Sargento Foods has earned so many awards for innovation in cheese in the last several decades that it doesn't have room at its headquarters to display them all. A good portion of those accolades recognize its leadership in packaging. For example, the company was the first to use vacuum packaging in 1955 and resealable packaging in 1986 for cheese, revolutionizing the market in both cases.
Sargento's evp of innovation, Kristi Jankowski, tells Packaging Digest about the payoff of being first to market while balancing the typical costs of being on the bleeding edge.
Q: What is the business payoff of being first with new packaging features?
Jankowski: By being first we have built a reputation for innovation that is visible in our products and packages. That reputation has created significant brand equity for us over the years. Consumers know that we are listening to them and our mission is to exceed their expectations. They, in turn, are more willing to try our new products, and trust the value and quality we provide above that of our competitors.
Q: How does that offset the cost of what is often called the "bleeding edge"?
Jankowski: Sometimes we make a packaging decision that is right for the consumer and the brand even though it costs more. It provides an equity deposit and instills trust from our consumers that we are focusing on their needs. In the end we believe it creates greater brand loyalty, trust in our new product introductions and a willingness to buy.
Q: Your snack line has seen tremendous growth: 57.8 percent in the last three years. How much has the portion-controlled packaging been a factor in its market acceptance?
Jankowski: It has been an instrumental factor in our success. Consumers want convenience, portability, and a form and package that fits with their busy lifestyles. Our refrigerated snack sticks are just the right size and so easy to use and enjoy.
Q: Previous packaging innovations have included a break-apart case and the SargentoStick merchandising tool, both of which helped stores cut restocking time and labor costs. How do you decide when to make a change to your packaging for the benefit of your retail customers?
Jankowski: Our retail customers are very important partners in our business development and execution. We acknowledge we are only successful when we execute together. If the change does not negatively impact the consumer or business proposition, we are more than glad to discuss it. When the change creates what we believe is a negative position for our brand or the needs of our consumers, that is when we work harder to reach a win-win with our retail partners.
Q: Can you give us a preview of what other packaging innovations you're working on now?
Jankowski: I would love to talk about all the great innovations we are working on, but you will just have to wait and see! As expected, at Sargento, we do have developments up our sleeves and we are confident they will continue to build our reputation as packaging innovators.