BlogConfectionery & Fine FoodPopularSpirits & Wines

Introduction by: Peter Marshall

I had absolutely no idea about the size, scale and wide ranging portfolio of The Wonderful Company until I started to research the business. And it is quite an extraordinary one, as the following interview with James Kfouri, Director of Sales, Oceania, SE Asia, CaSa and Global Travel Retail, amply testifies in an exclusive profile of the business on TRunblocked.com.

James not only covers Wonderful’s product portfolio, but also provides important insights into the changing consumer behavioral shifts from gifting to snacking and that the dynamic for the food category is there for all to see.

Yet the company’s story offers so much more than just the successes behind Wonderful Pistachios and Fiji Water. It has adopted a holistic approach to CSR and, as you will discover, there is ample evidence everywhere. Owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick have invested over 2.5Bn USD in education, health and wellness, community development and sustainability. I take great pleasure in presenting this blog to you.

 


 

Peter Marshall (PM): James, welcome to trunblocked.com and to The Wonderful Company – always loved the name! But, in truth, it genuinely reflects the ethos of the business and its actions. The Wonderful company is a privately-owned 6BN USD business, and it has a very diverse brand portfolio. Let’s start this conversation by you briefly taking us through the history of Wonderful and its brands. 

James Kfouri (JK): The Wonderful Company is committed to offering high-quality, healthy brands and helping consumers make better choices every day. We are vertically integrated, meaning that we grow, harvest, bottle/package, and market our diverse range of products, including fruits, nuts, flowers, water, wines and juices. By helping nourish our neighbors with high-quality, healthy products, we believe we can grow a better world.

Each brand in the Wonderful Company portfolio – Wonderful Pistachios, POM Wonderful, Wonderful Seedless Lemons, Wonderful Halos, FIJI Water, Justin Wines, Landmark Vineyards, Lewis Cellars and Teleflora – is a leader in its respective category, which reflects the dedicated teams that bring these world-class products to households across the country.

Teleflora was the first brand in our portfolio, which our owners, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, acquired in 1979. In the 1980’s the agricultural business really took hold as they began growing and harvesting Citrus, Pistachios and Almonds. There happened to be some pomegranate trees in the back of the pistachio orchards, and after researching more about the history of pomegranates in world culture and the benefits, POM Wonderful was established in 2002 as the first branded produce brand. While they had been growing pistachios for a while, Wonderful Pistachios launched as a brand in 2008, with Wonderful Halos following in 2013, and our newest citrus brand, Wonderful Seedless Lemons was established in 2019.

The Resnicks also expanded the portfolio through acquisitions including FIJI Water (2008), JUSTIN Wines (2010), Landmark Vineyards (2011), and most recently, Lewis Cellars (2021).

PM: So what percentage of Wonderful’s business does Travel Retail constitute?

JK: The travel retail channel is a small part of the overall sales for our brands, but it’s a great marketplace to introduce our brands to a global audience, which has helped develop our domestic and international businesses. Wonderful Pistachios is sold in 48 countries, with the same iconic packaging. However, the brand is in 60 countries through the travel retail channel.

 FIJI Water is the only brand in our portfolio with a higher international presence than the travel retail channel distribution, currently available in about 75 countries, and always in its iconic square-shaped bottle with the blue cap

For some of our customers, seeing our brands in travel retail gives comfort – it brings a sense of familiarity when traveling, especially abroad, and with healthy options can feel good about enjoying on-the-go.

PM: How important a business sector is Travel Retail to Wonderful and what growth has the company experienced since COVID has passed?

JK: The Travel Retail sector is a part of a global distribution plan that we set out on ten years ago. We call it “the relentless pursuit of everywhere.” We are always looking for new ways, new opportunities, and new places – countries and channels – to engage consumers and sell pistachios.

As a whole, the global pandemic shifted consumption as people stayed home and stocked up. The travel industry was down, but our U.S. domestic sales for Wonderful Pistachios increased as people spent more time cooking at home, and were more invested in health and wellness.

