This year’s ShowEast sees the introduction of two new awards. The first, the Empowerment Award, goes to Elizabeth Frank of AMC. With the second, ShowEast feels the flavor, giving their first annual Legacy Award—presented by the NAC—concessions producer to Promotion in Motion.
Accepting the award on behalf of Promotion in Motion is president and CEO Michael Rosenberg, who for decades has expressed a personal dedication to both charitable causes and the theatrical concessions industry. Below, Rosenberg discusses how his company keeps up with the ever-changing tastes of movie theater patrons.
Early in your concessions career, you helped launch Annie-branded cookies and Care Bear gummy bears. In the decades since, have there been any other movie-branded products you’ve launched that stand out to you?
In the 1990s we did engage in some licensed movie related activities, of particular note being Jurassic Park confections. We specially produced 3.5 oz Movie Box JuJu Dinosaurs for the theaters. For a short while, they were very popular. We also once licensed Disney and marketed a 3.5 oz. mobile box of Lion King Gummi Worms.
However, our experience showed that while popular and in demand during the run of the films, almost instantly these products nosedived as the films came off screens. We then had operators and distributors asking to return inventories of product once it stopped selling. So it’s been quite a number of years since we’ve re-engaged in those opportunities.
Many more movie theaters invest in dine-in and “luxury” F&B items compared to just a few years ago. Has that shift changed anything for Promotion in Motion?
Promotion In Motion works with theatre circuits operating both traditional concessions as well as those with more upscale and dine-in concepts. With the breadth of our product line, we are fortunate to have items that work well with all of the evolving food and beverage options.
For example, with dine-in business, most guests seem to enjoy a lite to moderate size meal and still want to supplement that with popcorn and one of our chocolate items, such as TUXEDOS® Milk Chocolate Almonds or SUNMAID® Milk Chocolate Raisins, as an after-meal dessert add-on. These items also do very well in traditional concession stand/fixture options.
When it comes to pure play concession counters, we have a range of items and continue to develop new and exciting ones to meet the tastes and experiences of the ever-expanding and diverse audiences of today. This includes our exciting new line of GUMMI FunMix™ products, which are favorites of both Gen Z and Millennials who are extremely focused on experiential and interactive experiences, including when they are choosing treats. We also continue to develop better for you snack options for movie guests looking for those options, including WELCH’S® Fruit Snacks (the global category leader)—which includes many sizes, packs, formats, varieties, flavor combinations, and price points both a la carte and kids meals—and likewise our WELCH’S® Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks.
Coming soon in 2020, we are very excited about the launch of our new WELCH’S® JUICEFULS® Fruit Snacks, which will become increasingly available during the year. They feature fruit as the first ingredient, filled with abundant amounts of real juice in the centers. They are transparent, [so you can] see the juicy centers. They will be marketed as “Juice You Can See. Fruit You Can Taste”!
What are all the countries that Promotion in Motion operates in? Does the way Promotion in Motion does its business change at all from country to country?
Promotion In Motion has evolved into a truly global company and has manufacturing facilities, warehousing and logistics operations, research and development centers, and offices across the world. Some of the many areas where PIM operates include Europe (Spain is the home of PIM’s second largest manufacturing operations) and Greece (where PIM produces TOGGI Chocolate Wafers). And yes, its products are loved internationally.
As an example, SOUR JACKS are widely sold through Scandinavia—Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark—as well as the United Kingdom. Collectively these countries have the highest per capita consumption of confections in the world, and our brands are loved by millions of consumers in those markets.
PIM products are also sold throughout Asia (South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and China, Australia, and New Zealand) as well as in the Middle East (in the UAE, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia), with Welch’s Fruit Snack becoming as ubiquitous in those countries as they are in North America. Likewise we have teams throughout the Caribbean, Central, and South America and are always laying foundations to enter new international markets.
In order to meet local FDA and food safety laws in all of these counties, PIM employs batteries of food scientists and regulatory professionals at both its corporate offices in New Jersey and abroad to ensure that all formulations of its products comply with the laws of each nation. Oftentimes colors, flavors, starches, and acids—as well as vitamins and inclusions—have to be modified to legally comply. So those types of changes keep us on our toes, as does ensuring we are ahead of changes which come about regularly in product, packaging, and labeling. We truly believe in selling globally but marketing locally.
Are there brands that you sell in international markets and not the U.S.? If so, what are they, and do you think they might be able to transfer over?
We definitely make products and brands for international markets, as well as kosher and halal versions of our products that are sold abroad but not in the U.S.A. As one example, we produce extremely sour and bitter products for Scandinavian markets, which are very popular in those countries, but are not offered elsewhere because they wouldn’t find an audience.
