With a pet-first mentality, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition aims to consistently provide animals with high-quality foods.
By Bianca Herron
Ainsworth Pet Nutrition believes in families—whether they have two legs or four. The Meadville, Pa.-based company was founded more than 75 years ago by George Ainsworth Lang, with a commitment to providing dogs and cats with the safest, highest quality foods.
Since its start in 1933, the Meadville, Pa.-based company has always made affordability for its consumers, also known as “pet parents,” a key priority of Ainsworth. Lang launched the company after one of his dogs had a litter of puppies. It was during the Great Depression and he started making his own dog food to feed the pups. Little did Lang know it would turn into a thriving business.
Today, the company is proud to continue upholding that tradition with the launch of two new projects in 2017 from Rachael Ray™ Nutrish®, Vice President of Marketing Steve Joyce says.
“We will be launching Peak™, a new dry dog food line that is meat first, grain free, contains 30 percent protein, and includes novel proteins like venison, duck and quail,” Joyce says. “We will also be launching a line of fun, tasty, meat-first treats that include Deli Cuts™, Savory Roasters™, Meatloaf Morsels™, Burger Bites and Pawsta™ formulas. Consumers can look for these new products at their local retailers, or online, starting in the first quarter of next year.”
Rachael Ray™ Nutrish® is an Ainsworth owned and developed brand that was launched in collaboration with Rachael Ray in 2008. “In 2007, a colleague at an Ainsworth sister company was watching a late night TV talk show where Rachael was discussing just how much she loved her pit bull, Isaboo,” Joyce explains. “That colleague was able to track down Rachael’s husband and the rest, as they say, is history.”
The brand has since been responsible for much of the company’s growth in recent years, accounting for $300 million in consumption in 2015, according to Joyce. Adding that, Ainsworth’s collaboration with Rachael Ray is extremely important, not only because the partnership has helped the company offer wholesome, meat-first foods to dogs and cats everywhere, but also because consumers know the nutritious-minded celebrity chef is someone they can trust.
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Benefit Cosmetics solidifies its place as the leader in brow products and services while it stays true to its customers’ beauty needs.
By Stephanie Crets
Are your brows behaving badly? Do you want your eyelashes to stand out? Do you need to minimize the dark circles under your eyes? Whatever the beauty dilemma, Benefit Cosmetics has the beauty solution.
“The great thing about Benefit is that it’s a brand for every gal,” Senior Vice President of Marketing Nicole Frusci says. “We are all about instant beauty solutions – looking at customer needs and solving their beauty dilemmas. From in-store to social media, we weave our DNA through everything we do. Bold and girly is one piece, along with laughter and fun, which are elements of the persona and personality of the brand that we try to live out loud every single day.”
With more than 1,800 locations worldwide in 47 markets, including 30 in the United States, Benefit products are widely accessible. Benefit offers several ways customers can purchase products: Benefit Boutiques, gondolas in beauty retailers such as Sephora, Ulta and Macy’s locations and all retailer websites including Birchbox.com. The boutiques set the pace for a salon-style experience, where the associates will take their time giving a service to the customer and offering tips and tricks. For the gondolas, however, Benefit has to compete with an array of other beauty brands.
“My approach is big, bold, girly and pink,” Senior Director of Visual Merchandising Ralph Johnson says. “We have kitschy, fun and playful marketing visuals, funny sayings and irreverent packaging, but we have to deliver on a serious product. We go the extra mile to create custom, quality packaging that stands out at retail. The product begs to be glorified in a special way with our creative fixtures. For example, our Roller Lash mascara is merchandised on a giant hair roller. We have the opportunity to be fun and crazy with each product.”
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HVHC’s Visionworks has been ranked #150 on Forbes’ national “Best Employers” list, among companies within a range of industries and institutions, and was also ranked #14 on the related “Best Employers in Texas” report. With feedback like that, it’s easy to see how exciting it is to be a part of the HVHC family. At a time when many companies are scaling back their employee and even customer experience, HVHC is showing the industry how to succeed.
To properly introduce HVHC, it’s necessary to understand just what comprises this quickly growing corporation. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, HVHC Inc. and its subsidiaries make up one of the largest vertically integrated optical companies in the United States and are leaders in integrated vision care solutions. HVHC is a three--spoke corporation comprised of national optical retailer, Visionworks, managed vision care provider; Davis Vision; and HVHC Distribution and Manufacturing, the operations arm that supports Visionworks and Davis Vision. These three branches interact in a mutually beneficial relationship, supporting each other’s industries and providing a comprehensive customer experience.
