He explains that pouches, which the company fills with sophisticated ingredient and flavor blends, are poised to revolutionize the applesauce and fruit cup aisle – just as they did the baby food category, which has not evolved much in the last 25 years.
But in order to succeed, pouched snacks for school-aged children must distance themselves from baby food with packaging and flavors that appeal to older children’s personalities, Watt said.
They also must meet parents’ demand for something that is nutritional, but which won’t end up in the garbage uneaten at school or traded for something at the lunch table, Watt added.
Playing it cool
Go Gourmet ensured Slammers would match children’s personalities by working with kids to understand their values and goals, which are not necessarily the same as those of parents or teachers.
“Everyone wants to be older until they reach about 30. That means 6-year-olds like to think they are 10 and 10-year-olds like to pretend to be 18,” and they pick products that they believe help them project an older image, Watt said.
That is why Slammers’ pouch-packaging ditches overt health claims that appeal to parents and images of cuddly characters that are associated with toddlers. Instead, the pouches feature “avatars” drawn on a chalkboard doing “normal, relatable” activities that older children do, Watt said. The company also worked with children to pick names for the flavors so that they convey a “too cool for school” attitude, he added.
For example, the “I’m Chill’n” Slammer made with yumberry, banana and blueberry, features a girl listening to ear phones and relaxing in a bean bag chair. “I’m Pumped” with banana, pineapple and ancient grains, features a child playing soccer, while “It’s Awesome” with acia, strawberry and apple has a skateboarder and shades. The last of the original four flavors – “It’s Epic” – features orange, mango, yogurt and a child wailing on a guitar.
While the pouches are designed for kids, the boxes in which they come are designed for parents, Watt says. This is where the company plays up the nutritional information that parents care about, but kids don’t.
The boxes call out that the products are made with USDA certified organic ingredients, are good sources of key vitamins, have no added sugar or artificial ingredients and are made from fruits and vegetables.
The boxes also address parents’ desire to see what is in the pouch. A window is not possible for quality control reasons, but the box has a photo collage of the fruit, vegetables, grains and other ingredients that are in each pouch.
Premium ingredients for “kid approved taste, but mom approved nutrition”
Go Gourmet includes in each pouch flavors that children know and love, like strawberry or banana, paired with a flavor they might not know yet, such as kiwi or yumberry.
The addition of premium superfoods, as well as organic ingredients, elevates the pouches beyond competitors’ pouches – some of which simply transported formulas or applesauce from cups to the pouches without making any nutritional upgrades, Watt said.
He explained that parents are willing to pay more for innovative blends that offer balanced nutrition. And children like them because they are bold, new flavors – none of which vaguely resemble the applesauce that dominates the aisle and can become boring day in and out, Watt said. As a result, kids are more likely to eat the pouches and less likely to trash or swap them, Watt added.
The company’s ability to balance taste and nutrition also shines in its latest addition to the product line – Slammers Protein and Organics.
The two flavors blend fruits, veggies and 7 grams of protein from whey so that the products are creamy and not chalking, Watt said. To counter the added protein, these pouches use fruit juice, which is not in the other pouches. This ups the sugar significantly, although all of it is naturally occurring and not added sugar, Watt said.
The products are shelf stable, so parents are comfortable tossing them in lunch boxes that will not be refrigerated. This gives the pouches a leg up on other protein snacks, such as yogurt or cheese, which need to be refrigerated.
Go Gourmet’s marketing formula for Slammers clearly is working as illustrated by the brand’s steady growth since it launched in 2014.
The company is expanding sales to 1,200 Kroger stores and 900 Walmart stores, strengthening its presence in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast regions. Its existing partners Target and HEB also are expanding distribution for 2016, and the brand is pushing up into Canada, too, Watt said.
Based on the success of pouches in baby and children’s food, Watt sees potential for the format in the adult and sports nutrition segments, he said.
The main challenge, however, is negotiating where to stock the products so adults without children can easily find them, he said.
Other than that challenge, he said pouches are “here to stay. They are convenient, portable and nutritious,” which is what consumers of all ages want.