Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tesco Launches New 'Flash in the Pan' Brand Ready Meals in UK Stores; Files Brand Trademark in U.S.

Breaking Buzz
Private Brand Showcase

Tesco is introducing a new brand of fresh, refrigerated heat-and-eat (pan fry or saute) meals called "Tesco Flash in the Pan" in its United Kingdom stores this week, as part of its aggressive new private and venture brand program, which has seen the retailer so far this year launch at least seven new private and venture brands into its UK stores.

The "Tesco Flash in the Plan" introduction this week is a soft launch, according to one of our sources, who's in a position to know about the introduction of the new brand, which means the items might not be slotted in all the stores this week.

The soft launch is also why in part you're reading about the new brand for the first time in Fresh & Easy BuzzTesco hasn't announced "Flash in the Pan" publicly via a press release. Our story is based on our research and reporting.

The new "Tesco Flash in the Pan" brand consists of six SKUs and come in a colorful, stand up-style cello-package, as you can see in the photograph at top.

The convenience-style, refrigerated ready meals, which say on the packages are influenced from a culinary perspective by Asian flavors, African spices, American soul (as in soul food) cooking and European delicacy, take five minutes to heat in a pan on the stove top and serve one person per-package.

The six SKUs are:

>Potato gnocchi with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh spinach, served with a basil oil dressing.

>Succulent chicken and king prawns with vegetables, and fresh coriander, served with noodles and a chili sauce.

>Succulent North Atlantic king prawns with cherry tomatoes, roasted onion and fresh spinach, served with coriander rice and a curry sauce.

>Marinated chicken with roasted vegetables and fresh coriander, served with cous cous and a tomato sauce.

>Tender pulled beef with peas, Feta cheese and fresh spinach, served with a tomato dressing and potato & cheese hash.

>Pulled ham hock and fresh cabbage served with crushed potatoes and a farmhouse cheddar sauce. (at top)

"Tesco Flash in the Pan" isn't technically one of Tesco's new venture brands (although it can be), which are a number of new product brands the retailer is developing and launching but not using the "Tesco" name on as part of the brand name.

However, the new brand - like its new "Tesco goodness for kids" private brand which was developed by its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain in California - uses the Tesco name in small font, putting the emphasise on the "Flash in the an" brand name, just like it does with "goodness for kids." Fresh & Easy's Neighborhood Market calls its (original) version "fresh&easy goodness for kids."

Therefore, "Flash in the Pan" can be used by one of the United Kingdom-based global retailer's non Tesco-named chains, such as Fresh & Easy, because like "goodness for kids" the Tesco or Fresh & Easy name mention on the packaging is interchangeable, since the primary brand name is "Flash in the Pan," while the name of the particular chain is secondary or not even needed.

'Flash in the Pan' U.S. trademark

In fact, Tesco is considering doing just that - launching "Flash in the Pan" in its 176-store (California, Nevada, Arizona) Fresh & Easy chain.

On April 21, 2011 Tesco applied for a U.S. federal trademark for the brand name "Flash in the Pan," which it owns in the UK.

The U.S. trademark registration is good for consumables in the following classes or categories: products made of fish, meat, poultry and game; preserved, dried and cooked fruits, vegetables and fungi; nut products for use as food or as ingredients in food; cooked and preserved dishes mainly consisting of meat, fish, vegetables, legumes and also containing potatoes; ready meals; ready prepared meals; pickles; pulses; food pastes; food pastes prepared wholly or principally from fish, meat, poultry, game, nuts, vegetables, fruit and dairy products; herbs; eggs; milk and milk products; pudding.

We've seen and reviewed the trademark application, which the U.S. federal governments trademark office has given the serial number 85301257.

Tesco and its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain are currently considering launching a line of ready meals similar to Tesco's under the "Flash in the Pan" brand name, most likely including "fresh&easy" as part of the brand name - "fresh&easy Flash in the Pan" - the U.S. stores, according to our sources.

