And there is still huge potential to grow, according to Bill Graham, president at GoGo squeeZ maker Materne North America, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after the official opening of an $85m manufacturing facility in Nampa, Idaho, which complements the firm’s plant in Traverse City, Michigan.
“I believe this category has the potential to be worth more than $1bn over the next three to four years. The opportunity in the space is tremendous. Household penetration of fruit squeezes in the US is growing very fast, but it’s still only 13% compared to 36% in France.
“We launched the fruit squeeze category for kids in the US in 2008 [100% fruit in a re-sealable squeezable fruit pouch] and we are still growing at more than 50% year over year by bringing in new households and encouraging people to trade up to larger pack sizes. I can see us more than doubling the size of our business over the next three to four years.”
Retailers are allocating more space to squeezable fruit snacks
He added: “We launched in the apple sauce/canned fruit and vegetable aisle, which for many retailers had traditionally been flat and even declining, and it really took hold. But we’re also testing locations in the snacks aisle and other areas in the store. Retailers love it because it’s on trend and it’s driven tremendous growth, so they are allocating more space to it.”
The new $85m GoGo squeeZ facility in Nampa, Idaho, is close to major apple growing regions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It currently has 122 full-time employees and is on-target to have 173 by the end of 2015 and 284 by end of 2017.
“We believe that we offer superior quality and freshness, more variety, and a cleaner ingredient profile (no preservatives, no added sugar/high fructose corn syrup). But competition is good. We’re investing in driving the growth of the whole category.”
Portable and healthy
He added: “American consumers’ relationships with food continue to change. It’s less about dieting and losing weight and more about being very aware of what I’m putting in my body. We’ve turned the conventional wisdom that portable snacking can’t be healthy right side up.”
While young children are the primary consumers of the pouches – the target audience is children aged 3-7 years – children aged 8-12 are also a growing consumer base along with Moms, athletes, runners, bikers, and fitness enthusiasts, said Graham.
“It’s ideal for lunch boxes, but also for breakfast, afternoon snacks, any time really. Just a couple of weeks ago at my daughter’s soccer game, one of the Moms had brought a 24-pack of GoGo squeeZ to share after soccer practice.”
A big opportunity to target adults as well as kids
Like a lot of healthy snacking brands, GoGo squeeZ started in Whole Foods but steadily expanded distribution to chains including Target, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Albertsons, Sam's Club and Walmart along with high profile foodservice brands including KFC and Applebee’s, and is now in well over 50,000 locations, said Graham.
“We see big opportunities in foodservice and other channels from airlines and drugstores to convenience stores, schools and vending machines [GoGo squeeZ pouches are shelf-stable with a 12-month shelf life]. Anywhere that sells healthy snacks is relevant, and quite frankly, that’s everywhere.”
Historically, growth has come from adding new flavors, new pack sizes (4, 12, 16, 20, 24 pouches per pack) and organic variants as well as new accounts, but the firm is also looking at new platforms, he said.
“We launched a new fruit and veggie platform this past year and it’s off to a great start, and we’re also looking at a couple of new platforms; one that’s kids-oriented and one looking at the adult segment.
“I see a big opportunity in the adult space, although I can’t give any more details right now.”