Honeydew pegs future on U.S. sales

Everyone's heard the clichés before. 'We're living today in a world without borders.' 'There is no such thing as a Canadian company anymore.' 'The whole world is our marketplace now.' But what, exactly, does all of this mean in terms of...

Everyone’s heard the clichés before.

‘We’re living today in a world without borders.’ ‘There is no such thing as a Canadian company anymore.’ ‘The whole world is our marketplace now.’

But what, exactly, does all of this mean in terms of concrete, day-to-day reality? What do Canadian firms go through in the effort to market their products and services internationally? How do they build brands on a global basis? What are the challenges – and the rewards?

For this special report, Strategy’s writers profile the global marketing activities of several noteworthy Canadian companies.

For Honeydew Canada, the international marketplace tastes very sweet indeed.

Four years ago, the Mississauga, Ont.-based juice company took a long, hard look at the Canadian market, and concluded that growth opportunities were limited here. So the 78-year-old firm began to turn its attention south of the border.

Today, there’s no question that Honeydew’s future lies stateside, says Stu Funnell, the company’s president and part owner.

Honeydew began exporting its frozen fruit juice blends to the U.S. in 1996, with considerable success. American sales now represent close to 50% of the company’s revenues – and this despite aggressive competition from the likes of Coca-Cola-owned Minute Maid and Cadbury Schweppes-owned Welch’s (not to mention the general decline of the US$1.2 billion North American frozen fruit juice category).

Made with pure fruit juices and natural honey – a major selling point in the U.S. market, Funnell says – Honeydew’s products come in nine flavours, including Mango Passion Papaya, Strawberry Kiwi and Grape Blueberry.

Distribution is primarily in the central and eastern U.S., where the product is sold through such chains as Shaws, Price Chopper, A&P and Sam’s Club.

While the western states offer a tempting target – and the company does currently ship into Phoenix, Ariz. and Salt Lake City, Utah – Funnell says most of Honeydew’s efforts will be concentrated in the east for the time being.

‘Our objective, before we go crazy in the U.S., is to solidify the brand east of the Mississippi,’ he says. ‘Once that’s done, then we’ll move west.’

To strengthen the brand and help distinguish it from rivals, Honeydew repackaged its juices last year, adding vibrant stripes to the containers, enhancing the imagery and updating the 78-year-old honeybee icon. A new pull-ring feature, designed to make the lid easier to remove, was also added to the packaging for the U.S. market.

Toronto-based Wolf Group works with Honeydew on advertising and marketing for both the U.S. and Canadian markets. In-store materials such as shelf danglers and point-of-sale displays, Funnell says, are key promotional vehicles. The company has also run sweepstakes programs on its Web site (www.hdew.com) to help build customer relationships and generate feedback.

‘We’re not a huge company like McCain or Minute Maid,’ Funnell says. ‘We don’t have the kinds of funds they do, so we have to become much more tactical and street-smart about the way we spend money.’

While the move into the American market has been a relatively smooth process, Honeydew has encountered certain obstacles along the way.

U.S. regulations, for example, impose a whole different set of packaging requirements involving ingredient lists and nutrition guides, forcing Honeydew to create new packaging for the American market. The company now has two separate inventories – one for the U.S., and one for Canada.

Also in this report:

- Tim Hortons issues wakeup call: Builds underdeveloped breakfast category p.25

- Faces adapts to local market: Cosmetics retailer leverages awareness of cultural differences p.25

- Buckley’s takes bad taste message abroad: Cough syrup marketer making steady inroads in U.S. and overseas p.27

- Great Canadian Bagel makes slow but sure gains in Moscow p.27

- Southbrook Farms and Winery proves its worth abroad: Ontario winemaker uses foreign success to boost sales at home p.28

- Seagull Pewter sells at shows: Family-run giftware operation does business in over 20 territories p.28

- Clearly Canadian launches in U.S. first p.28

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group