&J-inspired blend of banana or applesauce with sunflower seed butter.

The company also unveiled products with new non-G.M.O. verification, an increasingly important proposition for Hain.

“Over 95% of our portfolio is already G.M.O.-free,” Mr. Carroll said. “We’re also proponents of the just-label-it initiative. To us, we don’t see it as that difficult, right? You either have it or you don’t. … I don’t profess to know what that’s going to do to people whose business has them in conventional food. But I know from our side, when we get the non-G.M.O. certification, we see a double-digit lift in our product sales. So, we are all in in that area.”
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