And the gold medal goes to . . . Crowley Foods.

There's no doubt that when J.K. Crowley purchased his dairy in 1904 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and founded the Crowley Dairy Company, he had great ambitions. Today he must be very proud, as the company, now known as Crowley Foods, and headquartered in Binghamton, N.Y., broke its own record at the 2005 Great New York State Fair, winning five gold medals and seven silver medals in the fair's prestigious dairy foods competition. In 2004, Crowley Foods set a record by winning 10 medals in the competition.

The winning continues. Garrity Communications, Ithaca, N.Y., recently received two prestigious bronze Telly Awards for TV ads that the agency created for Crowley Foods. The commercials were selected from more than 10,000 entries.

Accolades continue to come Crowley Foods' way, as the company is now being recognized as Dairy Foods' 2005 Best New Products Company of the Year. Congratulations!

"New products in our industry are an extremely critical factor for growth," says Joe Cervantes, COO. "Whether it is a refresh on existing categories such as a new popular flavor in yogurts, or a new product concept in health and wellness, or a structural packaging change meeting consumers' new lifestyle, we need to be listening to the consumer."

Many brands, many innovations

Crowley Foods, which is owned by H.P. Hood, Chelsea, Mass., is made up of six brands: Crowley, Heluva Good, Rosenberger's Dairy, Axelrod, Maggio Cheese and Penn Maid Dairy. Each of the six brands has a powerful image in the industry, and they are all leaders in the markets where they are available.

The company's namesake Crowley brand represents an image of dairy foods that are a trusted, healthy "part of your life, whatever your style." While all dairy products are considered healthy, Crowley enhances its image by giving consumers a variety of choices in products and flavors, valuable information about eating right and staying fit, and by consistently producing the best-tasting, best-quality products in its region. Crowley's retail customers are pleased to see a dairy company take the initiative to add value to the dairy case and bring consumers' attention to the health and wellness that dairy foods offer.

Heluva Good is viewed by consumers as a quality food company that delivers on its promise of bold, great-tasting dips and cheeses. Repeatedly, people say that the Heluva Good name says it all. "Our image is that of a brand that doesn't take life too seriously and that having a bit of fun is good," said Jay Snedeker, g.m. and v.p. of sales for Heluva Good. Heluva Good's customers on the other hand know that the company takes its business seriously and are finding that Heluva Good's sales are growing, and growing the category.

Rosenberger's Dairies has been part of the fabric of Pennsylvania's Delaware Valley for 80 years. The company is best known for its high-quality products, and while it sells through traditional retail channels, Rosenberger's still offers its "old-fashioned" home-delivery service in neighborhoods around Philadelphia. Consumers view Rosenberger's as a trusted and nostalgic dairy brand.

Also a long time Philadelphia-focused dairy brand, Penn Maid is viewed as a contemporary and fun brand by consumers. Penn Maid is very active in the communities and schools in its market area, and frequently audiences are entertained by "Queenie the Cow," Penn Maid's mascot.

The Maggio brand name stands for Italian cheeses made with old-world goodness. It is a company that has grown from an Italian heritage in Philadelphia and it is a name that consumers trust for finely crafted mozzarella, ricotta, shredded cheeses and grated cheeses.

And finally, everyone from The Big Apple knows Axelrod. The brand's reputation stands for quality Kosher cultured products, freshness and value.

It's been a busy year

During the fourth quarter of 2004, a complete redesign of Crowley's branded packaging was implemented. The goal of the package redesign was to refresh the brand's look at the point of sale and to better utilize the packaging as a visual communicator of Crowley's new positioning strategy. The new look was applied to all product lines-fluid milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream-so that consumers and customers would see a consistent, integrated family of packaging.

In the redesign process, some products were given new flavor names and new types within the lines were introduced. For example, Crowley extended its yogurt line to include several no-sugar-added flavors to address the needs of consumers on low-sugar diets. A feature flavor program was added to the yogurt line, and flavor names were changed from common names, such as banana cream to "Bask in Banana Cream." Crowley's full-fat premium chocolate milk was also given a new name, "Chock Fulla Chocolate Milk," to better communicate the rich chocolate flavor and milkshake-like consistency of the product.

