As consumers spend less time in restaurants and more time dining at home, more foodservice operators are meeting them halfway between — in the grocery aisle.
Both Starbucks Coffee Co. and Tony Roma’s on Tuesday joined the growing number of restaurant companies introducing new branded grocery products as a way to boost sales and build brand awareness.
In other recent news, Jamba Inc. has pledged to introduce new licensed consumer products in stores later this year or by early 2010. Last year, the Emeryville, Calif.-based chain attempted the sale of a ready-to-drink smoothie in partnership with Nestle USA in convenience and grocery stores, but in December the company pulled the product, citing manufacturing and production issues.
Los Angeles-based California Pizza Kitchen also earlier this year said it plans to expand its line of grocery products in an ongoing relationship with Kraft. In February, the first non-pizza retail offering debuted with a line of CPK Flatbread Melts sandwiches.
Starbucks has also had an ongoing presence in grocery stores with its ready-to-drink beverage line, beginning in 1994 with the launch of its bottled Frappuccino drinks.
On Tuesday, Starbucks unveiled a new line of super-premium ice creams based on the coffeehouse’s popular coffee flavors and made with rBHG-free milk and cream.
Starbucks first introduced a branded ice cream sold in grocery stores in 1996 in a joint venture with Dreyer’s, but the company last year shifted to a licensing agreement with Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Unilever, which will handle the marketing, manufacturing and distribution of the new ice cream line. Unilever also produces and distributes Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor and other ice cream brands.
The new Starbucks ice cream flavors include Caramel Macchiato, swirled coffee and vanilla ice creams with ribbons of caramel; Mocha Frappuccino, swirled coffee and chocolate ice creams; Java Chip Frappuccino, coffee ice cream with dark chocolate chunks; and Coffee with swirled coffee and espresso ice creams.
Expected to be widely available in grocery and convenience stores by early spring, the flavors will be found in pint sizes for a suggested $3.99. The Java Chip flavor will also be offered in a 3.6 fluid ounce single-serving cup for a suggested $1.29, and the Mocha and Coffee flavors will be available in novelty bars, covered in milk chocolate, for a suggested $2.49.
Tony Roma’s new retail products include a line of frozen heat-and-serve items, including Pulled Pork, Rib Bites, St. Louis Spareribs, Country Style Boneless Ribs and Pot Roast. The products are produced in partnership with Rupari Food Services, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Rupari also produces Tony Roma’s refrigerated retail line, which is expanding to include 18-ounce tubs of Tony Roma’s Pulled Pork and Tony Roma’s Shredded Beef, as well as a 20-ounce tub of Tony Roma’s Rib Bites. Already available were the refrigerated Tony Roma’s Baby Back Ribs and Tony Roma’s St. Louis-style Ribs.
Robert Mintz, Rupari’s chief executive, said the Tony Roma’s line is “exceeding grocers’ and our customers’ expectations in all areas of the U.S.”
Ken Myres, chief operating officer of Tony Roma’s parent Romacorp. Inc., based in Dallas, added that more products are in the works with Rupari.
“We have been very impressed with growth of the Tony Roma’s branded products in major retail outlets across the U.S.,” he said. “The comments and feedback from the grocers and customers are great and the products allow many retail customers who may not live close to our restaurants an opportunity to enjoy a Tony Roma’s experience in their own homes.”