The UK-headquartered online healthy snacks service kick-started US operations in January 2014 and business has boomed since – achieving a run rate of $32m this year.
However, Graze.com CEO Anthony Fletcher said such explosive growth had been no easy task.
“The US is an amazing opportunity but also a challenge for a British company to crack and we really need to focus on business out there,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Since entering the US market, he said Graze had already altered between 40-50% of its portfolio.
“My expectation is that this number will climb rapidly over the next six months as we see more data and learn more about the US. The product has to be far more localized than I might have expected it to be.”
What makes a good BBQ sauce?
There were a number of flavors and products that had flopped in the US market already, Fletcher said, for example the British favorite red onion chutney.
The different flavor expectations between the US and UK was something Graze was starting to grasp more clearly, he said - “it’s incredibly subtle and incredibly important”. Even opinions on what makes a good barbecue sauce differed from the UK, he said.
“Taste profiles are different between the two and that’s something we’re going to fully embrace.”
Data crunching and online speed
Graze was at an advantage to do that, Fletcher said, because of its direct relationship with consumers, plentiful data and fast supply chain which enabled market testing, fast changes and withdrawals of underperforming products.
“This isn’t about a big statement launch in a retailer; it’s probably closer to how many brands emerge which is with smaller retailers, trying things, getting exposure and feedback… Because you’re allowed to make some products which fail, you get those hits as well as those misses.”
One slightly more unconventional product that had done exceptionally well in the US, for example, was Holly’s spicy satay made up of honey chili almonds, peanuts, coconut and goji berries. “You look at it and go ‘well there are a lot of reasons why that won’t be popular’, but the taste profile is definitely interesting and innovative and it’s earning a spot in the range,” he said.
Being able to use direct feedback from customers was a huge help, he said.
“It’s a combination of looking at our data and interacting… By pooling those you get a very rich view on what customers think, especially if you prompt a conversation – they’re always happy to give you more.”