What sort of business does Promotion in Motion do in the Latin American countries?
PIM products are widely available in many Latin America markets and continue to grow in scope and market share (everywhere from the Dominican Republic to Bolivia)!
Has Promotion in Motion launched any new products over the past few months? Do you have any coming down the line?
Our most recent launches include our Original Gummi FunMix, a one-of-a-kind dynamic blend of unique gummi shapes, sizes, flavors, and colors which we market as a literal “party in a bag.” The brand launched only last year and has achieved excellent distribution in movie theaters and general retail. It is growing at a very fast rate.
We’ve also launched WELCH’S Fruit Snacks Superfruit Mix, which is a combination of on-trend flavors such as blueberry-açaí and gogi-raspberry. This variety is already shooting up in sales to become one of our most popular varieties. And for movie-goers and consumers everywhere conscious about sugar intake, we have expanded our line of Reduced Sugar with the addition of WELCH’S Berries ‘N Cherries Reduced Sugar.
In the our chocolate products portfolio, we are launching exciting new items next month within our SUN-MAID Chocolate Raisins line, including milk chocolate and peanut butter covered raisins, dark cocoa dusted covered raisins, and milk chocolate with almond crunch covered raisins. All varieties tested very high in purchase intent, including our target audience of millennials. We think our milk chocolate and peanut butter variety will quickly become a concession stand staple.
Adam Gottlieb at the NAC has commented on your policy of not selling theater box product to retail. How long has that policy been in place, and why is it important to Promotion in Motion?
Our strict policy has always been to keep our concession-specific packs out of traditional retail, where price points are often a battlefield of who will sell cheapest, as a gesture of our respect to our longstanding concession industry partners, who depend upon the special margins and multiples needed at concession stands on those packs to be able to earn a living. We do not think it is good form or good policy to enable consumers to comparison shop a movie box from a deep discount store shelf. We make products in other packs and sizes for all of those other markets, but if you don’t sell at concession prices we will not ship you our movie size box packs.
Can you give me an example of some community initiatives/charity activities that Promotion in Motion takes part in?
We are committed to helping our communities. Our employees have volunteered their time with Habitat for Humanity, and we have long been a supporter of Variety – The Children’s Charity and Boys and Girls Clubs in many locations, and have made significant corporate donations to Feeding America and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, just to name a few. Also, I am personally president of The Chemotherapy Foundation, which is based in New York and international in scale. It also founded the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium, the single most important global meeting for the world’s leading cancer specialists. [The Chemotherapy Foundation] has funded some of the most significant breakthroughs in cancer treatments (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and more) for over 40 years. We also contribute to literally dozens of other local, national, and international non-profits.
What sort of research does Promotion in Motion do to keep on top of emerging trends?
Our marketing and insights teams continuously evolve and expand our capabilities and investment in understanding consumers’ habits, motivations, and how their purchase behaviors are changing. We conduct frequent qualitative and quantitative research, online and in-person, to help develop and validate products, packaging, consumer messaging, and much more.
We conduct research to help our customers understand trends and product assortment. We use syndicated data sources constantly to measure our brand performance, household penetration rates, and loyalty. It’s critical to always up our game when it comes to understanding our audiences, ensuring every product and brand stays as relevant with consumers as is possible. We then segment those results for our concession customers, to bring them what is most compelling and to optimize profitability.
How has Promotion in Motion changed course in order to best meet customer demand—for example, adding different items, and changing existing items so they’re more health-conscious?
We always strive to offer consumers a range of options, whether flavor assortments, sugar and fat intake, natural flavors/colors, and more. For example, over the past few years we began the process of replacing artificial flavors and colors with naturally sourced counterparts in Welch’s Fruit Snacks.
For all-new items we now only use naturally sourced flavors and colors. For a line-up as broad as Welch’s, it’s not always easy, but we’re committed to giving consumers what they’re asking for. We invest heavily in our technical and R&D departments to ensure we have the right facilities and staff of professionals to ensure our products evolve as consumer preferences do.
Our reduced sugar offerings came out of consumer feedback to provide options for products to help control sugar intake. All of these items have 25% less sugar than our base line-up. Sales of these products are skyrocketing and will continue to grow with the new “front of pack” labeling requirements, which will disclose to consumers what they are buying from the moment they pick up a package. Of course, to help be as transparent as possible on our product packaging, nearly all of our products will have nutritional information on the front label to make it easier to understand the content of calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. We are well ahead of the mandatory date, as we believe in total transparency.
You get one Promotion in Motion product to take with you to a deserted island. What is it?
Wow. That’s like asking which of your children you like the most. I don’t think I could honestly answer, as I love them all!