That was the situation in August 2002 when G. Barry Huff was named president of Columbus-based Glory Foods Inc.
“Right away, we put together a strategic plan with a small team, and we were able to pull that together to give us a little bit more focus,” Huff says.
That focus has helped grow Glory Foods into a company with 2005 revenue in excess of $55 million as it has expanded its role in the Southern-style canned, frozen and fresh-cut vegetable industry.
Smart Business spoke with Huff about how he got Glory Foods back on track and how he manages change in the industry.
How did you create your strategic plan?
It’s nothing secretive. We just talked about what our mission is and who we see ourselves as being in terms of a company. We looked at our strengths at the time and what weaknesses we had. We assessed the competitive set.
It was a tool to get us all aligned in the same sort of business thoughts. That was critical to the team, that at least we had something (on which) we could anchor.
What was your next move?
We said, ‘One of our strengths is putting out seasoned and tasteful food, and that’s where we should be focused with our new product offerings.’ We talked about our need to continually introduce new products and to stay ahead of whoever the imitators were going to be.
We also needed to shore up our core products. When you look at a national (distribution), we were probably in a third of the country nationally, and there are certain regions of the country where we were stronger.
One of the things we initially talked about was (making) sure we get more of our core placed in the accounts that we’re currently selling, (as well as) new accounts across the country. We sell at different depths of distribution. We have 50 items that are shelf-stable. Some accounts may have only four or six items. There’s room to improve so we’ve focused there.
What role does consumer feedback play in product development?
We have had some feedback from consumers who have said, ‘We love your products, but is it possible for you to take some of the salt out?’ We just introduced a new product line of 10 items that have lower sodium, no meat flavoring, and it’s just a more healthful option
You always have to talk to your customers those people who buy into the account and your consumers those who are eating this stuff.
How do you prepare for future growth?
We are now at a point in our growth cycle where we’ve doubled the business in the last three years. We’re assessing places that we can stretch the brand. We’ve stretched it into different types of vegetables with a flavor profile. The question now is, how many more of those can we do, and where else does it make sense to take this brand?
In 1998, the company went into frozen entrees and side dishes. We’ve had some nice success with some of those items now. (We’re using) the Glory name and stretching it over into a different part of the grocery store.
There’s tremendous opportunity to sell into more accounts: more stores, more items and different channels. We’re not operating today in any real way in the club store environment.
We don’t operate in food service. We get calls and e-mails all the time from people for food service. If we could get some of the larger groups who could distribute to those mom-and-pops, then we (would) have a nice little business.
Growth is all about change, and when you think about the business, we have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us.
You’re always struggling to cap the infrastructure in place, anticipating the growth. We’re doing that through proper planning and making sure that we’re communicating within our organization around that growth: Who are the customers to whom we’re speaking, what’s the timetable for them possibly coming on, what items (will be involved), and then working with our third-party processors and communicating that information in a timely fashion.
There’s so many logistics involved in food processing that many of us take for granted. If you don’t have them in place as you’re continuing to grow, then you have some challenges. We’ve tried to stay ahead of it (by) mapping it out, putting a timetable together and saying, ‘Here’s how we’re going to do it, and here’s when we’re going to do it.’
HOW TO REACH: Glory Foods Inc., (800) 414-5679 or www.gloryfoods.com