TGI Fridays

Consumers seeking to duplicate the Fridays experience at home have long had options on their local grocery store shelves thanks to longtime licensees including Heinz and Inventure Foods Inc. For more than 10 years, Heinz has offered several Fridays signature appetizers such as Loaded Cheddar & Bacon Potato Skins, Crispy Buffalo-Style Chicken Wings and Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce as frozen snacks, while Inventure has marketed salty snack treats in flavors such as “Crunchy Fries,” “Mozzarella Sticks,”  “Potato Skins” and “Onion Rings.” 

“Heinz has helped us replicate the experience of the brand in their food offerings, and Inventure’s products invoke the flavor profiles that Fridays guests expect,” says Carl Robie, vice president of global strategic sourcing and brand licensing.

Both Heinz and Inventure continue to improve on their existing lines. For example, Heinz is refreshing the packaging of the frozen snack products such as the Loaded Cheddar & Bacon Potato Skins and Mozzarella Sticks that it produces for Fridays. The company is also making quality improvements to the Potato Skins products with Heinz, including adding applewood bacon.

“Fridays has been a valued partner of ours since we first began our licensing relationship in 2000.  The snack line has since become a consumer favorite in grocery, vending and convenient store channels and we’re looking forward to continuing to build the brand’s portfolio of premium snack options that parallel the exciting flavor combinations of Friday’s menus,” said Steve Sklar, senior vice president and general manager for Inventure Foods, Inc.   

Fridays takes a highly collaborative approach to licensing with its partners, which Robie says has allowed it to retain long-term partners. This includes quarterly updates and business reviews as well as biweekly calls. “We work closely to make sure all of our licensees are well aware of what is happening with our brand,” he notes. “We work closely with our food and beverage research and development teams to make sure all licensed products are representative of our brand.”

Expansion Opportunities

Last year, Fridays took a major step toward expanding licensing beyond its existing categories of frozen snacks and appetizers to soups, sides and sauces, salty snacks and alcoholic beverages. The company in July 2014 hired licensing agency Beanstalk to extend the brand and secure new licensees globally. “Beanstalk is an industry leader in licensing,” Durbin says. “It is a natural partnership for them to carry the Fridays flag and extend our signature food and drink lines.”

Beanstalk is working with Heinz, Inventure and other potential licensee partners on product development and expanded distribution while also pursuing new product categories. Beanstalk’s past experience with a number of leading brands and properties, as well its global reach, made it an attractive partner, Robie notes.

In addition to hiring Beanstalk, Fridays within the past two years also secured two new licensees. Campbell Soup Company is now partnering with the company on a line of 15 refrigerated fresh side dishes, soups and sauces including soup flavors such as Fully Loaded Baked Potato and Kickin’ Cajun Style Jambalaya and sauces including Korean BBQ. The range is now available in portions of the United States, with a national launch anticipated later this year.

American Vintage Beverage, a division of Mark Anthony Group – the makers of Mike’s Hard Lemonade – entered into a licensing agreement to distribute flavored alcoholic malt beverages in 2013. The partnership last year expanded to include ready-to-drink cocktails, including the TGIF Authentic Bar collection, launched in fall 2014. The collection includes four flavors: Ultimate Mudslide, Long Island Iced Tea, Strawberry Margarita and Barbados Rum Punch. Ready-to-drink cocktails are a category Fridays helped to pioneer with previous licensees and now wishes to expand upon, Durbin notes.

The new products and licensees will continue the company’s history of offering high-quality and flavorful food and beverages perfect for social gatherings. “We’re very proud of the products we’ve licensed and the relationships we have with our partners, and are thrilled that we’ve been able to provide our customers with the ability to enjoy our signature food and drinks in alternative channels,” Durbin adds.