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Leveraging Relationships Can Pay Off

March 25, 2013
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Many supplier-retailer relationships in private label are kept confidential and quiet, for a variety of reasons. But some suppliers are using their status as a vendor for a major retailer to bring their private brands forward.

One of those is Zilks, a Texas-based maker of hummus and dips. The company has supplied Whole Foods Market and is hoping that stamp of approval helps them expand in the marketplace.

“That eight-year track record with Whole Foods is really great here, and we want to grow to a whole ‘nother segment,” Zilks’ John O’Maley said. “Our credit reference is Whole Foods.”

But to grow the company, owner Bill McMeans is looking to a new audience along the way, not a traditional audience for hummus, but an unserved segment waiting for the right product to pull them in, he said. That’s what he had in mind when deciding to buy the firm in the past two years.

“I really liked the Southwest flavor profiles there, the Hatch Green Chili and Jalapeno and Cilantro,” he said. “But we looked at ourselves as normal consumers, and if there was something we liked, we figured it would go over well.”

And that led to bacon. McMeans said it had been a running joke that he would come up with a Bubba Hummus line featuring jerky and other items from his Texas background. And then someone suggested bacon.

“We started doing experiments and had our focus groups – our friends and family really – try it out, and it’s great,” he said.

The hope is rather than reaching a traditional hummus consumer, someone looking for healthier dip options or Middle Eastern flavors, that Zilks can bring out flavors for mom and the family to enjoy, all while eating healthier.

“It’s a top quality incremental sales opportunity that we want to bring to retailers,” McMeans said. “I’m looking at 60 percent of the consumers who aren’t buying it now who would if they saw a flavor that fit their tastes. And all the moms wouldn’t have to bribe their kids to eat this.”

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