Federal Ammunition Goes Massive in 2020

This year, Federal Ammo introduced an astonishing number of new SKUs, and there's no sign of slowing down.

Federal Ammunition Goes Massive in 2020

At the 2020 SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January, Federal Ammunition created quite the ruckus. New products. New partnerships. Creative marketing. With about 1,500 employees and nearly 90 years in business, and about a 30 percent share of the ammo market in the United States, Federal is the big dog on the block. When Federal barks, people listen.

The 2020 SHOT Show was Federal opening the curtain on an aggressive product and promotion strategy for the new year. Hunting Retailer had the chance to speak with Federal President of Ammunition (as well as CCI and Spear Brands) Jason Vanderbrink in the wake of SHOT Show.

Jason Vanderbrink, president of ammunition for Federal, CCI and Spear.
Jason Vanderbrink, president of ammunition for Federal, CCI and Spear.

The 42-year-old Vanderbrink, who serves on the Board of Governors for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, was downright giddy when talking about the direction Federal is taking. Here’s some of what Vanderbrink had to say about the big year ahead.


HR: Is it just us, or is 2020 a particularly big year for new product introduction for Federal? We saw something like 130 new SKUs being introduced in 34 product lines? Is that a lot for Federal?

JV: It’s our busiest and biggest year ever. If you look at every category we play in, we have what we consider the best new product in every category. We’ve gotten lots of accolades  from the press already, which is good feedback for us.


HR: Why this year?

JV: When the market went down for ammo for a few years, we never turned our back on R&D. We went heavy into designing new products and using new technologies. We went even heavier into marketing. It takes a couple of years for something new to come to a head once it’s in the pipeline, and this year, everything seemed to happen at the same time.


HR: That’s a lot of new product. Will you sustain this pace?

JV: We will always push the envelope when we think there’s a consumer need for it. I’m not sure you’ll see 130 new SKUs from us every year, but there’s certainly a bunch more coming as well.


HR: What’s your favorite new Federal product and why?

JV: The Federal Premium Terminal Ascent (below) is our new long-range big game cartridge. There is no better bullet. It’s pretty impressive what that bullet can do no matter the caliber, the range or the game.

HR: How have retailers reacted to this gusher of new products?

JV: They think it’s a lot. They love the innovation, but we know we’re throwing a lot of stuff at them. Some have wondered how they can make room for it all. We realize with so much new, that a retailer may find it hard to fit it all into their assortment. So we’re putting a lot into our marketing side. The easiest way to help a retailer out is to create demand.


HR: Are we experiencing the “good old days” of ammo, with new technologies and materials pushing the performance up on precision and performance?

JV: Not sure if it’s the good old days; it’s far leaner that it used to be. But the current market situation allows companies that are well-capitalized, that are already market leaders like Federal, to continue to challenge the status quo. Hunters and shooters are always on the lookout for new technologies that make them better, and we’re always going to push that envelope with new products. Our objective is to be the leader in every single category. That means innovations, partnerships, marketing — all of it. We’re never going to rest on our laurels.


HR: Federal recently announced a partnership with Steven Rinella – the MeatEater. How did that come about?

JV: Steven is the shining star in the hunting industry right now, but he has used our ammo for many, many years. We were having discussions and the idea came about as to ‘What if we came up with MeatEater ammo?’ Steven has such a following that a lot of what he endorses comes through at the cash register. He’s as authentic as it comes. This is our first partnership like this, and the demographic and causes that he aligns with are certainly essential to us. We’re doing things like offering non-toxic ammo and putting a recipe on each box. His message that hunting is part of living is an important concept, and maybe it allows us to target a demographic who are on the fence about hunting.

HR: As the total number of hunters declines across the country, how has that had an impact on Federal’s growth strategy?

JV: The growth in ammo is more in the shooting world. Federal is still a hunting company, so will continue to keep hunters as a priority. In the last decade or so, millions of new shooters have come into the market. New hunters have not. How do you cross-pollinate that? Rinella is one way — we want to focus on hunting as a way to eat. You’ll see that message that wild game is good for you on our social media channels and some of our other outreach. Maybe we can get some shooters to try hunting. We have to connect those dots.


HR: In 2019, Federal Ammunition began selling direct to consumer online. You have a huge array of products, maybe too much for a small retailer. What are you doing to help the small, independent retailer?

JV: We rely on mom and pop shops. They can sell more products, generally, because their sales force tends to be longer tenured, well informed and take time to talk to the customer. A few years ago, we started a program that really puts an emphasis on the independent level. The mom and pop shops are always great communicators directly to the customer, and we’ve made that a priority. On the other hand, we’re selling in big-box stores, too. It’s a balancing act, but there’s certainly plenty of room for both.”


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