ConAgra Foods Focuses on Deep Customer Insights and Differentiating Innovation

When ConAgra Foods CEO Gary Rodkin was talking about a significant milestone for his company during the Sept. 18 first-quarter financial results call for fiscal 2015, he zeroed in on what his company does best.

“We achieved the No. 1 dollar share position in frozen single serve meals during the quarter,” Rodkin said during the conference call according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “As you know that’s been a challenging category for retailers, but it's still very large, important, and profitable for customers and food manufacturers alike and we believe this is still a good business. We think the combination of deep insights, a focus on core users, and leveraging differentiating innovation can help us continue to grow.”

ConAgra Foods is moving away from slow-selling SKUs, Rodkin explained, and into a proprietary Healthy Choice Café Steamers line, which has been consistently strong since its introduction in 2008.

During the first quarter, Rodkin said, Marie Callender’s was particularly strong with the single-serve dinner business up double-digits in dollar and volume sales.

“Marie Callender’s has a long winning streak and increasing household penetration, a good testament to the quality of the food advertising that resonates and the focus on the core user,” Rodkin said. “Overall in Frozen, we’re confident of our portfolio and its strength and are looking forward to better numbers on Healthy Choice later in the year.”

Snacking is clearly a growth area, Rodkin said, and Slim Jim was a “great performer” in the quarter, growing double-digits and volume in net sales and taking share.

“This is another example of a strong brand that knows its core consumer and communicates them with them in a way that really resonates,” Rodkin explained. “Reddi-wip is another brand that had an outstanding quarter and the key here is expanding usage occasions. Reddi-wip’s success is an example of being persistent and tenacious with a good idea, specifically getting displays of Reddi-wip next to fruit.”

Rodkin said ConAgra Foods has gained sizeable distribution in club stores with brands like Reddi-wip, Hunt’s, Bertolli, Swiss Miss, and Marie Callender’s.

“We’re securing new distribution for some of our brands as well in the dollar store format,” he explained. “All in all, we’re making some big strides in channels and have more room to grow.”

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