Few companies are as synonymous with canned fruits and vegetables on the grocery store shelf as Del Monte Foods. But for much of its recent existence, the 135-year-old business was so focused on maintaining dominance in the space that it missed out on unlocking its brands’ potential in other areas.
“We should be thinking bolder and thinking outside the can to grow and innovate and differentiate, and we’ve set course for a very aggressive innovation agenda,” President and CEO Greg Longstreet said in an interview in 2019. “We had this untapped potential for the brands.”
In recent years, Del Monte Foods has moved quickly to expand its presence into other food categories, with a focus on on-the-go products and better-for you ingredients. Del Monte Foods has grown its portfolio by 20% and expanded far beyond the can to launch more than 50 new products in the past two years.
In addition to Joyba Bubble Tea announced this week, Del Monte Foods is introducing other new products, including Fruit Infusions Fruit Cup snacks infused with antioxidants and wholesome ingredients like turmeric and prebiotics; and Veggieful Riced Veggies that include grains, legumes and other complementary vegetables.
Del Monte Foods also said the items being launched this week, including Joyba Bubble Tea, further tap into other attributes important to consumers. The products are clean label, and they do not include artificial sweeteners or preservatives. The popping boba itself is made with a soft seaweed extract (alginate).
The Joyba Bubble Tea builds on the prior success Del Monte Foods had when it paired the popular bubbles with fruit cups two years ago. Bubble Fruit has been a big winner for the company, quickly allowing it to become a market leader in a category it estimates is worth more than $20 million.
Bibie Wu, chief marketing officer at Del Monte Foods, said the company noticed growing interest among Gen Z and other young consumers for tea shop beverages. At the same time, Del Monte Foods didn’t see bubble tea widely available in stores, which gave it an opportunity to enter the category and tap into its prior experience with the fruit cups.
Other brands such as Inotea and Ocean Bomb, for example, sell bubble tea but the products are typically just found online. Del Monte Foods said the differentiator for Joyba Bubble Tea include its national retail footprint and the fact the product can be consumed either refrigerated or shelf stable versus other offerings that have to be chilled.
The bubbles are especially popular in the U.S. on the West Coast with its large Asian population. Del Monte Foods said the Joyba Bubble Tea could give it a way to stand out in a beverage category where consumers have countless tea, juice, water, sports drink and other offerings to choose from.
“Beverages is a very competitive market overall, but the good thing is we felt we had something that was very differentiated that could play there,” Wu said. “It also was a way for us to continue to branch out and be relevant with new segments of the consumer. There was really no one bringing that experience to grocery stores, to convenience stores. You really had to go to a retail shop.”
There have been reports that the pearls used in tea are in low supply because of delays in unloading cargo shipments from Asia. Wu said Del Monte Foods is working with its suppliers, and does not anticipate having trouble getting enough of the bubbles for its teas and fruit cups.
Wu said Del Monte Foods plans on extending the Joyba brand in the future. “We’re hoping to make our first foray into bubble tea, but we think there are opportunities to take that many, many places in the future,” she said.