Sonoma Brands seeks to build a new confectionery category with SMASHMALLOW snacking marshmallows
In the US, at least, white and pink marshmallows are typically displayed in large family-sized packs in the bakery ingredients section of the store or coated in chocolate and sold in boxes as a gift item alongside boxed chocolates.
SMASHMALLOW marshmallow squares, by contrast - which feature gourmet flavors from Toasted Coconut Pineapple to Meyer Lemon Chia Seed - are sold in re-sealable bags (MSRP 3.99 for a 4.5oz pack) designed for everyday snacking, and will debut in Sprouts stores this week, Sebastiani told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We’ve seen with brownie brittle or barkthins how iconic foods have been repositioned to create different usage occasions or to create entirely new categories, which is what we’re trying to do with SMASHMALLOW.
“Everybody in America knows about marshmallows for roasting and s’mores and so on, but they are actually a perfect platform to introduce new flavors, from crushed espresso beans to chia seeds, that are perfectly fun and creative.”
Over time we’ll create a vegan product
While some might dispute the claim on the brand’s website that SMASHMALLOW’s #1 ingredient - certified organic cane sugar – is self-evidently “better for you” than corn syrup (the #1 ingredient in Kraft’s iconic Jet Puffed marshmallows), the ingredients list is shorter than many rival marshmallow brands and does not contain artificial flavors, colors or whipping agents such as tetrasodium pyrophosphate, he said.
“It’s an indulgence, but you can also feel less guilty about it as there is less sugar, fewer calories [each serving of four marshmallows has 70-90 calories] and only natural ingredients,” he said.
Asked about gelatin – a collagen-derived ingredient from animals that is critical to the texture and mouthfeel of marshmallows – he said: “Over time we’ll create an all-vegan product, but right now, you really have to use gelatin.”
Brand could stretch into multiple formats
As a March 2016 trademark application indicates, Sonoma Brands is considering taking the SMASHMALLOW brand in multiple directions, from cereal-based snack foods to trail mix, or snacks combining chocolate, dried fruit, nuts and marshmallows, he said, although the immediate focus is on marshmallow squares.
“As with KRAVE [the gourmet jerky brand that Sebastiani developed and later sold to Hershey], we started off with jerky and then when we sold to Hershey we gave them a pipeline of innovations from meat bars and meat sticks to trail mix because we were building an iconic brand, and SMASHMALLOW can be that brand for marshmallows.
“We want a brand that has extendibility and can stretch into a range of fun, flavorful products.”
‘A taste and wow-factor beyond an ordinary marshmallow’
The marshmallows, which come in seven gourmet flavors (Cinnamon Churro, Strawberries & Cream, Espresso Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip, Toasted Coconut Pineapple, Meyer Lemon Chia Seed and Root Beer Float), will launch exclusively at Sprouts and on the SMASHMALLOW website ahead of a broader west coast launch in other retailers later this year.
They contain 70-90 calories per serving and deliver a “taste and wow-factor beyond an ordinary marshmallow,” claims Sonoma Brands, which is investing in entrepreneurial brands such as Dang Foods, but also developing its own products in-house, such as ‘drinkable’ soup brand ZÜPA NOMA
, which hit stores on the west coast last month.
Early feedback for ZÜPA NOMA very encouraging
The plan is to test SMASHMALLOW'S performance in multiple locations within the store – apart from the bakery section – which is one place the snacking confectionery brand definitely doesn't belong, he said.
“It’s the same as what we’re doing with ZÜPA NOMA: trying to understand consumer adoption, to determine are we merchandising this in the right place, do we have the right flavors, the right price?”
While it is very early days, ZÜPA NOMA's performance so far has been “sensational,” he claimed. “We understand that it’s going to need trial so we’re aggressively conducting demos, but we’re also looking at the numbers to work out exactly what we need to do to optimize our roll out strategy.”
Jon Sebastiani (below far right) will be speaking on day one of Food Vision USA 2016 in Chicago on November 9 as part of a panel featuring Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman (far left), General Mills 301 INC boss John Haugen (second from left), and CircleUp head of funds Jason Starr (second from right). Find out more HERE.