Welch Foods

Promotion In Motion Inc., which is the licensee of Welch’s Fruit Snacks, launched the new Welch’s PB&J Snacks – which are round, bite-sized snacks that have a chewy center made with real fruit and a peanut butter coating. PB&J Snacks are available in four different flavors – Concord grape or strawberry center and creamy or crunchy peanut butter coating. The Promotion in Motion Welch’s fruit snack line launched in 2001 and has also grown to include more than 15 different varieties including Fruit N’ Yogurt Snacks.

“With Welch’s Fruit Snacks, we pioneered the fruit snack business,” Hendricks says, “and it’s still the number one-selling fruit snack.”

It was the tremendous success of Welch’s Fruit Snacks, which has exhibited strong, consistent growth, that convinced the company to do more licensing. “Licensing takes us beyond the grape, while still taking advantage of our history,” Hendricks says. “It broadens what Welch’s means to the consumer.”

SodaStream, the maker of home beverage carbonation systems, recently teamed up with Welch’s to co-develop an exclusive line of sparkling drink concentrates for the SodaStream system. The concentrate varieties will include Concord Grape, White Grape Peach and Berries and Cherries flavors. The line is set to launch in 2015.

“We’re trying to be innovative with new flavor combinations,” Hendricks says, “and all of our existing licensees are innovative, extending their lines with the vibrant tastes and flavors that we want to take to more people.”

Natures Touch, the licensed manufacturer of Welch’s frozen fruit, recently launched a line of fruit & veggie smoothie kits. The new product line launched this past June, with Orange Sunrise & Green Supreme. Made with fruit and vegetables, they are a tasty and convenient treat that takes the guesswork out of creating the ultimate smoothie drink. “The fruit and veggie smoothie launch was a logical extension for the Welch’s brand, creating more touch points with consumers across more parts of the store,” Hendricks says.    

Deep Roots

Welch Foods was founded in 1869 in Vineland, N.J., by Thomas Bramwell Welch, who developed a method of pasteurizing grape juice to halt fermentation – and thereby started the processed fruit juice industry. The popularity of grape juice grew with the temperance movement and during Prohibition.

Now based in Concord, Mass., Welch’s has been owned by the National Grape Cooperative Association, a co-op of grape growers, since 1952. Welch’s is the food-processing, sales and marketing arm of that co-op, which comprises more than 800 family farmers located in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Washington and select locations in Canada.

Welch’s grape juices are made with Concord or Niagara grapes, which must be grown in specific microclimates, such as near large bodies of water. Its juices take the form of shelf-stable and refrigerated juices, as well as concentrates.

Licensing Branch

Welch’s licensed product revenues have more than doubled in the past three years thanks to licensing partners’ commitment and expertise. Some of Welch’s other licensed partners and their licensed products include:

  • Arizona Beverage: Sparkling cocktail in sparkling Concord and strawberry varieties (in Arizona Beverage’s iconic 23.5-ounce can), to launch in fall 2014.
  • Nature’s Touch: Bagged frozen fruit and frozen smoothies, launched in 2011.
  • CH Robinson: Fresh fruit, including grapes and strawberries, launched in 1999.

Hendricks says the company would like to explore other partnerships including additional food and beverage, confectionary, frozen novelties, QSR relationships and selective hard goods. Welch’s works with branding agency The Licensing Company to target key categories for growth.

Welch’s welcomes idea pitches from other companies, and it also comes up with its own ideas to pitch to potential partners. “When considering ideas, we ask ourselves: Does it hit a different demographic? Does it extend distribution? Is it a new innovation that we want to be first onboard with?” Hendricks explains.

“The consolidation of retail is a challenge – everyone is feeling it, so it’s important for our licensing team to seek out those partners who instinctually and professionally see what Welch’s can bring to the market competitively,” he says. “There’s only so much shelf space out there, and as we release more products and broaden variety, we extend our leadership.”