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Original SoupMan makes national debut

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — SoupMan said it is bringing a line of shelf-stable soups to retailers nationwide.

The company said its The Original SoupMan brand touts four varieties of soups, including lobster bisque, chicken noodle, lentil and tomato bisque. As part of its national debut, SoupMan said it is working with Integrated Marketing Services, which will work as the company’s shopper marketing and retail promotions agency of record. The launch campaign — using in-store efforts, as well as traditional and digital media — will be designed to accelerate consumer trial and purchase of The Original SoupMan in new shelf-stable, eco-friendly cartons.

"We are delighted to be working with IN as we launch our distinctive brand in the soup aisle," SoupMan CEO Arnold Casale said. "We believe the unique relationship between IN and Advantage Sales and Marketing will deliver coordinated customer-centric solutions that will enable The Original SoupMan to have an enormous retail impact on the 2012 and 2013 soup marketing season."

The suggested retail price is $3.79 to $3.99 for a two-serving, 17.3-oz. eco-friendly carton.

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Revlon announces actions to improve operating efficiency

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — Revlon announced on Wednesday that to further improve operating efficiency, it is taking steps that will result in the elimination of 250 jobs.

The beauty brand is exiting its owned manufacturing facility in France and its leased manufacturing facility in Maryland, moving manufacturing from those facilities to other Revlon facilities and third parties; rightsizing its French and Italian organizations; and realigning its operations in Latin America, including consolidating Latin America and Canada into a single region. Certain of the actions are subject to consultations with employees, works councils or unions, and government authorities.

These moves will result in eliminating roughly 250 positions. Restructuring and related charges, which will be recognized in third quarter 2012, are expected to be approximately $25 million comprised of $19 million in employee-related costs and $6 million in other costs including asset write-offs. Of the total charge of $25 million, $23 million will be cash that will be paid out over the next 12 months. Annualized cost reductions are expected to be approximately $10 million, $9 million of which is expected to benefit 2013.

“Over the past three years we have successfully executed our strategy and are delivering on our strategic goal of profitably growing our business. These actions will enable us to continue to invest in the execution of our strategy while maintaining highly competitive margins,” Revlon president and CEO Alan Ennis said.

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Safeway plans IPO for its Blackhawk Network gift card distribution division

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Wednesday announced that it plans to file a registration statement in the United States for a potential initial public offering of a minority ownership stake in Blackhawk Network Holdings, a leading prepaid payments network.

Blackhawk Network has strong revenue growth — 33% in first quarter 2011, noted Safeway executive chairman and CEO Steven Burd during the grocer’s first-quarter conference call in April. "Blackhawk actually has a lower gross margin rate than Safeway," he told analysts. "Now obviously, Blackhawk is growing at a much faster pace than Safeway. And so, that lower gross margin rate, in combination with its fast growth rate, has an effect on gross margin, which in this quarter, lowered [Safeway’s gross margin by] 7 basis points."

Part of that low gross margin rate can be attributed to Blackhawk Network’s acquisition last fall of Cardpool, a fast-growing gift card exchange company where consumers can buy, sell and trade gift cards online.

Depending on market conditions, the company anticipates executing a transaction in the first half of 2013.

Blackhawk Network supplies the industry’s most popular prepaid gift cards and payment services from leading brands through a network of leading grocery stores, big box, convenience, pharmacy, specialty stores and Internet retailers including GiftCardMall.com. Blackhawk operates a proprietary network that connects to more than 500 content providers and over 70,000 active retail distribution locations globally.

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