Bread is of course an integral part of sandwiches, which means that bread manufacturers often join with complementary products in other parts of the store to provide shoppers for school lunches with complete sandwich solutions.
"Partnering with other CPG brands and products has been a key part of Bimbo Bakeries USA's (BBU) selling strategy, and has enabled Sara Lee Bread to grow by reaching new consumers, often in new or different areas of the store," affirms Eileen Gonthier, senior brand manager of Sara Lee Bread, a brand of Horsham, Pa.-based BBU.
"For example, this year, Sara Lee Bread partnered with Smucker's fruit jelly, Jif peanut butter and Ziploc sandwich bags for a joint promotion, with the goal of targeting moms leading up to the back-to-school season to remind them that Sara Lee Bread can be paired with their choice of spread for the perfect school lunch or after-school snack," recounts Gonthier. "This joint promotion was featured in integrated POS displays, store circulars, and digital coupons on customers’ websites."
Additionally, for parents concerned about nutrition, Sara Lee's most recent entry in the better-for-you segment, the Delightful Breads line, boasts 45 calories per slice and comes in three varieties: Healthy Multi-Grain; 100% Whole Wheat (made with real honey); and Wheat. All of the heart-healthy breads provide an excellent source of fiber in each two-slice serving, with no artificial colors or flavors, and no high-fructose corn syrup.
Meanwhile, in the natural/organic segment, Boulder, Colo.-based Rudi's Organic Bakery, whose breads feature a variety of healthy ingredients like whole grains, spelt, fiber and flax, as well as being free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, chemicals, high-fructose corn syrup and GMOs, is similarly teaming up with a fellow sandwich component.
"As part of the Hain Celestial family, we regularly look for opportunities to partner with other Hain brands at retail," notes Sam Garfinkel, senior brand manager at The Hain Celestial Group, of which Rudi's is a brand. "One example of this is our cross-merchandising efforts with Maranatha, a fellow Hain brand and leader in the organic and all-natural nut butter category. Cross-merchandising in this way not only makes shopping easier for consumers, but it also helps to build basket size among complementary brands."
Further, according to Garfinkel: "From a programmatic/campaign standpoint, Rudi's Organic Bakery participates in Rock the Lunch Box, an online resource for exploring and sharing lunch ideas, printing coupons and discovering ways to get kids excited about real food. Rudi's is one of four complementary participating brands in the program and has been a sponsor for the past two years. Partnering with Rock the Lunch Box continues to be an effective means for driving additional awareness and trial of Rudi’s products."
Last month, the brand introduced Rudi's Organic Bakery Kids Bread in white and wheat varieties. Touted as the first nationally available organic bread made for children, the product "has small, thin slices, making it the ideal size for kids," observes Garfinkel, adding, "The recipe was developed specifically to appeal to kids as well as parents, which means that it's incredibly soft and fluffy, and made with only simple, organic ingredients."
Even classic kid-friendly sandwich fillings like peanut butter are getting healthy makeovers these days. Take Peter Pan Simply Ground, from Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods. The new product, which began rolling out in July and hit Walmart shelves on Sept. 14, "offers minimal ingredients with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives,” explains Brian Evangelista, manager brand, shelf stable proteins and Spreads at ConAgra. "Simply Ground is also free of trans fats, gluten, cholesterol, and it is kosher certified. With 8 grams of protein per serving, Simply Ground is great energy booster in the lunchbox." The peanut butter also has a texture closer to that of freshly ground peanuts.
Naturally enough, Evangelista affirms that "back-to-school is a key time for Peter Pan. We've partnered with all of our retailer partners to create trial and awareness programs for Simply Ground this season. Being the first texture innovation in this category for many years, we needed to focus on in-store demonstrations to share the experience with consumers. Simply Ground is very important to the lunchbox occasion, because it is the only spreadable crunch on the market. Most crunchy peanut butters tear up the bread and don't make a great sandwich, but Simply Ground solves that consumer barrier perfectly."
To effectively communicate Simply Ground's distinctive attributes, ConAgra is working with retailers "to build … cross-merchandising programs throughout the fall months and into the back-to-school II season," notes Evangelista. "Bread reinforces the spreadable crunch of Simply Ground, and produce partners highlight the growing trend in dipping. We thought of that, too! Simply Ground has a very unique wide-mouth jar to avoid 'peanut butter knuckles.'"
