Bringing Culinary Content to Life

Much of the attention when it comes to brand-extension licensing in the food and beverage industry focuses on food, restaurant, chef-, and diet-related brands. Another active sector, albeit smaller, consists of culinary magazine titles. A number of cooking publications have expanded their names into retail food categories from frozen entrées to shelf-stable sauces.

Two deals in 2017 illustrate. In the U.K., Rodale (now owned by Hearst) and its agent Golden Goose licensed M&M Walshe for sous vide meat dishes tied to Men’s Health; the initiative began with three SKUs sold through Iceland supermarkets, with plans to expand into Morrisons stores in 2018. This agreement follows recent deals with Kerry Foods for Men’s Health-branded high-protein frozen dishes and with Fiddes Payne for high-protein snack pots and smoothie boosters, both for the U.K. market.

Meanwhile, Time Inc. licensed Perfect Fit Meals for Southern-influenced ready-to-eat foods under the Southern Living Kitchen brand. The products launched in 2017 in select HEB, Kroger, Schnucks, and other supermarkets, mostly in the southern U.S. In addition to its deal for Southern Living, Perfect Fit also manufactures meals for another Time Inc. magazine, Cooking Light.

Past examples of magazine brands entering the food category over the years—with mixed results—have included:

  • Meredith licensing Bellisio Foods for better-for-you frozen entrées tied to Eating Well. Products debuted in U.S. supermarkets in 2016 and remain on the market. The deal marked the first time Meredith had lent one of its publication’s names to products in the food and beverage category.
  • Condé Nast introducing the Self Healthy Kitchen frozen food line with Benevida Foods in 2014, in chains such as Kroger, Stop & Shop, Ralphs, and Whole Foods. The line has disappeared from store shelves, although Self continues to expand into health and fitness products, such as yoga clothing.
  • Hearst authorizing Tulocay & Co. (now Nature’s Habit) for Good Housekeeping-branded shelf-stable foods such as pasta sauces, marinades, mustards, and salad dressings. The line debuted back in 2009 and is no longer available. (The publication launched a Good Housekeeping “Nutritionist Approved” emblem program in 2016 that puts its name on the packaging of qualifying foods.)

The expansion of magazines into branded foods can be challenging, as the relatively short life of some of these deals suggests. But it continues to make sense, in many cases, to pair the consumer awareness, credibility, and content of cooking-related publications with manufacturers that have the expertise to make those recipes come to life in a convenient form. It is likely more such deals will come to light, especially as magazine publishers continue to aggressively expand into licensing across categories.

Raugust Communications’ January 2018 e-newsletter goes out tomorrow, January 16. If you’re not yet a subscriber to this free publication, you can sign up here. The Licensing Topic of the Month summarizes some of the key retail trends of 2017; the Datapoint research spotlight examines strategies used for licensed lifestyle collaborations.

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