New Sky Valley Foods CEO charts way forward with fast-growing organic “others”

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Sky Valley Foods CEO charts path with fast-growing organic “others"

Related tags Organic food

Despite improved access to organic staples such as milk and salad, consumers still struggle to prepare fully organic meals because they can’t easily find organic “extras” to round out dishes, such as condiments, dressings and dips – something the new CEO of Sky Valley Foods wants to change.

“There is a wonderful opportunity and phenomenon happening in the US, which is consumers are wanting to have their whole meal be organic, and that means all the flavorings they want to add to their meal,”​ said Rodrigo Troni, who recently joined Sky Valley Foods as the new president and chief executive officer after most recently serving as Snyder’s-Lance chief marketing officer. But, he added, at the same time he hears stories consumers are frustrated because while they can easily find organic salads or protein, they can’t always find an organic dressing or organic marinade – forcing them to compromise.

“This is an opportunity for Sky Valley Foods to focus on natural organic flavoring to help consumers have a whole organic meal”​ through the company’s Organicville and Bella’s sauces, condiments, marinades, dips and even beverages, Troni told FoodNavigator-USA.

Overcoming challenges

While consumer demand for organic is opening retail and consumer doors for Sky Valley Foods, managing limited supply is a “classic problem”​ that plagues both smaller companies and organic production, Troni said.

He explained that smaller companies sometimes struggle to finance the cost of supplies and manufacturing in order to meet larger and larger product orders. Similarly, demand for organic often outstrips supply, which can lead to higher prices or shortages.

However, Troni said he is confident that he can help Sky Valley navigate these challenges.

“One of the reasons that I joined Sky Valley as CEO is because it has tremendous assets to produce significantly more than what it is doing now, but that needs to be managed professionally,”​ Troni said. He added he plans to do this by tapping into his past experience and the networks he helped create at larger companies, such as when he was the CMO of PepsiCo’s Sabra Dipping Company, the lead at Pinnacle for Birds Eye Foods and CMO of Snyder’s-Lance, where he helped create a better-for-you “snacking powerhouse.”

A related challenge that Sky Valley must navigate as it seeks to expand distribution of its organic products into more retailers and channels is the price difference between most organic and conventional products, Troni said.

“The ingredients in organic are more expensive. They are better-for-you ingredients, they are better quality and are not as processed, which explains the price difference. But we need to be able to price at a point that is still interesting for consumers and help them move-up on their purchasing decision,”​ so that Sky Valley can drive velocity and help retailers increase their basket-ring at the same time, he said.

Meeting consumer demand for healthier products

Sky Valley Foods also is well positioned to tap into other macro consumer trends that Troni says will help fuel fast growth for the company, including sugar reduction and demand for bolder, international flavors.

“We all know at the moment that sugar is the enemy and consumers are looking for alternatives to refined sugar,”​ Troni said.

Sky Valley can meet this through products such as its Organicville Ketchup, which is sweetened with agave instead of sugar like many competitors.

“A lot of people who buy ketchup want it to be slightly sweet, and they want organic ingredients but at the same time they don’t want refined sugar. So, we use agave, which is a more expensive ingredient than sugar, but it gives consumers a reassurance that the product is natural”​ and does not have refined sugar, he said.

He added: “Consumers avoiding refined sugar will become a bigger and bigger issue in the future,”​ and switching to agave is a “a little step that can help consumers eat better and better – which I think will be a phenomenal explosion.”

As for providing bolder flavored sauces and marinades, Troni said Sky Valley has many international sauces from around the world, such as a vindaloo sauce for Indian dishes and a taco sauce for Mexican-inspired fare.

While Troni says he knows that Sky Valley and other manufacturers must shoulder the bulk of the burden of helping consumers shift how they eat, he also called on retailers to help by taking changes on smaller brands that can quickly create or reformulate products to meet changing consumer needs.

“It is important that retailers help consumers and support them by giving them a choice”​ beyond the legacy brands, which are loved by many, but which are slower to change to meet consumer needs, Troni said.  

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