Recently, on a pleasant late spring afternoon, William J. Germano, vice-president, sales and marketing for Cape Cod Potato Chips, Hyannis, Mass., enjoyed a sample of the company's newest product, Nantucket Spice flavored potato chips, launched over Memorial Day.
"It took us six months to perfect this blend of West Indies spices, pepper, salt and creamy notes," he
said.Consumer tests reported great promise for the new item.
But there was more to celebrate that day.With the company firmly back into national markets in the United States, Mr. Germano
also savored the kickoff of an international manufacturing partnership that bolsters the company's move into European markets.
"During the first five years of our new existence, we worked hard to get our regional market presence back," Mr. Germano
...Mr. Germano was the Anheuser-Busch executive who handled marketing responsibilities for the Massachusetts-based brand.He recently rejoined the business and heads the Cape Cod Potato Chip division of Lance.
"After Eagle ceased business, Cape Cod had to start from scratch again," he
started distributing Cape Cod products in the Southeast along with its own items on its 1,800 trucks," Mr. Germano
said."This was a major change for us."Previously, the company concentrated its distribution efforts on upscale specialty food stores.
The company's products are now distributed throughout the U.S., Canada and beyond."We are the No. 2 chip in Puerto Rico, outselling Frito-Lay's Ruffles," Mr. Germano
Such activities, however, took a back seat for a long time, according to Mr. Germano
."In our core market of New England, we continue to be very successful, but even here, we hit a wall because we had not offered any new products for quite a while."
Also, the company's move into mainstream grocery stores and supermarkets required a change in package size to better meet consumer expectations in this channel."We took our core products - Cape Cod Original, Cape Cod Reduced Fat, Golden Russet and Dark Russet potato chips - and upsized the bag," Mr. Germano
The new size required a new price, yet Cape Cod brands were already among the higher-priced chips in the market.The 5.5-oz bags and $1.89 suggested retail price, ideal for specialty stores, were switched for 9-oz bags priced at $2.99, a better fit for mainstream retailers."It was risky, but it worked," he
Another move created the company's Whole Earth Collection - a line of all-natural, no-trans, gourmet-flavored products."Consumers are becoming more aware of the nutritional aspects of snacks as part of maintaining a healthier lifestyle," Mr. Germano
said."Snacks are still an indulgence, so it is important that they deliver good taste.Up to this point, consumers have had to trade one for the other.Our new gourmet varieties are so delicious, people absolutely can't tell they are also low in fat."
Tortilla chips joined the Cape Cod roster in February 2003, thanks to outsourced manufacture."Some line extensions make sense; some don't," Mr. Germano
"In searching for new flavors, Nantucket Spice connected with our New England heritage," Mr. Germano
said, explaining that the port of Nantucket, located on Nantucket Island 25 miles south-southeast of Hyannis, was the shipping capital of the American Colonies.Its docks overflowed with pepper and exotic spices from the West Indies.The creamy note in the new flavor honors the region's dairy legacy.
This fall, Cape Cod plans to introduce another new flavor, jalapeño and cheddar cheese.This time, inspiration blended West Coast heat with East Coast cheddar from Vermont's famous Cabot Creamery."It's a very rich flavor," Mr. Germano
observed."Like Nantucket Spice, it has done well in consumer sampling.
"We have always had a unique product, but we need additional reasons to exist," he
"Our chips are made in kettle fryers, a different process, producing a wonderful product," Mr. Germano
"To do what we must with this brand, we need the financial, engineering and information technology support that Lance can provide," Mr. Germano
...Cape Cod Potato Chips enjoys good brand recognition in "old" England as well as New England, according to William J. Germano, the company's vice-president of sales and marketing.
In May, he
announced a strategic agreement with Largo Food Exports Ltd.
, Ashbourne (near Dublin), Ireland, to manufacture and distribute Cape Cod brand potato chips - or crisps, as they are generally called overseas.
"We sent container lots of finished products to Europe for about a year and learned the market potential there for kettle-cooked chips was tremendous," Mr. Germano