New O-I food containers test-marketed at Churchill’sWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
For nearly a year, Walt Churchill’s Markets in Perrysburg and Maumee have served as test market sites for an innovative new line of glass food containers from Owens-Illinois (O-I) called Versa.
Almost everyone has tried to pour sauce neatly from a jar only to have it splash messily over the rim or tried in vain to scrape the last drops of salsa from a jar without hitting their knuckles on the rim.
O-I aims to address those familiar consumer hassles with its Versa line, which it plans to bring to retail store shelves throughout the U.S., Europe and South America.
To test the new containers, O-I partnered with Churchill’s, which agreed to sell a limited run of each jar filled with its own signature line of products.
“They have the creativity of coming up with a jar they think has potential and then we try to match a product to the jar,” said Walt Churchill, owner and president of Walt Churchill’s Market. “They want to experiment with different containers and see how the market accepts them and we’re trying to develop a private label, a stable of signature products you might say. Over the years we’ve been pushing the envelope, working with different companies, so this was just a natural extension of that. I’m looking forward to continuing doing these new products.”
Saga Shoffner, O-I’s vice president of global marketing, said Churchill’s was “the perfect partner.”
“It’s in our backyard, a specialty grocery store, known and trusted in the marketplace. They bring special foods to market for their customers and they are interested in experimenting,” Shoffner said.
The first product, which hit shelves at Churchill’s in April, was the VersaFlow, a 26-ounce marinara-style jar with a built-in pour spout. A smaller 12-ounce version, designed for sauces and condiments, launched in October. The limited run of larger marinara jars is sold out, but Churchill’s still carries honey chipotle sauce in the smaller VersaFlow jars.
The VersaFlip jar is the third and most recent product in the Versa line. Filled with 16 ounces of Churchill’s special recipe Salsa Rustica, the VersaFlip debuted Jan. 18. Northwest Ohio is the only testing location in the U.S. for the new glass container.
The VersaFlip’s unique design features a wide opening for easy dipping and, once the salsa is too low for dipping, facets along the lower half of the jar allow it to be tipped and stay tipped, making it easier to reach the last bit of salsa.
The Versa brand is all about making the consumer experience with food better, Shoffner said.
“We’ve had a really good response from people,” Shoffner said. “Overwhelmingly when people see [the VersaFlow], it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s fantastic!’ It’s an immediate get. It’s similar with the VersaFlip. When it’s sitting here, it looks like a regular jar, but the minute you tip it, people get it. They’re like ‘Oh, that’s so cool. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?’ It’s easy to envision a lot of different products in this.”
The products seem to be resonating with consumers. Half the limited run of salsa jars have already been sold, Shoffner said.
O-I’s focus has shifted from simply selling glass products to being a leader in innovation, Shoffner said.
“At one point, O-I’s business was driven by more of a commodity volume. How many bottles can we sell you today?” Shoffner said. “The O-I today and in the future is focused more on our customers’ needs and driving their business through bringing innovation that helps our customers differentiate themselves on the retail shelf.”
O-I is working on finding a commercial customer for its Versa jars and more Versa designs are in the works, Shoffner said.
“Right now we’re working all over the world with our marketing and sales teams to commercialize it with a customer,” Shoffner said. “There’s more to come in the Versa pipeline, absolutely.”
Churchill’s Markets are located at 26625 Dixie Hwy. in Perrysburg and 3320 Briarfield Blvd. in Maumee.
Owens-Illinois, headquartered in Perrysburg, is the world’s largest glass container manufacturer. The company employs more than 24,000 people at 81 plants in 21 countries and had revenues of $7.4 billion in 2011.