As travel resumes, we are returning to pre-pandemic levels, and in 2024 we are hoping to grow above those levels. Some of that can be attributed to that mind shift where consumers are paying closer attention to, and seeking out, better-for-you products.

PM: Do you think that foods can achieve the percentage of Travel Retail’s business that Nestlé believe may be achievable in the coming years?  https://ezine.moodiedavittreport.com/nestle-spotlight-copy-1/ 

JK: In short, yes, food is one of the few categories that 100% of the passengers have an everyday interest in. As long as the category is constantly offering the traveler a better option to what they can buy in the domestic market then the category will grow.

 

We are also seeing a trend in airlines reducing their complimentary in-flight food offerings. This is driving more retail airport sales as consumers are looking for convenient options to sustain them through their travels. The protein in pistachios helps you feel fuller, longer, which further increases its appeal as an on-the-go option during a long travel day.

In addition to this, there has been a noticeable behavioural shift from gifting to snacking in the confectionery/food sections of duty free, and we hypothesize that this reasoning is largely the result of time being spent in the airport having increased compared to what it was pre-COVID. Consumers are arriving earlier to airports because they expect lines to be longer, security to be tighter and we’re even seeing an increase of delayed flights too, so instead of buying a last-minute gift they are now purchasing food and snacks to help them pass the time or to eat during regular mealtimes. We think this will contribute to an increase in Travel Retail’s business.

PM: Moving on, what are the key trends that you can identify in the business?

JK: A continual trend that we are seeing is that consumers are eating healthier and we anticipate that to continue in 2024. As consumers seek healthier snack options, pistachios are a smart snack option, known for plant protein power, fibre, and better-for-you unsaturated fats. With 47% of consumers snacking three or more times per day, consumers can choose which Wonderful Pistachios products work best for their snacking occasion.

An additional trend we anticipate we see is flavour innovation. Wonderful Pistachios sees incremental sales growth as a result of introducing new flavours to the market and reinforces the notion that new flavours create new consumer interest. For Wonderful Pistachios, the introduction of our No Shells line has dramatically increased our travel retail presence in the Americas, and our overall brand business in general. In fact, Wonderful Pistachios No Shells have outpaced category growth by three times since first launching in 2019. No Shells are a more convenient on-the-go option, and are available in a variety of flavour options, which we rotate throughout the year.

 

We’ve also just launched our newest No Shells flavour, Jalapeno Lime, which we are distributing in regional airports. We say that it’s the “heat you can eat,” for a nice way to spice up your travels. The initial feedback is very positive.

PM: And it’s a great ad. Let’s take a short break to watch it.

 

 

PM: So, just developing this, where do you see Wonderful’s own Travel Retail growth coming from – food, wines or water, or something else altogether? 

JK: My focus is primarily with Wonderful Pistachios. We see incredible growth opportunities ahead as we continue our “relentless pursuit of everywhere,” and innovate, bringing sought-after flavours to the market in a healthy, better-for-you option.

FIJI Water is becoming more available through retail partnerships,  and that is another area that will continue to grow.

PM: On reading more about the company, I think it can be safely said that greenwashing is a non-starter. Since day one Wonderful seems to have adopted a holistic approach to CSR and there is ample evidence everywhere. The company’s owners, Lynda and Stewart Resnick have invested over 2.5 BN USD in education, health and wellness, community development and sustainability. 

 

Now, you’ve been in the company for a number of years now, if you could identify six key things that Wonderful have undertaken in each of these areas and where learnings could be had for the Travel Retail community, what would they be?

JK: The Wonderful Company adopts a place-based giving approach, meaning that they focus on the places their employees live and work. From establishing and maintaining parks in the Central Valley of California to the FIJI Water Foundation, which protects and preserves the islands of Fiji and its people, we want the communities where we work to thrive alongside our businesses.

 

We prioritize health and wellness. We believe it’s everyone’s fundamental right to have access to quality health care and we are committed to giving our employees and neighbours every opportunity to lead healthier lives. We have two Wonderful Wellness Centers in the Central Valley that offer exceptional free medical care, including prescriptions, lab work, nutritional counselling and more. Our cafeterias serve affordable healthy meals and break areas are filled with healthy snacks and no sugary drinks. We even have on-site gyms for employees.

