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5 strategies that fueled PUR’s more than 5,000% growth in five years

By Elizabeth Crawford

06-Oct-2016
Last updated on 06-Oct-2016 at 14:40 GMT2016-10-06T14:40:11Z

PUR Co. CEO Jay Klein surrounded by gum in a warehouse. Source: The PUR Co.
PUR Co. CEO Jay Klein surrounded by gum in a warehouse. Source: The PUR Co.

In a world where most business growth comes from the tech, oil, gas and software industries, gum and mint maker The PÜR Company was “sweetly surprised” recently to secure a spot in PROFIT 500’s top 10 list of fastest growing Canadian companies and the No. 1 position in manufacturing and distribution, according to the firm’s CEO and founder. 

Jay Klein, who began his entrepreneurial career in confections as a child selling Airheads, bubble gum and lollipops out of his backpack before growing up to found PÜR as a better-for-you confection company, attributed the “happy news” about The PÜR Co.’s “win for the candy guys and the CPG world” to his talented and dedicated staff.

But with growth of more than 500 times between 2010 and 2015 there is clearly more to the company’s success than teamwork – even if that is a vital component.

Indeed, according to Klein, the astronomical growth comes from a well-planned and –executed marketing strategy that that PÜR implemented from the start and has followed through with at each phase of development.

Strategy 1: Running for mayor

“Straight from the beginning, we had a go-to-market strategy that we called running for mayor,” which called upon the door-storming and glad-handing techniques often relied upon by political candidates, Klein said.

He explained: “We had to go door to door to create strong relationships and give time to our retail partners so that we could build our brand with their sales associates and also our customers who purchased our product via our sales channels.”

This strategy requires a lot of time and energy to execute well, but it also gives brands a chance to ensure retailers are merchandising the product in a way that is noticeable, creates a positive experience for consumers and aligns with the company’s values.

Strategy 2: Promote your agenda and follow through on promises

Just like candidates need to spell out their platforms when they run for office, this strategy required PÜR to clearly communicate its products’ point of differentiation to earn buyers' votes, Klein said.

“We are doing something completely original or unique by taking the chemicals and artificial sweeteners out of our products so that they provide the same taste and same experience you would expect in a conventional product but in a better-for-you product,” Klein said of PÜR.

He explained that PÜR’s mission is to “kick aspartame” and provide a sugar-free product without compromising on quality. It does this in part by using xylitol as a natural, non-GMO sweetener that is easier for the body to process, benefits oral health and is safe for the diabetic community because it doesn’t spike insulin levels like sugar.

Unlike other alternative sweeteners, xylitol doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste, he added, noting: “My biggest beef with products on the market today that are gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free and all these things is that they often also are taste-free. The hardest part is ensuring the quality expectation of the product you making meets the demand expectation for what the consumer is looking for.”

Strategy 3: Double, Double

Another strategy that PÜR used to rapidly grow its company was a model called “double, double,” which Klein explained aimed to double distribution and double consumption so that each year the company experienced four times the growth.

PÜR doubled distribution points in part by taking minimums off the table and investing in the success of selling, Klein said. “We had to accommodate our retail partners by not over-stuffing their stores. So, if they wanted three flavors of gum or five flavors of gum, we were happy to do that,” and as a result tore down a significant potential barrier to access to increasing distribution.

The company also doubled distribution points by convincing retailers to place the product in multiple places in a single store, such as at the register but also at a special set-up, such as an end-cap or display unit that invited consumers to try the product.

As for doubling consumption, PÜR encouraged more consumers to try the product and use more of the product by converting curiosity into consumption, Klein said.

PÜR did this by aggressively sampling the product and through “random acts of kindness,” in which the company picked a theme or cause and then handed out packs of the gum to support it, Klein said.

PÜR also encourages “peer to peer engagement” by giving packs of gum to people to share with their friends, Klein said, recalling schoolyard days when a child would hold out a pack of gum and suddenly have as many friends as she had pieces of gum to share.

Finally, PÜR is doubling consumption by launching new products that bring in new consumer groups and serve new need states.

Last month, PÜR launched two new flavors – bubble gum and chocolate mint. The chocolate mint goes beyond freshening breath to help curb afternoon cravings for sweets.

“At 3 in the afternoon, instead of having a chocolate bar, someone might eat the chocolate mint gum which provides exactly what they are looking for in terms of taste but without the calories,” he said.

The Bubble Gum flavor was launched in response to consumers who wanted a better-for-you gum to share with their children that wasn’t too “spicy” for young taste buds, which can be an issue with the mint and cinnamon gums.

Strategy 4: Set the price right

PÜR also drove growth by offering its better-for-you gums and mints at a price comparable to conventional options.

“This comes a lot from my mom, who raised me as a single parent and did everything she could to provide me what she though I needed. But today, there is so much talk about living better lifestyles that I think it is our responsibility to try to challenge ourselves to deliver a product at a price that is affordable and makes sense so that you can live the values you are told,” Klein said.

He added all too often better-for-you products are at a price point that is prohibitive for the masses, which dampens their sales and their impact on public health.

Strategy 5: Launch in the right place at the right time

This last strategy might have more to do with luck than calculated planning, but Klein said part of PÜR’s success comes from launching in the natural and better-for-you channel at a time when these outlets were booming.

“The biggest growth has come from the specialty and natural channels, which are seeing this huge surge,” and into which PÜR fits nicely, Klein said. As a result, the brand is in almost 50,000 retail locations, all outside of the mass channel.

He added that the mass channel is so large, and gum and mints have such a small footprint within these stores, that PÜR can’t make the splash it can in smaller specialty stores.

He added, “We try to win where we can win.”

Reflecting on PÜR’s success, Klein encourages others who want to follow the same path to “be motivated by creating something for the greater good, instead of being driven by a monetary milestone – that allows you to learn from your mistakes and take risks and also grow from passion.”

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