Hain Celestial is targeting millennials with such products as ready-to-heat rice.


LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. — The Hain Celestial Group is living in a millennial world. The company is developing products for the consumer segment with a focus on freshness and convenience.

“Millennials make up 50% of the population today, but they're 100% of our future population, and Hain has products for every one of them,” said Irwin Simon, founder, president and chief executive officer, during a Nov. 6 earnings call with financial analysts.

One such product offered by Hain comes from the company’s newly acquired brand, Tilda, a United Kingdom-based maker of specialty rice. The offerings are on-trend, with gluten-free varieties and differentiated packaging. Such items as steamed basmati rice packaged in microwaveable pouches resonate in particular with millennials, according to the company.

“As millennials look to eat rice, they're not sitting and cooking rice every day, they're ready to heat,” Mr. Simon said. “We just are putting more capital in our ready-to-heat facility to keep up with demand.”

Hain said it plans to expand the Tilda range with alternative grains and other rice-based products.

“There's a big market for us to go after that Uncle Ben's brand and that category (in the U.K.) and the same here in the U.S.,” Mr. Simon said. “Every retailer today has approached us on ready-to-heat. We just don't have capacity to supply the U.K. and our European markets, but we've committed capital to add new lines in our facility.”

With healthy living top of mind for many millennials, the segment also is flocking to the fresh foods category, he added.

“What we're looking at is more and more into the fresh category and where millennials are going,” Mr. Simon said. “It's amazing what's happened with our snack business. The growth within there is amazing.”

Another way to reach millennials is on-line, and Hain is expanding into high-growth distribution channels with an eye toward e-commerce.

“Today, our products are not just available at your local natural food store or grocery store, but across mass-market convenience stores, white tablecloth restaurants, fast-casual dining, and what's called our e-commerce business is growing tremendously across our omni-channels, providing consumers, including millennials, with a seamless shopping experience of bricks and mortar and clicks,” Mr. Simon said.

Distribution gains helped Hain overcome the impact of a voluntary recall of MaraNatha nut butter products in August. For the first quarter of the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Hain Celestial had net income of $18,855,000, equal to 37c per share on the common stock, down 32% from $27,655,000, or 58c per share, in the prior-year period. Net sales for the quarter advanced 32% to $631,257,000, which compared with $477,484,000 in the first quarter of the previous year.

“This recall was tough for us, since MaraNatha is one of our top brands, but I'm proud of the team who handled it,” Mr. Simon said. “We've been back in production and shipping at last year's levels, and we've made up for sales.”

During the quarter, Hain expanded its product distribution in Wal-Mart with new Sensible Portions veggie chip varieties, in Target with new baby food products and Spectrum cooking oils, in Kroger with Spectrum refined coconut oil, and in Whole Foods with new Terra chips. Hain also broadened its offerings at Sam’s Club and Sprouts.

“The fact that we had such a great quarter speaks to the brand strength of the business and the diversity of our business across so many product lines, portfolio categories, and geographies,” Mr. Simon said.