Smartcandy vitamin-infused kids’ snack founder: ‘Functional doesn’t have to come in a brown paper bag’

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Smartcandy: ‘Functional doesn’t have to come in a brown paper bag’

Related tags Nutrition

Aside from making a functional, better-for-you-snack taste good, the hardest part is selling it—an even tougher proposition if your primary target market is children aged six to 18 and their moms. 

But Snap Infusion’s founders (parents of two boys, aged seven and eight) aim to address the disconnect between fun, tasty food and functional food with Smartcandy, a vitamin-infused snack for kids that rolled out at Target and Walmart on Feb. 1.

“We’ve found that a lot of times stuff that tastes good isn’t good for you, and stuff that’s good for you often doesn’t deliver on the flavor profile—or fun,” ​co-founder Andrea Stoll tells FoodNavigator-USA. “Stuff that’s better for you shouldn’t have to be so serious and come in a brown paper bag. We wanted to create something that delivers on the functional profile that’s also fun and that kids can relate to.”

Nike meets Willy Wonka

Stoll and her husband Eric Stoll launched Boston-based Snap Infusion in 2011. They debuted Supercandy a year later, a line of functional, flavorful candies infused with B vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes for active Millennials—or as Stoll puts it, “Nike meets Willy Wonka.” ​Not long after that, customers started asking for a kid-oriented version of the snacks.

“Kids can eat Supercandy, too, but it’s more focused on physical energy,”​ Stoll says. “We wanted something dedicated to mental energy that can support kids throughout the day.”

Smartcandy is formulated with a blend of Vitamin A for eye health, three B vitamins to support converting sugar and carbohydrates into sustained energy, and vitamin C for immunity. The trans fat-, high-fructose corn syrup-free candies come in four varieties: sweet and sour gummies; and Froot, a proprietary snack with a candy shell and a layer of yogurt encasing a strawberry or orange center.

The team relied on a lot of early feedback from their homegrown focus group—the Stoll children and their friends. Out the gate one of the most popular varieties is the sour gummy.

“Companies haven’t nailed the sour flavor profile in a better-for-you product, so that’s already standing out for us,”​ Stoll says.

Positioned as a snack ‘alternative’ rather than a hard sell

The 0.5-oz. candy packs are being positioned as mainstream healthy alternatives to snacking for kids—ideal in small amounts, such as a lunchbox snack, afternoon pick-me-up or pre-soccer game snack. Smartcandy was developed within school guidelines for carbohydrates, fat and sugar. But, as Stoll notes, it’s still candy—and meant to be enjoyed as part of an active lifestyle.

“We’ve presented Smartcandy in a way that’s part of an active lifestyle,” ​she says. “Yeah, it’s candy. We’re comfortable with that. There’s sugar in fruit, too. You expect kids to be active in school and eating sugar and carbs to get through day. That’s not something we’re staying away from.”

In order to work the product into kids’ everyday lives, the company remains heavily focused on sampling and partnerships. In addition to sampling demos and connecting with Mommy bloggers, the brand is looking to partner with retailers and lifestyle events.

“Basically we’re really focused on people trying the product. It’s not just connecting at point of sale,” ​she says. “We also recently brought Smartcandy to the Kids Food Festival in New York City, where they introduce kids to different types of food and show them how to prepare it. We want to create opportunities for them to have the product as an alternative to other things, as opposed to going for a hard sell.”

Better-for-you becoming the mandate for most channels

Stoll declined to share sales or volume figures for Smartcandy or sister brand Supercandy. Less than two months after the Smartcandy rollout, Stoll says the company is excited about the reception of the brand and product, especially among buyers, who often struggle to sell functional food products.

“Buyers are being challenged to bring in more better-for-you stuff. In a challenging situation because those products just don’t sell as well as mainstream favorites,” she says.​ “But better-for-you is becoming the mandate of the future for most stores. We’re finding that offering them up in this fun, flavorful way is resonating with both consumers and buyers.”

The brand is eyeing wide-ranging mainstream distribution—from grocery stores to less traditional channels, such as movie theaters and hotels.

“In the back half of this year, we are going to be make a big push for grocery distribution, where moms are shopping for their kids’ snacks,” ​Stoll says. “But we’re also hoping to reach venues in the travel and hospitality channels—and anywhere else people are looking for delicious snacks.”

Indeed, as healthier eating evolves past trend into lifestyle—with healthy mandates filtering down to schools, Snap Infusion is excited to be ahead of the snack products curve from a manufacturing standpoint.

“People are demanding that snacks deliver on better for you that deliver on flavor that have all these elements to them,” ​Stoll says. “It happened in a lot of other categories. It is the way world is going. Some people who were not accepting it initially are surprised and having to hurry up and make changes. We’re excited about that. Hope people would be more aware of what they’re are putting in their bodies.”

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