Evangelista doesn't see Simply Ground as just one innovative product, however, but part of a broader trend. "The overall nut butter category is a 'real food' category," he asserts. "In recent years, the shelves have become overrun by sweet offerings that are at odds with the idea of a healthy lunchbox. We can look forward to a return to 'real food' in all forms, and in turn, healthier consumers in a healthier category."
Foster Farms, a Livingston, Calif.-based poultry company that recently introduced a line of premium All Natural Sliced Turkey lunchmeat that’s 98 percent fat-free, has only 60 calories per serving, is free of nitrates and nitrites, and contains 35 percent less sodium than comparable products, launched the Don't Call Me Basic sandwich contest last August to demonstrate the versatility of the product and encourage consumer trial.
"The contest produced more than 200 original turkey sandwich creations which were highlighted on social media," notes Chris Dixon, marketing manager for Foster Farms turkey lunchmeat. "The company encourages consumers to replicate these sandwiches for an interesting and delicious take on the average turkey sandwich. Consumers can search #DontCallMeBasic on Instagram to see some of the entries. Sandwiches and blogger creations have also been posted to Foster Farms' Don't Call Me Basic Pinterest board."
When it comes to kids' lunches, "Foster Farms launched a blogger program aimed at moms who value convenient, nutritious recipes for themselves and their families," says Dixon. "Since turkey lunchmeat is a common ingredient found in packed lunches, it is important that we target this group."
In fact, the company makes the most of social media to get its message across. "In the case of our new Foster Farms All Natural Sliced Turkey, we leveraged Twitter, Instagram, blogs and Facebook to reach over 28 million health-and-wellness-focused Millennials and moms, and we timed activity with National Sandwich Month and the back-to-school timeframe," observes Dixon. "We have found that consumers who do have children pass down their healthy choices and habits to their kids."
Feel the Chill
When it comes to portable products for school lunches, the refrigerated sections offer an embarrassment of riches. "Many refrigerated foods are pre-packaged and perfectly portioned," notes Julie W. Henderson, VP communications at the Harrisburg, Pa.-based National Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Association (NFRA). "Refrigerated foods are made from real, simple, fresh, farm-grown ingredients and can be customized to fit within a well-balanced lifestyle."
Portable lunch-friendly items that have caught Henderson's eye include Heluva Good! Greek Style Yogurt Dips in such bold varieties as Southwestern Chipotle and Fire Roasted Vegetables; Hillshire Snacking, a Tyson Foods product encompassing two distinct lines, Grilled Chicken Bites and Small Plates, both of which provide a total of eight savory flavors and 15-plus grams of protein per serving; and Stonyfield OP, an organic high-protein smoothie in three flavors that can be enjoyed on the go.
Further, for parents who like to prepare their own noontime treats for the kids, Henderson points to the advice of cookbook author Katie Workman, an NFRA Cool Food Panel member, who recommends using refrigerated juices for such items as marinades and dips, while fellow panelist Silvia Martinez, of the bilingual Mama Latina Tips blog, suggests using versatile yogurt in a variety of toppings.
Jarlsberg Heads Back to School
In time for back-to-school season, Jarlsberg Cheese has rolled out Hickory Smoked Pre-Sliced Cheese, which the brand touts as the perfect addition to savory sandwiches. Available in 6-ounce shingle packages at an SRP of $4.99, the naturally gluten- and lactose-free product is cold smoked over smoldering hickory chip embers.
To celebrate the launch, all pre-sliced cheeses and Jarlsberg minis, a new mini tablet are being given away weekly through Oct. 31. Consumers can go to www.jarlsbergusa.com or the company's Facebook page to enter.
"What better way to jump-start the back-to-school season than with our new Jarlsberg Hickory Smoked Pre-Sliced Cheese and a great giveaway for the kids?" says Debbie Seife, general manager marketing at Darien, Conn.-based Jarlsberg USA. "Jarlsberg Hickory Smoked Pre-Sliced Cheese is delectable, and offers a naturally smoked deliciousness to any sandwich or meal, with its mellow, smoky flavor."
The company also recommends its individually portioned Jarlsburg Cheese Minis and Lite Cheese Minis as great back-to-school options. At just 70 and 50 calories apiece, respectively, both naturally gluten- and lactose-free items are good sources of protein and calcium.