From its inception in 1984, Visionworks, then called Eye Care Centers of America, has been a retailer with a passion. Whether it’s providing regular eye exams to encourage health and wellness or helping a customer to express their individual style with dozens of top fashions, Visionworks goes well beyond the business of eyewear, creating a collective calling shared by every employee. This calling is to make sure that every customer that enters a Visionworks store leaves with the best possible vision and a style that fits their self-expression. “At the end of the day, people come to us because they want to have the best possible vision they can have,” Visionworks President and HVHC President and CEO Jim Eisen emphasizes. Visionworks takes that desire and makes it a company mission.
In 2006, Eye Care Centers of America and Davis Vision joined forces, providing members with access to the largest selection of fashionable eyewear. Founded 100 years ago as Davis Optical, Davis Vision now has more than 60,000 points of access, while remaining true to its family owned American roots and values. More than 22 million members enjoy the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost, due largely to the integrated business model of HVHC, which relies on Visionworks retail stores and wholly owned labs. While Visionworks offers its customers all the products and services necessary to serve their vision needs, Davis Vision improves on that experience through improved plan designs and ready access to high-quality, fashionable eyewear and state-of-the-art eye care services.
HVHC Distribution and Manufacturing provides the products and operations necessary to make Visionworks and Davis Vision the successes they are. HVHC Distribution and Manufacturing encompasses five fabrication labs and two distribution centers, all proudly based in the United States. With these resources, HVHC fabricated and delivered more than 4.8 million pairs of eyewear in 2016. By eliminating any intermediary, HVHC Distribution and Manufacturing is able to ensure that every product sold in a Visionworks store is of the highest quality and that out-of-pocket costs for Davis Vision customers are as low as possible. With unique partnerships, top expertise and advanced robotics and processing equipment, HVHC Distribution and Manufacturing brings Visionworks and Davis Vision to life.
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The ICEE Company sees continuing significant growth for its iconic frozen beverage treat as it prepares to celebrate 50 years.
By Stephanie Crets
It’s Friday night, and you’re relaxing after a long workweek with a trip to the movies with one of your friends. Before you find your seats, you approach the concession counter and see the variety of choices: candy boxes, pretzels and cheese sauce, mini pizzas and popcorn busting out of the popper. Then, you spot the red and blue striped cups on display and the Cherry and Blue Raspberry flavors mixing inside the machine, ready for you to indulge. Your decision is easily made, and you treat yourself to not only a big bag of buttery popcorn, but also an ICEE to enjoy with your movie.
And that’s what The ICEE Company is all about: reminding us that we deserve a treat. “It’s such an iconic, fun product,” President Dan Fachner says. “You can barely mention the name without having a smile on your face. What makes it so unique is that it’s fun and people think of it as a treat or reward or something special to get for their loved one or themselves when they are away from home. That’s what’s made it so strong over the years.”
ICEE has been around for 50 years and many consumers feel a nostalgic pull towards it. “All of us grew up being promised an ICEE from our parent or grandparent,” Fachner says. “That reward carries the nostalgic feel throughout generations. People usually associate ICEE nostalgically with a fun event that happened in their life, such as getting an ICEE after a baseball game or having one at the amusement park with their friends or family. The colors of the ICEE brand have a nostalgic, Americana feel, and people immediately recognize the red and blue striped cup, the ICEE polar bear, spoon straw and dome lid all as part of the original, official and authentic ICEE brand.”
The ICEE Company infuses a tremendous amount of fun into the brand thanks to the types of customers it does business with. ICEE frozen treats are found in a variety of retail locations, including movie theaters, amusement parks, convenience stores and mass-merchandisers. The ICEE Company has 75,000 locations nationally and continues to grow at a rapid pace, not just domestically but also internationally in countries such as China, Central and South America, Mexico, Spain, Europe and Australia. It is also growing into new, different categories such as Dollar Stores, fast casual dining and buffet style restaurants.
“We currently have some exciting opportunities internationally that will continue to grow,” Fachner relates. “Equally fast is our domestic growth, not only in traditional locations, but also in exciting new categories of business we continue to explore. Theater channel partnerships have proven to grow significantly and have now expanded into China and Europe.