Doing this would square the circle in terms of Tesco's recent launch of its "Tesco goodness for kids" brand and range," which originated at Fresh & Easy in the states and was recently introduced ino the retailers stores in the UK.

We broke the news about the "Tesco goodness for kids" brand and the Fresh & Easy connection - although a  story about the brand and its origin in the July 2 issue of the Times of London failed to mention Fresh & Easy Buzz as the originator of the news - in these two stories - June 26, 2011: Tesco Bringing Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's 'goodness for kids' Brand to the UK - With a 'Tesco' Twist; and June 27, 2011: Tesco Introduces First Items in Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market-Developed 'Tesco goodness for kids' Brand in United Kingdom Stores.

Additionally, we suggested in-depth in the June 26 story that having imported its first product brand to the UK from its Fresh & Easy chain in America, Tesco should return the favor and export a UK brand to El Segundo, California-based Fresh & Easy. In the piece we suggested Tesco's new venture brand, "ChokaBlok" ice-cream, would be a good candidate, among others.

Tesco's reason for seeking a trademark in the U.S. for the "Flesh in the Pan" brand name is for just that reason, so if it decides to do so it can offering "Flash in the Pan," (and the products can be but don't have to be ready meals exclusively) in its Fresh & Easy stores in California, Nevada and Arizona.

What's in a name: Venture brands and private brands

So far this year the United Kingdom-based retailer, which owns 176-store El Segundo, California-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, has introduced five of what will be many of of its venture brands. The brands are: Yoo (refrigerated yogurt); ChokaBlok (premium ice cream); Lathams (premium pet food); and Nutricat (premium pet food).

Bryan Roberts of Kantar Retail in the United Kingdom was the first person we're aware of to have identified the first batch of food and non-food venture brands planned by Tesco, based on trademark applications the retailer filed in the UK. Those brands are: Yoo (yogurt); ChokaBlok (premium ice cream) Halo (sanitary protection); Lathams, Nutridog and Nutricat (petcare); Muse (confectionery); KX and Joocie (drinks); Gut Feeling (health/natural foods); Trumpet and Parade (household paper products) Parioli (Italian food & drink) Streetwise (consumer electronics); and Emmi, R3V5/REVZ and Carousel (toys).

Tesco registered and was granted trademarks in multiple countries for these brands and others, although that doesn't mean it will create and launch products under all of the venture brands it's registered.

Tesco CEO Philip Clarke announced the global retailer's new private and venture brand strategy and increased efforts shortly after taking over as CEO from Terry Leahy, who retired after 14 years as head of the company, in March of this year, as point six of what Clarke and Tesco are calling Tesco's seven-point strategy.

Those seven points are: (1) To grow the UK core; (2) To be an outstanding international retailer in stores and online; (3) To be as strong in everything we sell as we are in food; (4) To grow retail services in all our markets; (5) To put our responsibilities to the communities we serve at the heart of what we do; (6) To be a creator of highly valued brands; and (7) To build our team so that we create more value.

About the product brand strategy (point number six) Clarke said in Tesco's annual report this year: "Tesco is going to be a creator of highly valued brands. I want each of our facia brands to be a valued brand, but I also think we can create some other ones. F&F, the clothing brand, Technika, the television brand, and others will give customers another reason to come and shop with us, another reason to be loyal to us."

The "other brands" he's referring to are what Tesco is calling the venture brands. These brands generally don't and won't have the name "Tesco" on them, although they can.

But it's really semantic folly to try to differentiate "venture" brands from private brands. For example, Trader Joe's, Safeway Stores, Wegmans and numerous other food and grocery chains in the U.S. have own brands that don't have the chain's name on them. They are brands that just happen to be created by a retailer and generally, but not always, sold exclusively in its stores. Most of these retailers also offer private brands with chain's name on them.