Heluva Good continued its Limited Edition dip program with two new feature flavors in 2005. Heluva Good Five Onion Dip, which was rolled out in the first part of this year, featured Heluva Good's signature real sour cream combined with red onion, white onion, shallot, leak and chive seasonings. The second Limited Edition flavor, introduced in October, is Shallot and Peppercorn Dip. Again, starting with a real sour cream base, Heluva Good designed this flavor around a familiar onion flavor and took it up a notch with the taste of fresh ground peppercorns.

The company reintroduced its ranch-flavored dip this year with a new formula and a new name. Heluva Good Classic Ranch Dip became Buttermilk Ranch Dip. The change in the flavor profile was predicated by consumer taste testing. Still made with real sour cream, a new blend of seasonings was developed that combine the familiar flavor of cool ranch with rich buttermilk undertones.

"Heluva Good puts a great deal of value on quality and using only real sour cream in our dips is an example of that commitment," says Snedeker. "Oil- and water-based dips cost less to make, but they don't give people the creamy mouthfeel or the taste and texture that they like about Heluva Good dips. And because we are committed to quality, we give consumers a consistently good product that they trust. That is worth more to them so it is worth more to us.

"The growth in our dip business is evidence of our product quality. When Heluva Good dips enter a new market," says Snedeker, "we frequently see that as our dip share grows, we are also growing the category. We are attracting new consumers to the category because our product is different, and better, than what they previously could buy."

Heluva Good also introduced a new line of cheese products. Heluva Good Real Cheese Snacks was introduced in late summer, just in time for back to school. The line includes multi-pack bags of individually wrapped pieces of sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack with jalapeño and mozzarella string cheese, as well as Heluva Good's famous Cheddar curds. The snack cheese line was created by bringing existing, but previously unrelated, cheese products into a family of convenience products that share a line name and a new package design that defines the type of cheese by color.

Having plenty of flavor options also makes content consumers. Rosenberger's introduced a new line of holistic tea drinks this year, with the flavor focus being on green teas. Axelrod refreshed its yogurt line with several new flavors, as did Penn Maid.

Innovation takes on many forms

Due to the competitive nature of the marketplace, innovation is very important to a brand's strength. Innovation can take on several forms: the physical product, the package look and/or function, the marketing and the positioning. In order for Crowley Foods to grow its brands and remain relevant to its consumers, innovation has become increasingly important.

Indeed, the most successful "new product" launch in 2005 has been the repositioning of the Crowley brand and the closely orchestrated launch of its new packaging in concert with the sales and marketing departments' efforts. It was a completely integrated program, with each component supporting the brand's positioning strategy. "This wasn't just about advertising," says Cervantes. "The launch was a joint effort between all our departments, and because it was, we were able to execute well and be very effective at the customer level and the consumer level."

Components of the launch program included sales materials, full-line packaging redesign, new flavors and flavor names, advertising, new truck graphics, a redesigned Web site focused on the consumer and the implementation of a consumer health and wellness information program.

"Our packaging redesign was launched in June of this year, and while it is still too soon to see the impact on our sales number, it has had a positive impact in terms of new distribution and feedback from customers and others in the trade," says Cervantes "Our sales introduction was very strong and customers have welcomed the change, calling it refreshing and a boost to the category, as well as a very strong brand message about Crowley."

Part of the redesign included adding the dairy and weight-loss message onto packaging. "The success for Crowley has been the ability to add one more strong attribute to our consumer brand offering, and to date, Crowley is the only brand in our core market area to be actively communicating this message-another point of difference from the competition," says Cervantes.

What can we expect from the company down the road? Most likely, it will be a lot. "Our new creative organization is focused on value-added products and the excitement they will bring to our brand and product portfolios," concludes Cervantes.