Like many other shelf-stable seafood suppliers at the beginning of the global coronavirus crisis, F.C.F Fishery-owned Bumble Bee faced a daunting task: simply keep enough supply on retailers’ shelves to fulfill consumers demand.
For the week ending on 14 March, for example, canned and pouched tuna sales spiked 150.5 percent to around USD 89 million (EUR 76 million), according to Nielsen data supplied to SeafoodSource.
“We were not able to keep up with supply,” Bumble Bee Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer Todd Putman told SeafoodSource. “We talked with our customers and reduced the number of SKUs to increase productivity to ensure we were supplying as much food as we could.”
Now, Bumble Bee, which was acquired by Taiwan-based F.C.F. Fishery in January 2020, is in the “recovery plan” phase, according to Putnam, ramping back up production of its full line of products.
“We will be back to our normal rate by the middle of August,” Putman said.
Bumble Bee is also launching new products and has completely revamped its logo, package graphics, and marketing.
“Customers on all channels of the business are opening up now, and are beginning to ask about new products and new ideas. Retailers such as Kroger have asked for new products and certain restaurants chains have as well,” Putman said.
Bumble Bee has responded with Protein on the Run, a kit that includes a three-ounce can of skipjack tuna in oil, packaged with upscale sea salt crackers.
“It has got a large amount of protein compared to our normal snack-on-the-run business,” Putman said.
Putman said while Americans are changing their eating habits as a result of being home more during the pandemic, protein will remain top of mind for most.
“Protein is still key and affordable protein even now is going to be really popular,” he said. “Even at home during COVID-19, snacking is a large part of meal occasions. People are wanting a healthy snack.”
Bumble Bee is also re-launching the Snow’s canned chowder line with revamped packaging and formulations to reflect Snow’s history dating back to 1920.
When Bumble Bee acquired Castleberry/Snow’s Brands, Inc. in 2005, it put the Bumble Bee brand on the Snow’s products and changed some of the formulations.
“We were trying to do the right thing, but sometimes you lose track of all the formulations. It is not as good as the original was,” Putman said. “We re-evaluated four to five months ago with consumer research.”
Snow’s was very well recognized in the U.S. Northeast, Putman said, so it switched back to the Snow’s brand. Bumble Bee also tracked down the original recipe formulation and used those to create the revamped line, which includes Clam Chowder, Manhattan Style Clam Chowder, and Corn Chowder.
Bumble Bee also bolstered the quality of the products with Marine Stewardship Council-certified U.S. clams and completely changed the graphics and marketing, Putman said. The line is sold in both retail and foodservice channels.
“We are getting really good customer response,” he said.
Bumble Bee is also transforming its Bumble Bee packaging with modern graphics and has done away with its longtime Horatio the bee logo.
“It didn’t represent everything [we are doing]. We are on a transformational journey. We are trying to revitalize the company, and we see ourselves as a health and wellness company, rather than a shelf-stable seafood company,” Putman said.
The new packaging, being introduced at some retailers now, highlights the wellness message or protein message “when appropriate” and looks more modern and contemporary, according to Putman.
While sales of canned tuna and other shelf-stable seafood are not as high as at the beginning of the pandemic, sales still remain higher than last year and the near-term outlook is bright, according to Putman.
“Nobody has a crystal ball, [but] we are working with individual customers on what they think their demand will be through 2021 and we are looking at pretty signficant sales levels to continue,” Putman said.
Photos courtesy of Bumble Bee Foods