Honey of a deal


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Brent Barkman and Krista Heinrichs show the 36-count display box that coworkers at Golden Heritage Foods helped create as the vehicle for marketing their “2-ounce Barrys” in retail stores. Heinrichs says, “Everybody here is pretty excited about the movie.” In fact, Golden Heritage has reserved two theaters at the Newton theater complex for opening night Nov. 2. Com­pany team members and their families will be treated to an exclusive showing of “Bee Movie” and have a party afterward to celebrate their hard work on the project.Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

The Hillsboro-based honey packer, third largest in the country, has made one sweet deal with the movie’s producers, DreamWorks Animation, to help promote their respective products.

Through its exclusive licensing agreement with Dream­Works, the production company created by renowned movie producer Steven Spielberg and associates, Golden Heritage expects to sell a groundbreaking honey-packaging concept while helping DreamWorks sell theater tickets and DVDs.

The key to it all is Barry B. Benson, the movie’s lead bee, whose voice and personality are brought to life by Seinfeld.

Barry’s animated image adorns a new 2-ounce portable honey container now being mass produced and marketed nationwide and internationally by Golden Heritage.

The “2-ounce Barrys,” as they are affectionately called at the local plant, began appearing in grocery stores Oct. 1 and retail for a suggested 99 cents. The number Golden Heritage plans to produce is projected by company officials only as “a million-plus.”

“We’re anticipating that the movie release will sell a lot of these,” said Brent Barkman, the company’s executive chairman of the board. “It will be the vehicle that helps people recognize it and sell it.

“We’re really anticipating the DVD release in March 2008,” he added. “We think that will be an even bigger push for us, as far as Little Honey Barry sales.”

A new size

The company’s traditional customers are used to purchasing the product in containers of 12 ounces and larger. The introduction of a 2-ounce container is unprecedented—and the idea pre-dates “Bee Movie.”

“The last year and a half, Golden Heritage has been working on the 2-ounce concept—something that’s just not available in the honey industry,” said Krista Heinrichs, national director of retail/grocery sales.

“We did some independent research and it came back that there’s no portable honey out there—until now.”

By offering a “portable” container, the company is attempting to reach customers, both current and potential, that would use more honey if it was handy to carry some with them during their daily routine.

“You speak to anybody in New York and they’re talking about putting honey in their tea,” Heinrichs said. “So they’d take it along in their purse, put it in their lunchbox, or on the airplane.”

Unexpected opportunity

How to introduce the concept of a 2-ounce container to the company’s traditional clientele was a challenge for the company’s marketing and sales staff.

Then in January, word filtered down about “Bee Movie.”

“We were approached by the National Honey Board that there was going to be a movie about bees and about honey,” Hein­richs said. “Several of the large honey packers in the U.S. were invited to a meeting with DreamWorks.

“That was pretty exciting in itself.”

Heinrichs said experts believe “Bee Movie” will provide a 12 to 15 percent economic boost for the entire honey industry.

“Nothing like this, as far as I know, has ever happened in the honey industry,” she said.

Representing Golden Heri­tage Foods at the meeting in Burbank, Calif., were Barkman, Dwight Stoller, who is chief executive officer, and David Mathis, senior vice president for marketing and sales.

Following the general presentation by DreamWorks officials, the Golden Heritage threesome sought an exclusive meeting to pitch their 2-ounce concept, suggesting the images of “Bee Movie” characters as the deal-maker.

DreamWorks liked the idea and made the exclusive deal with Golden Heritage.

“We’ve never had a vehicle to advertise in the way that this can,” Barkman said of the agreement. “We just saw an opportunity right up front that we just gravitated toward. We wanted to do something special that nobody else was going to do.”

Production challenges

Pitching the concept to DreamWorks was one thing. Putting it into production was another.

“We were fortunate that we had the 2-ounce concept in our pocket when we went there,” Barkman said. “We knew it could be created, but we didn’t know, at that point, if we could do it.”

The agreement ignited a frenzy of activity as the Golden Heritage team worked through myriad production issues.

“We did a lot of things in a big hurry,” Barkman said. “Doug Bartel and the product-development team have stepped up to the plate incredibly in the whole process—developing the bottle concept and creating the boxes (for packaging, shipping and displaying them).”

The product-development team found contractors that could produce the needed components. The miniature plastic bottles are being made by a company in Ohio.

The animated image of Barry B. Benson that brings the little bottle to life is a shrink-wrap sleave that is digitally designed. The sleeve bears little resemblance to the character until it is heated and shrinks into place around each bottle.

“It’s a whole new way of packaging for us,” Barkman said.

Ohio production

The actual filling, packaging and shipping of the 2-ounce Barrys is being done at Golden Heritage’s plant in Latty, Ohio.

“We’ve invested some money in the high-speed packaging equipment that these are being done in,” Barkman said. “We also went to some robotic packaging that we’ve never worked with before.”

The enormity of the project has necessitated additional staff at the Latty plant.

“We were probably around 35 to 40 in Ohio, and now I think they’re closing in on 100 there,” Barkman said.

“It made more sense for us to concentrate all of the Barry stuff in one location rather than try to spread it out in two locations,” he added.

But make no mistake, the project has resulted in additional work for Golden Heri­tage’s production team at Hillsboro, too.

“We’ve actually sent a team of people from here to Ohio for a week to help with production over there, and help with some of the other production they had to do so we could keep the Barry lines going,” Barkman said.

In fact, much of the traditional production load at the Ohio branch has now come to Hills­boro.

“Team members here are benefitting from that, too,” Barkman said. “They’re not seeing (the Barry bottles) being built as much as they are providing the other opportunities to make sure it gets done.”

