Topco Jumps on Chuck Wagon

SKOKIE, Ill. — Chuck Wagon dog food — a former Purina brand that disappeared from retail shelves years ago — has been revived by Topco Associates.

K-VA-T Food Stores [3], Price Chopper Supermarkets [4], Lowes Foods [5], Associated Grocers [6], Piggly Wiggly Carolina, United Supermarkets [7] and Tops Friendly Markets [8] are among the retailers carrying the relaunched brand.

Read more: Price Chopper Hops on Chuck Wagon [9]

Chuck Wagon packaging touts the fact that “the classic is back!”

Purina originally owned Chuck Wagon, but abandoned it in 2005. Topco acquired the rights late last year, said Glenn Backus, the private-label co-op’s senior vice president of Center Store program management and innovation.

When a company abandons a brand but leaves the trademark open, other companies can pick it up, Backus explained.

Topco markets other dog food brands, including Paws, a national-brand equivalent that competes against Purina, and Paws Professional, a super premium line similar to Iams and Purina One.

Topco’s members wanted a brand that could be positioned between the value and national-brand-equivalent tiers. Doing so would allow the cooperative’s retail members to compete against Wal-Mart [10]’s Ol’ Roy and Kroger [11]’s Old Yeller dog food brands.

To do so, Topco could either create a new brand or leverage the equity of an existing one. It opted for the latter after learning that the Chuck Wagon trademark was available. Topco worked with Alliance Brands, a Chicago-based brand licensing and acquisition firm, to obtain the brand.

It marks the first time Topco acquired the rights to an existing brand.

“This is a new philosophy on our part,” said Backus, adding that Topco is on the lookout for brands to acquire in other categories.

Topco’s management team along with its members decided the time was right to make its foray into the realm of brand acquisition because Chuck Wagon held such strong brand recognition, Backus said. Most consumers over age 30 remember the popular 1970s television commercials that showed a dog chasing a miniature chuck wagon.

“It’s a brand that resonates well with consumers,” said Backus. “It has a positive connotation.”

Chuck Wagon Dry Dog Dinner is available in 44-, 13- and 3.5-pound bags, along with dog biscuits and jerky strips. Topco has redesigned the brand’s packaging to make it appeal to a contemporary audience.

The brand has already added incremental sales to the category at K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., according to Richard Gunn, K-VA-T’s executive vice president of merchandising and marketing.

K-VA-T priced the brand in line with Ol’ Roy and Old Yeller, at $14.99 for a 44-pound bag.

Shoppers have commented how happy they are to see the brand back on the shelves, according to Gunn.

“There’s an emotional attachment to these kinds of legacy brands,” he said.