Wholesalers and retailer-owned cooperatives in the U.S. also offer "brands" - cooperative Topco's numerous brands and the "Western Family" brand offered by wholesalers in the Western U.S are two good examples - to their independent grocer customers and members that don't have a retailer name on them. This tradition got its start as early as the 1950's in the U.S.

In fact, Tesco's venture brands strategy is very much modeled after what Pleasanton, California Safeway's Stores, Inc. has been doing for a number of years with it brands that don't feature "Safeway" on the label, such as its popular "O Organics" (organic foods) and "Eating Right" (healthy foods) brands; its new "Open Nature" (natural foods) brand; and others like its "Refresh" (carbonated beverages) and "Snack Artist" (chips and snack items) brands.

Safeway also markets its "O Organics" and "Eating Right" brands to other retailers, both in the U.S. and abroad, which is something Tesco is thinking about doing with some of its venture brands.

The etymology of 'Flash in the Pan'

Tesco's choice of "Flash in the Pan" as the name of its new brand of refrigerated ready meals is an interesting one from an etymological standpoint because the common definition of the phrase or idiom isn't one you would particularly want associated with a new food product brand.

The definition of "he (she) or it's a "flash in the pan" (and it can be worded slightly different depending on the dictionary) is: "Someone or something which disappoints by failing to deliver anything of value, despite a showy beginning."

For example: Football player Clive Burnberry is a "flash in a pan." Or: The new retail chain that got so much hype turned out to be a "flash in the pan."

The phrase "flash in the pan" is believed by experts to have originated in the 17th century. Flintlock muskets used at the time had small pans to hold charges of gunpowder. An attempt to fire the musket in which the gunpowder flared up without a bullet being fired was called a 'flash in the pan'.

The competing theory is the phrase "flash in the pan" originated much later, in California in the 19th Century during the Gold Rush. Prospectors who panned for gold in California's Mother Load Country are said to have became excited when they saw something glint in the pan, only to have their hopes dashed when it proved not to be gold but instead was a mere "flash in the pan." This material was also called "fools gold" by the minors.

Proponents of this origin thesis of "flash in the pan" say it ties in with another similar and related phrase, which is: "It didn't pan out." Gold prospectors used the phrase "pan out" regularly, such as saying spending a day mining 100 cubic foot of rocks might only "pan out" to $20 in gold.

Both phrases, flash in the pan" and "it didn't pan out" are terms of disappointment.

Tesco obviously is hoping consumers will define the "Flash in the Pan" brand name in their minds in a more literal sense.

Perhaps "flash," for example, standing for the mere five minutes (heating time) it takes for the ready meals to go from the refrigerator to the table. In other words "ready in a flash." Convenience. And the pan perhaps depicting the cooking vessel in which the convenient "Flash in the Pan" meals are prepared.

A tag line using such logic might go something like this: "Our "Flash in the Pan" ready meals go from your fridge, to a pan, and on to your kitchen table in just five minutes."

We don't dislike the "Flash in the Pan" name. It has a nice ring to it in  many ways. But we do wonder if Tesco realized what the common definition of "flash in the pan" is, and if it research-tested the brand name in any independent and significant way with consumers. Our sources don't know that answer.

After all, statistics show that majority of new food brands launched by consumer packaged goods companies into grocery stores don't make it. Retailers do better with their own brands because they own the stores and the shelves. But "brands" - manufacturer, retailer or venture - do need to stand on their own. And the last thing we think Tesco wants with its new Tesco Flash in the Pan" brand is for it to be a  ... "flash in the pan."

Related Stories

June 26, 2011: Tesco Bringing Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's 'goodness for kids' Brand to the UK - With a 'Tesco' Twist

June 27, 2011: Tesco Introduces First Items in Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market-Developed 'Tesco goodness for kids' Brand in United Kingdom Stores

September 4, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Unveils New fresh&easy 'goodness' Brand Items and Packaging

August 29, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Expanding its fresh&easy 'goodness' Co-Branded Line; Launching Numerous New Items

Also: Click on this link -  - for additional related stories.

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