Added Heinrichs: “Every­body here is pretty excited about the movie.”

Marketing challenges

That includes the Hillsboro-based sales and marketing teams, whose job is to sell a major new product that its traditional customers have never seen before.

“There’s been some apprehension from some of our retail grocery people,” Heinrichs said. “We’re trying to make this product a character—and fun. And some are wondering about that. It’s been a challenge.”

Added Barkman: “It’s a novelty product. It’s not really a honey-section product. One of our challenges has been trying to convince stores to put it in an alternative position in the store to make an awareness of honey that will pull people to the honey aisle and lift their product in the honey aisle, too.”

But the new product also has given Golden Heritage the opportunity to establish marketing relationships with new and nontraditional partners.

“I’ve been dealing with Office Max, Bed Bath & Beyond, Blockbuster (Video), Toys R Us—who would have thought that?” Heinrichs said.

Wal-Mart and Safeway are on board, and FTD, the retail floral giant, will be including a 2-ounce Barry with many of its arrangements—to name a few of the major contracts in hand.

“We’ve had some successes and we’ve had some challenges,” Barkman said. “There are some (corporate) customers that didn’t see the value yet—they hadn’t seen the movie. We feel some of those customers will be some of our biggest customers in the future.”

The 2-ounce-Barry boom is taking Golden Heritage beyond U.S. borders with exclusive marketing rights for most of Eastern Europe through a partner company in Germany.

The labels on the 2-ounce Barry bottles will appear in six languages.

“That’s a whole new thing for us, too, and it’s pushing us to be international as a company,” Barkman said. “It’s not really something we were going to do intentionally. But we’re always open to new ideas.

“The owner and management team of Golden Heritage Foods has never really shied away from the challenge. That’s something we’re always looking for.”

Movie methods

Adding to the production and marketing challenges was the unique experience of working with a major Hollywood movie-production company—particularly when it came to timelines.

“We found out that movie support is very concentrated right around the movie release,” Barkman said. “They do it on a very intentional timetable.

“That was probably one of the biggest challenges we had with this whole process,” he added. “We were creating something with DreamWorks’ intellectual property. We could create, but we couldn’t produce anything until we had the approval of DreamWorks—and they have a very structured approval process that they have to go through.

“Sometimes we wanted to do something, but we had to wait until they got approval back to us.”

One of those things was something as simple as letting the public know about the project through the media.

“They are very cautious about getting something out earlier than (right before the release date) because they’re still working on the product,” Heinrichs said.

But she added: “One of the neat things is that DreamWorks has been very supportive of us, and very interested in Golden Heritage Foods because of our aggressiveness in the beginning.

“But more than that, there’s never been an endorsement that’s so organic to a movie as honey is to Barry B.

“Like Shrek appearing on Pop-Tarts—there’s not really a connection there.”

The movie’s pro-bee, pro-honey message will be educational as well as entertaining for a mass audience, Barkman and Heinrichs maintain.

“It really has a story about how important the honey bee is for the environment,” Heinrichs said. “It’s really an awareness vehicle for the entire industry.”

Economic payoff

So, when all is said done, what will be the financial impact of this new venture on Golden Heritage Foods?

“Positive,” is the only projection Barkman dared to make at this point. “It’s such a new frontier for us that we just don’t know. We’d like to be able to project, but it’s throwing darts.”

That said, company officials don’t expect the 2-ounce bottle to be a flash-in-the-pan project—which by movie-industry standards means a shelf life of about 18 months.

“We have an exclusive agreement with DreamWorks that gives us exclusive licensing for a longer period of time than they’re used to working with,” Barkman said. “We wanted to extend this past the life of the movie and the DVD.”

Golden Heritage’s contract is for three years with an option to extend it further. The company can incorporate characters other than Barry if it chooses to—and use different-sized containers. It already has an 8-ounce Barry bottle on the drawing board.

Beyond the movie

However long the “Bee Movie” connection proves to be an effective marketing tool, Golden Heritage already has a companion project in mind that it will launch in January—a 2-ounce version of its familiar 12-ounce bear container. It initially will be marketed to its food-service clients.

“That will be a staple item—it will be one of our creations,” Barkman said. “It will live as long as the consumer allows it to.”

He feels that could be a long, long time.

“We’ve commissioned some consumer studies that have given us a lot of information about people who will try honey in a small size, but are not traditional honey buyers.

“I think that’s one of our biggest target audiences—people that would not traditionally buy honey, but would try it in a small container that is not a large investment. For them, it’s an opportunity to try something new.”

A year to remember

Barkman looks back on all that has occurred within Golden Heritage Foods since January and shakes his head.

“It’s been an interesting year,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of learning as a company. We’ve learned new avenues of sales, we’ve learned new techniques of sales. We have kind of mastered the technique of selling honey—now we’re selling a novelty. It’s something different.”

Barkman said he’s convinced the opportunity didn’t come their way by accident.

“We feel a huge Divine intervention in what we’re doing here. We’ve been given a tool to share with the world what Golden Heritage Foods stands for and what it’s all about.

“God is the centerpiece of what we’re doing here,” he added. “We always want to make sure that anything that gets out there is giving glory to God. He gives us the opportunity and we just go forward with it.”


Cyber links

 

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The new “Bee Movie” Web site will list Golden Heritage Foods as one of the Dream­Works Animation “Partners” along with corporate entities such as McDonald’s, which will soon be introducing characters from the movie in its Happy Meals.

Likewise, Golden Heritage’s new Web site, which is expected to go live this week, will have a direct link to the “Bee Movie” site. It will also show new company products and other infomation about its corporate mission.

• The “Bee Movie” address is: www.beemovie.com

• The Golden Heritage Foods address is: www.ghfllc.com


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