“What we do well that has allowed us to grow is we are great marketers of a really good product and sell to strong partners and take care of them,” he continues. “We have passionate dedicated people who understand the product and the importance of customer service. We understand our customers and try to deliver the best product at the best pricing in the best package they’re looking for. All of those segments have become significant drivers in growing our brand strength. Our product stimulates your senses in a bold way, and we have a broad distribution that allows customers to get ICEE at a moment’s notice. ICEE is an authentic, classic brand that makes consumers part of a tradition and become storytellers.”
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BrandSource and its independent retail members work together to improve operations and provide better choices to consumers.
By Eric Slack
What started as a buying group in 1969 has become so much more for a diverse array of retailers. Today, BrandSource is more of a member services organization that serves retailers of many stripes and helps level the playing field so they can compete.
BrandSource’s roots extend back to a 1969 discussion among a group of appliance and electronics retailers, who saw the opportunity to get better pricing and terms by pooling their orders together. Those southern California retailers teamed up to form Associated Volume Buyers (AVB).
“Our founders got together because they saw they could get better deals from manufacturers by working together,” Chief Marketing Officer John White says. “Now we are a member-owned organization that works on behalf of our members with manufacturers, vendors and suppliers to get better prices, while also helping members to do better business and generate more business in their stores.”
The organization has grown to northern California, the Northwest and around the country, creating 17 different regions and locally managing regional operations to target the products each region sells. In 1994, the group became the first appliance and electronics buying group to sign a national mattress manufacturer, Simmons. This began the group’s entry into furniture.
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Foot Locker stores are designed to engage consumers in finding shoes that make their statement.
By Tim O’Connor
Dick Johnson enjoys standing at the top of the escalator at the entrance to Foot Locker’s new flagship store on 34th Street in New York City. From that vantage point, he can soak in the comments from shoppers as they walk around the 10,000-square-foot retail space and marvel at how the modern design tells the story of each brand’s shoes.
“You can tell they love the space,” the CEO of Foot Locker says. “You see it with the amount of product they are buying.”
Customer engagement was a core tenet of the company even before Johnson arrived at Foot Locker. In 1997, Johnson was working for catalog athletic footwear company Eastbay when Foot Locker – then known as Woolworth’s – purchased the Wisconsin-based company.
Foot Locker has changed dramatically in the nearly 20 years since, Johnson says. After being absorbed into the company, Johnson at first stuck with the catalog side of the business and had little interaction with the brick-and-mortar stores. That changed in 2007 when he took over the European operations, which were firmly rooted in physical locations.
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Steve Jackson Games focuses on expansions and licensed products for the Munchkin card game series while it revives tried-and-true fan favorites.
By Stephanie Crets
If you have a warped sense of humor and enjoy tabletop and card games, odds are you’ll enjoy the slate of games offered by Steve Jackson Games. The company has roughly 20 games and more than 100 titles in its current catalog. That can change every year as some games go out of print, while new ones are created and old ones are brought back. But its classic game series is Munchkin.
“Part of the reason Munchkins has been so successful for us is embracing that sense of humor and running off on crazy tangents and having lots of fun with it,” CEO Phil Reed says. “The silliness and the cartooning style really excite the fans.”
Steve Jackson Games keeps the excitement brewing by constantly announcing new cards or expansions for the Munchkin series, such as Mars Attacks, Judge Dredd, and zombie and holiday-themed expansions. “We try to turn the game around to shock and surprise the players,” Reed notes.
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Always looking to stay ahead of the curve, Victoria Fine Foods creates premium pasta sauces that meet the lifestyle needs of its consumers.
By Eric Slack
Founded in 1929, Victoria Fine Foods remains a Brooklyn-based company known as the leading slow kettle-cooked pasta sauce manufacturer in the United States. Victoria still uses only a handful of fresh ingredients for its specialty Italian sauces and condiments, and traditional slow kettle-cooking methods to ensure rich flavor and a homemade taste.
Committed to longstanding values of quality, honesty, authenticity and community, Victoria believes that ingredients come first. These values extend back to the company’s founding family, Italian immigrants who came to Brooklyn nearly a century ago. Although they sold the company to new ownership in 2011, the fundamental qualities that made Victoria Fine Foods remain intact.
“We have been professionalizing the company and taking this dominant Northeast-known brand across the country,” CEO Tim Shanley says. “The brand has a cult-like following in the Northeast because of its superior product and commitment to insightful innovation. Victoria has more than four times the Facebook following of our nearest premium pasta sauce-only brand, and we are only distributed in about 25 percent of the country at this point. We have maintained the authenticity of our recipes while instilling modern sensibilities into the business.”
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