The people behind Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods like to say that once a person tastes their products, they’ll have that customer for life. The confidence is certainly not without warrant. After all, Dr. Praeger’s got its start with a line of gefilte fish that has a loyal following among kosher communities. Its founders, however, Drs. Peter Praeger and Eric Somberg, knew that simple good-for-you and good-tasting food wasn’t the property of just one community, prompting the company to diversify its offerings with veggie burgers, veggie pancakes, breaded fish, a kids’ line, and a line of chicken-less products including nuggets and patties. CEO Larry Praeger, Peter Praeger’s son, explains that the decision was not only beneficial to consumers, but to the company, as well.
“We’ve been changing the direction of the company to position ourselves as a natural food company,” Praeger says. “Instead of seeing us in the kosher-only section, you will see us in the natural food section. In most cases, supermarket chains tend to have more natural foods than kosher foods. If you have 160 markets, 20 of them might have a kosher section but 120 will have a natural foods section. It’s been challenging to make that switch, but we have been very successful to make that change and become a premier natural foods company.”
With national distribution in Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and a coast-to-coast presence in mainstream grocery stores and small independent chains, Dr. Praeger’s has successfully built its reputation among the fast-growing consumer demand for natural foods. The company boasts that zero-tolerance for artificial ingredients, colors and fillers and a total embrace of “real food” – including flash-frozen vegetables and wild pollock from cold northern waters – have attracted consumers looking for a sensible, great-tasting diet.
“Consumers out there are busy and they want to shop for frozen food, but they don’t want to give up the feeling of a home-quality cooked meal,” Praeger explains. “We’ve tried to upscale our product and give consumers something where they understand all the ingredients on the back of the box.”
Today, the mission is to grow on the foundation the company has built. Praeger says it’s ever-important to catch the consumer’s eye.
“My role is overseeing the marketing and sales of the company and about a year ago we dove into wanting to change the look of our packaging,” he says. “We wanted to come full circle and show how we’re a natural food company. We’ve started putting it out there over the past few months and from the buyer’s standpoint they love the new packaging. It has given new energy to our brand.”
Along with an updated design, Dr. Praeger’s new packaging is sending out clear messages. On its fish products, for example, consumers can see the MSC-certified label on the front. Dr. Praeger’s is also pursuing a third-party certification for its gluten-free items as well as Non-GMO certification.