“When you think about the consumer at the point of purchase – at the moment of truth at the shelf – you need to make an impression quickly. They are not necessarily going to read every single piece of copy on the package” because they simply don’t have time, said Ross Fenderson, vice president of marketing for Vermont Smoke & Cure.
Rather, he explained to FoodNavigator-USA, “brands can gain consumer attention and awareness much more effectively through visuals,” like the silhouettes of grazing cows, chickens, turkeys and pigs that now appear on Vermont Smoke & Cure’s packages of summer sausages, bacon, ham, meat sticks and other products.
The addition of the animal icons means consumers can easily identify the protein source without picking up the package and reading small text, as was the case with the company’s previous branding. While this wasn’t a major problem for some of the refrigerated meats, such as ham, it was an unnecessary challenge for the meat sticks.
The new packaging for the company’s meat sticks also pairs each of the nine flavors with a different bold color to help shoppers more easily identify which one they want.
Likewise, the new packaging for the meat sticks also calls out key nutritional benefits on the front of the label, including the snack’s low sugar, high protein and low calorie count, “which is a winning proposition for consumers these days,” Fenderson said.
Other high priority claims on the front the meat sticks include gluten-free and raised without antibiotics, no added hormones and vegetarian fed.
Fenderson explained that the company selected these claims for the snacks because consumer research conducted by the company found these were purchase drivers for snacks.
“We want the consumer to easily be able to understand what they are putting in their body and the products’ nutritional values,” which is a key element that sets Vermont Smoke & Cure’s meat sticks apart from competing brands, he said.
He explained that the company’s meat sticks, which launched in 2010, were the first better-for-you option in their category. While a few other players have entered the space since then, Fenderson said that the company’s sticks have 40% less sodium and 45% less fat than other leading meat sticks.
In addition to the brightly colored and modern packaging, Vermont Smoke & Cure’s meat sticks also standout from the competition because their ingredients are clean and all can be found in a kitchen – not a lab, said CEO Chris Bailey.
He explained all of the company’s products start as recipes he makes in his home kitchen and if they pass an office taste test they are scaled up and made in the company’s state of the art facility.
Thanks to the company’s unique processing abilities, the meat sticks also are made without sodium nitrate and added preservatives – two in demand features that not all competitors can claim.
Bailey explained the sticks are made with a fermentation process that makes added preservatives unnecessary and which provides a “pleasantly tangy flavor.” The cooking and drying process further reduces water activity and increases product safety, as does a thermal kill step and vacuum packing, he said.
The company’s transparency also sets its product apart in an increasingly crowded category, Fenderson said. He explained the company details where it sources its ingredients on its website – a move that is “unusual in the industry,” but resonates well with consumers.
Vermont Smoke & Cure will further set apart its meat snacks by launching in early April “mini” meat sticks that are half the size of the original product.
The smaller sizes, which are available in Target nationwide, are “even more snackable” and will be positioned for children and moms to eat at school or on the go, Fenderson said.
He explained the smaller size and launch with Target is “a big opportunity” for the brand to gain more nationwide recognition as well as expand the company’s primary demographic.
He added that he expects more snack makers to follow this trend of offering “mini” sizes that give consumers more control over how much to eat, what to eat and when to eat.