Heinz to push value of core brands

by Jeff Gelski
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BOCA RATON, FLA. — The H.J. Heinz Co. will invest in core brands and core products that the company believes should appeal to value-minded consumers during the current tough economy, Bill Johnson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Heinz, said Feb. 18 at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference (CAGNY) in Boca Raton.

The economic environment has featured a "deloading" of pantries, a change in shopping patterns and increasingly more meals eaten at home, he said.

"Heinz is well-positioned to capitalize on this trend with healthy, convenient and great tasting center-of-the-plate meals, meal accompaniments and meal enhancers that allow consumers to stretch their dollars while enjoying high-quality, long-trusted brands." Mr. Johnson said.

The company’s Ore-Ida brand appears to be the most recession-resilient, Mr. Johnson said, with Heinz ketchup also offering value.

"Our initiatives will include cost-effective, value-added packaging and brand tiering to appeal to different subsets of consumers, and a continued uncompromising focus on food safety and quality," Mr. Johnson said.

Pittsburgh-based Heinz will rely more on in-store activities. For example, aisle displays may feature Heinz products that may create pasta meals for the entire family for under $10.

Mr. Johnson added Heinz expects to deliver on its key financial targets for fiscal year 2009, which include organic sales growth of 6%, earning per share in the range of $2.87 to $2.91 and operating free cash flow of about $850 million.

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