Back to Nature Foods Co. repositions SnackWell’s as a “free-from” line

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Back to Nature Foods Co.’s revitalization of the recently acquired iconic SnackWell’s brand is an example of how established companies can refresh aging brands that are struggling to better compete with new products from disruptive startups.

When Back to Nature Foods Co., a major player in the natural channel, bought the mainstream SnackWell’s brand from Nabisco a little over a year ago, the “diet food fad”​ brand “needed some TLC,”​ as sales had fallen to about $30 million a year from a peak of $500 million a year during the brand’s hay day, said Tracy Russell, director of marketing at Back to Nature Foods Co.

She explained that the SnackWell’s brand, which launched in 1993, “is a great brand”​ with a lot of equity with consumers and retailers, but it needed “a major brand refresh.”

“Every asset SnackWell’s touches right now has been refreshed,”​ including its ingredients, products, packaging, logo and tagline, she told FoodNavigator-USA.

The most significant part of the overhaul was cleaning up the products’ ingredient decks and repositioning SnackWell’s as a modern “free-from”​ and “wellness”​ brand, rather than as a diet brand, Russell said.

“Consumers today are aware that diet fads come and go, but living better is really important. So, our new tagline is ​‘Live Well. Snack Well.’ And part of that was removing ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, artificial colors and ingredients,”​ Russell explained, adding that those undesirable ingredients are “red Xs”​ for many parents who don’t want to buy or feed them to their families.

Many of the products also include ingredients consumers want. For example, a new line of Biscuit Thins, which will launch in in 2016, qualifies as a “good source”​ of protein and fiber and has 20 grams of whole grains per 4 biscuit serving. The Biscuit Thins will come in five flavors: Pumpkin, Caramel, Espresso, French Vanilla and Dark Chocolate Mocha. They also will be “engraved with snackspirations,” ​such as “happy,” “bliss”​ and “amaze,”​ Russell added.

The Biscuit Thins have “a lot of attributes that we hope mom and her family will love to snack on and share,”​ she said.

Earlier this year, the brand also launched under the SnackWell’s brand Mini Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites, which like Biscuit Thins qualifies for a Whole Grains Council stamp. The snacks also are peanut-free.

The 120-calorie packs “were particularly engineered for school,”​ in that they are easy to toss in lunch boxes and are School and USDA compliant, Russell said. She added the company wanted to make parents feel better about their choices of food for their kids.

Building on the same portable and on-the-go concept, SnackWell’s Mini Dark Chocolate Fudge Dipped Sea Salt Pretzels also come in easy to carry 100-calorie packs.

The pretzels touch on another huge trend for 2016 – dark chocolate, Russell said. She expects dark chocolate paired with super fruits and nuts “are going to explode.”

Fresh packaging

In addition to rolling out new, healthier, cleaner products, Back to Nature Foods Co. also modernized SnackWell’s packaging.

“We couldn’t lose the iconic green box, that is so important for the brand and is one of the things that people know us for,”​ but the font is more modern now and key claims, such as “on-the-go”​ and ingredient call-outs, are prominently displayed.

The company hopes the update and new on-trend innovations under the brand will help SnackWell’s regain shelf space it lost in recent years due to UPC convergence and shifting consumer interests away from dieting and more towards overall wellness.

“We are in the position of turning the brand around and growing it again. And, I think, we are well positioned to do that now,”​ Russell said.

New products to meet new trends

In addition to revamping the SnackWell’s brand, Back to Nature Foods Co. is rolling out a slew of crackers, soups, cereals and cookies that hit several hot trends.

Beans, for example, are a hot ingredient and likely will grow in popularity in 2016, Russell predicts. She said the company highlights legumes in two of its Back to Nature crackers that launched this year: Fiesta Lime Black Bean and Sea Salt Adzuki Bean.

The crackers also tap into the gluten-free trend, which “is continuing to explode,”​ Russell said. To maximize on the potential of this trend, Russell noted Back to Nature is transitioning all of its granolas to gluten free in 2016 and it has two new gluten-free Brownie Cookies: Salted Caramel Pecan Blondie and Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownie. These also include trendy ingredients, such as milled chia and agave syrup.

“People say gluten-free cookies and crackers don’t taste good, so we really take pride in formulating and creating a great tasting chewy cookie,”​ Russell said.

Ancient and sprouted grains also continue to gain traction and Back to Nature features them in several new products. The firm launched this year two flavors of Quinoa Cookies – Cranberry Pecan and Almond Chocolate Chip. Both are made with rice flour milled chia and have 2 g rams of protein per serving.

Likewise, the brand branched out into the cereal category this year with six products featuring ancient and sprouted grains. Several of the Non-GMO Project Verified cereals also include super fruits, such as baobab in the Berry Sprouted Blend, Russell said.

Beans and ancient grains also appear together in the firm’s new line of non-gmo, artisanal soups, which expand the company into a new category and day part. The Tetra Pak soups have 25% less sodium than leading brands, 2-6 grams of fiber and 6-8 grams of protein per serving.

Finally, Back to Nature will launch in 2016 Juice Chillers, which combine juice and coconut water for a lower calorie and sugar drink for children. The juice pouches also intentionally are made with 50% water because the company found many parents often dilute 100% juice drinks to cut sugar and calories, Russell said. 

[Editor's Note: Learn more about consumers' evolving definition of healthy and the marketing opportunities it is creating at our FREE online Weight Management webinar March 16. Register quickly and easily HERE​.]

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