 

As an agricultural company at heart, we know that sustainability is pivotal to our future. We believe our company, in all its operations, must be a deeply responsible steward of the environment, and lead by example to create a sustainable future. Our 91-acre solar farm in Lost Hills, California provides 90% of the energy needs for our pistachio processing plant. Every one of our business units has dedicated renewable energy programs with a goal to use 100% renewable energy in the U.S. – from our orchards to our offices – by 2025.

 

We also invest in meaningful research to benefit generations to come. To date, The Wonderful Company and owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick have invested more than $1.3 billion in sustainability research and technology to help tackle climate change. This includes more than $850M pledged to leading universities, including Caltech, UC Davis, and Technion, the Institute of Technology in Israel, to combat climate change and identify sustainable solutions.

 

 

And we empower the next generation of leaders. Wonderful Education provides children in the Central Valley with a chance to attend great schools, learn valuable skills, earn college degrees, and launch rewarding careers. With two preschools, support for the Wonderful College Prep Academy schools, an innovative Career Pathways program, and a college scholarship program—all free to students and their families—we are reinventing the educational experience for students across the region. More than 100 graduates of our education programs have come back to work for The Wonderful Company.

 

If you want to learn more about our mission to do well by doing good, as well as our larger CSR efforts, do visit CSR.Wonderful.com.

PM: Ok. Let’s get back to your brands and 2024. What’s in store from Wonderful that will excite your retail partners?

JK: Our retail partners will be excited by the introduction of our new No Shells Jalapeno Lime flavour, which is quickly becoming a fan-favourite. In consumer taste tests, Jalapeño Lime had strong flavour appeal and purchase intent on par with our highest performing flavours, and we can’t wait to serve brand loyalists and attract new buyers with these bold pistachios. We will continue to roll out this new flavour to markets globally.

Additionally, in June 2024, we will launch a 3 key impulse item in Spanish, Portuguese and English targeting the Central and South American region impulse channels.

PM: A broader question now: would you say that the nature of partnerships with retailers has changed since COVID? For better, or worse?

JK: The pandemic gave retailers the opportunity to review their products and inventory, reassess what is selling and what they want to be known for, and reset their store shelves in preparation for the influx of travel that was to come. What we are seeing in a number of locations is a revitalised category where a number of slow-moving items that were clogging up shelf space have now been removed.

The pandemic also gave other retailers the opportunity to add something new rather than the same chocolate and sugar confectionery they have had in the past. Our relationship with partners remains strong – we know that it’s a symbiotic relationship, and one that we want to continue to invest in and nurture.

PM: So, one last question, James. If there are three things you wanted to say to the Travel Retail business community, what would they be?

JK: Be adventurous. Look outside the traditional confectionery and sugar category. There is consumer interest and demand for healthier options, and Wonderful Pistachios are impulse-driven, high dollar margin products that both consumers and retailers will enjoy.

Be patient. The overall travel industry is not where it was pre-pandemic, and so we shouldn’t expect the travel retail business to be either. Our Co-Owner and President of Wonderful Pistachios, Stewart Resnick, often says: “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast,” and I think that is 100% relevant to our industry. Now is the time to take our time and make decisions to be successful far into the future, rather than only thinking about the present.

Be strategic. As the travel retail and snacking category continues to grow, one of the easiest ways to deliver more sales is by putting two or more like-minded brands together – cross merchandising. Most consumers buy on impulse when travelling, so displaying Wonderful Pistachios next to other better-for-you brands makes it easier for consumers to find healthy snack options all in one place. Another great strategy to increase sales with placement is integrating our Wonderful Pistachios product outside the confectionery and snacks department. Specifically, in the beer & beverage section or on end-caps with clip strips that prominently showcase the product.

 

 

Peter Marshall

Founder: trunblocked.com/Marshall Arts
Back to top button