FoodNavigator-USA (FNU) caught up with Gabriel Poblet Maristany, the entrepreneur behind NUWI ancient-grain-powered drinkable snacks, to find out why he thinks he can beat the odds.
THE PRODUCT: NUWI drinkable snacks have a thick texture like yogurt, and combine purified water with quinoa flour, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrate/vegetable purees, and natural flavors.
Packaged in 283ml glass bottles and available in four fruit/sweet variants (apple, banana, strawberry, blueberry), and three savory variants (carrots & ginger, split peas, tomato), each NUWI snack contains 150-215 kcals, 3-9g protein, and 3-6g fiber.
The snacks, which were first launched in 2013, are now sold in 250+ stores in the New York Metropolitan area including Whole Foods Market, independent organic & natural retailers, delis, cafes, and offices.
FNU: Most new products fail. How can you beat the odds?
GPM: A good idea is not enough. You need money to support it and the right execution and the right communication. Your message must be well understood and communicated.
For a new innovative product, you need to be patient, and be ready to explain what the consumption moment is, what the product will replace, and target consumers open to your message. So we’re going after people that are familiar with quinoa, that are tired of bars as the only snack option in their offices.
We’re also starting slow, which is not great for cashflow, but it’s deliberate as we want to consolidate our position in New York and make sure we have a product that consumers understand before we start expanding elsewhere and spending huge amounts of money.
FNU: Small companies always spend a lot on sampling to begin with. Does it work?
GPM: Yes, but we’ve found that sampling at special events and small food shows is much more effective than in stores, where people are busy and don’t have so time to talk.
FNU: How do you position drinkable snacks?
GPM: Liquid foods are common in Spain and some other markets, but they are still quite new to the US. However, we are seeing more brands enter the market, and the more the better, as it educates consumers. We are approaching the market in a different way to Oatworks [which markets itself as a beverage/smoothie with oats, rather than a food/snack], but we’re based on the same consumer insights.
FNU: How do retailers see drinkable snacks?
GPM: I think we have an open window of opportunity as beverage buyers are looking for new stuff. At the moment they have this cooler space in stores and they are just throwing everything in there, from chia beverages to NUWI snacks and coconut water, as they don’t know where to put them. I think in the past people were clear about where to position their brands but now it doesn’t work like that.
FNU: How can small companies compete in a category dominated by global giants?
GPM: I used to work for Coca-Cola, which has a brand that captures everyone, but it’s almost impossible to do that today. In the past, fishing nets had big holes and you could catch a big fish easily, but now the fish are too small and you won’t catch them with a big net anymore. Smaller entrepreneurial companies are looking for these smaller fishes.
The good thing about being small is that you can be more flexible. In a big company, if you want to change anything, it’s tough, it takes a long time and there are always politics involved. A small company can move faster and that can give you an advantage. As an entrepreneur I can change things without having to ask [permission].
FNU: How do you identify consumer trends that have potential?
GPM: I’ve always found that the best insights come up when you interact with consumers in the field. Consumers are focused on functional drinks, and they want an emotional connection to a brand, but they don’t always know exactly what they want.
FNU: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the food & beverage arena?
GPM: If you are doing something innovative, you have to be patient and persistent, and be prepared to educate people in one region at a time. You also have to be flexible, so if things change, you can adapt your business plan.