Maple Leaf Foods to launch rebrand of packaged meat lines this year

  • Feb 21, 2018

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. will re-launch three of its flagship brands starting in April in what the company calls the "most ambitious brand renovation" in its more than one-hundred-year history.

"I would say that of all the commercial activity underway in our business, the single initiative that I am most proud of and excited about right now is the brand strategy work that we've pursued in 2017, and it's near launch time, ready for the second quarter of this year," CEO Michael McCain said Wednesday during a conference call with analysts after the company released its fourth-quarter earnings results.

The company underwent a rigorous approach to understanding consumer behaviour and demand, he said, and worked to align the Maple Leaf, Schneiders and Swift packaged meat brands to target those spaces.

"We've got a unique opportunity to drive category growth across our entire prepared meats portfolio."

The Maple Leaf brand, for example, will focus on the so-called responsible parenting demographic, which constitutes about a third of total demand for prepared meats.

"These consumers are looking for natural food with nothing artificial. They're looking for clean and simple ingredients, real food and they want family-friendly flavours," McCain said.

Schneiders will target about a quarter of the demand that comes from consumers looking for authentic and indulgent food, he said, while Swift will target the third of the market driven by the quick-fix diner, who is motivated by convenience and value.

The company expects to enter the market with new packaging around April, McCain said, and will further discuss the initiative and roll out plans after its first quarter of this financial year ends.

The company delivered "solid" results for its final quarter of 2017 and the full year, said Irene Nattel, an analyst with RBC Dominion Securities Inc.

Maple Leaf reported a quarterly profit of $59.1 million or 47 cents per share compared with $76.2 million or 57 cents per share in the same quarter a year prior.

The company announced it would raise its quarterly dividend from 11 cents per share to 13 cents.

Sales in the quarter ended Dec. 31 totalled $876.8 million, up from $828.2 million in the last three months of 2016.

On an adjusted basis, the company said it earned 41 cents per share, up from an adjusted profit of 31 cents per share a year ago.

Analysts had expected a profit of 39 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Companies in this story: (TSX:MFI)