Spread the Word

November 24, 2010
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While category sales as a whole are seeing only slight growth, private label jellies and jams are hitting the right flavor notes for consumers.

Jellies and jams are so old-school when it comes to grocery offerings that one might be forgiven for thinking the category moves as slowly as, well, jellies and jams. And a quick look at sales numbers for the past 52 weeks might reinforce that view. 

Sales for the entire category of jellies, jams and honey rose only 1.94 percent in the 52 weeks ended Sept. 5, according to Chicago-based research firm SymphonyIRI. 

But look more closely and a different picture begins to emerge for private label jellies and jams. 
Dollar sales of private label jellies, jams and honeys rose 4.86 percent in the same period, dynamic growth compared to that for the overall category. Sales of private label fruit butter rose 5 percent, outpacing its overall category increase of 4 percent; and sales of private label shelf-stable honey spurted 9.2 percent compared to 6.4 percent for the entire honey category. 

Even in the more jammed up category of shelf stable jams, jellies and preserves, private label outpaced the overall category with dollar sales up half a percent to $160 million in the period compared to the overall subcategory seeing sales rise only a third of a percent to $703.7 million.

“We see much more demand for private label in this category,” says Bernardo Hussing
business development manager, Transnational Foods, Miami. “It was much more branded than it is now. There are more open doors for us now, we are doing more private label.”

Retailers have come to realize that expanding into private label jellies and jams can help their margins. Consumers will buy private label if they are comfortable with product quality in this area, producers contend. That more often than not means putting jellies and jams into glass containers that feature the product rather than wrap-around, package engulfing labels. 

The Glass Half Full

“Shoppers are looking at details, looking through the glass to the product. They want to see consistency  in the product, the seeds in the strawberry [jelly], chunks of fruit,” Hussing says.

While some category offerings sold in South America and Europe feature wrap-around labels, Hussing doesn’t think that trend will catch on in the States. “U.S. shoppers, when they do not see the product, then they think it might be a second quality product,” he explains.

Besides glass packaging, his firm also has begun offering lithographed lids. The added touch, also common in Europe and South America, “gives you a more upscale look,” he says.

Glass is the packaging material of choice for preserves as well as jellies, agrees Mike Klanac, senior director of marketing with the Carriage House Companies Inc., Fredonia, N.Y.

“Preserves and jellies are still marketed for the most part in glass, so the actual product is the feature on the shelf, i.e. purple grape, deep red strawberry, light orange apricot, etc.,” he says in written responses to questions on the category.  

Shopper desire to see product means retailers can likely gains sales from better displaying it. Klanac advocates “new specialty in-store lighting [that] enhances the on-shelf presentation, entices customers, and encourages them to buy.”

For jams and jellies, consumers who are prowling the food aisles for more variety in this recession as they eat out less and home more, also are looking for more exotic fare. True, the classics like grape and strawberry remain the mainstays. But other more far-flung varieties also are gaining interest.

“If the question is popularity, then grape, strawberry, red raspberry and apple are the hands down winners.  But other popular offerings with features and benefits outside of flavors specifically include squeeze packaging, which is not only great for kids but moms because of the convenience feature. Also, PET packaging on larger sizes continues to gain momentum for safety reasons,” Klanac says.

Transnational already has squeeze products available and Hussing agrees the popularity of those for the children’s market is growing, due in no small part to national brand Smuckers offering 20-ounce varieties.

Another popular packaging option are single-serve squeeze packages which consumers are buying in bulk and the suing in their daily lunches, says Carolyn Doran, product manager with The Lollipop Tree Inc., Portsmouth, N.H.


Hot pepper jellies, used for appetizer preparations, are gaining consumer appeal this year, says Doran. Also attracting attention are sweet and salty combinations such as caramel with sea salt. I think you see that [combination of sweet and salty] not only in jams and jellies but in a lot of different categories,” she says. “It seems like it is hitting its stride now.” 

Another variation is savory and sweet combinations such as a horseradish jelly, used for meats, she says. “Private label is not just a me-too thing [in this category] anymore, it’s really cutting edge,” Doran says. That even applies to more traditional flavors. “Instead of cherry, it’s a triple cheery or special types of cherries,” she says.

Klanac agrees, noting that “regional fruits seem to be the hot new trend. Look for offerings featuring Michigan cherries, Pacific mountain strawberries, etc.  Fruits that come specifically from prime growing areas-watch for them.” In additional to agreeing that pepper jellies are hot, Kate Whitney, marketing coordinator for Portland, Me.-based Schlotterbeck & Foss Co., points to cranberry and mango as well as to locally produced variations as popular this year. 

Where the fruit in the jellies and jams come from has become more of a marketing tool than ever as the local food movement gains adherents across the country, suppliers agree.

“Everything now is local. You want to know where everything comes from, displayed on the package,” says Doran.

Another key consideration when consumers shop for jams and jellies is health and wellness, Kanic says. “Health & Wellness platforms will continue to be top of mind for today’s consumers-store brand lines that feature offerings that include low sugar, just fruit, sugar free, and/or organic offerings will continue to appeal to shoppers of all ages.  Other areas to be watchful of include anything that is value added,” he says.

Who Sells What

Supermarkets have been expanding their jam and jelly offerings while at the same time dollar stores have been paring back to the core offerings, suppliers agree. That means supermarkets likely are the best place to market new line extensions.

As for how retailers can expand jam and jelly sales, Kanic recommends “merchandising in secondary locations via shipper programs works well for many [of our] customers.  Putting a… [Charter House] cube shipper of jelly in the store’s bread aisle promotes incremental impulse sales year round.  Also, a pallet of jelly and peanut butter band packs -- banding a jelly and a peanut butter together--in a value aisle is another idea that works well.”

Producers are trying to spread the word that there’s more ways to sell private label jellies and jams than you might imagine. 

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