Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after hiring Stephanie McGregor – who has worked on brands including KRAVE, barkThins, PopChips, Red Bull, Clif bar, and vitaminwater - as VP marketing for SmashMallow, Sebastiani said: “If you look at this brand and its early success and even compare it to KRAVE, the trajectory is so explosive it’s incredible.”
Complacency is a dangerous thing in the CPG industry, he said, but early signs are extremely encouraging: “As an entrepreneur and investor you have to be humble, wary, even paranoid, but for the moment, the results really are mindboggling."
We had a 50-case display set up in a Fred Meyer in Oregon that sold through in three days
He added: “We’re in around 2,000 stores already ranging from Sprouts, QFC, Fred Meyer and Gelson’s on the west coast to Balducci's, Kings and Fairway on the east coast. We did a test in [outdoor pursuits retailer] REI about six weeks ago and the test was so successful they rolled us out to all of their stores.
"The buyer at QFC was very strategic, and shared our vision that their customers would truly snack on this elevated and organic SmashMallow.
“We’ve already tested it in the club channel and the convenience channel and it’s gone really well; this is a brand that can work across natural, specialty, club, convenience, drug, mass, so many channels; by the end of the year we’ll have single serve packs and large packs for the club channel.
“On shelf we’re being merchandised next to barkThins, Justin’s Nut Butter Cups, and so on, but we’re also seeing a ton of off shelf activation via things such as floor stacks; we had a 50-case display set up in a Fred Meyer in Oregon that sold through in three days around Valentine’s Day. We see a tremendous sense of impulsivity here, because the brand is cute, fun, easy to understand and it over-delivers on the flavor experience.
"People are buying it a second and a third time, so it’s repeatable and scalable.”
Stephanie McGregor - the new marketing VP at SmashMallow - most recently led the branding and marketing strategy at snackable chocolate brand barkThins, prior to which she held senior marketing roles at KRAVE, PopChips, Red Bull, Clif bar, and vitaminwater.
Jon Sebastiani, founder of SmashMallow brand owner Sonoma Brands, told FoodNavigator-USA: "Brands need to take on a personality of their own beyond the product, your brand has to mean something and communicate a relationship to the consumer, and that's where the real magic comes in, and Stephanie's got it."
In the US, marshmallows typically come in two colors - white and pink – and 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) and designed for everyday snacking.
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.
I don’t have to invest a lot of capital in teaching Americans what marshmallows are
While we often talk about ‘blue sky’ innovation, some of the most successful product launches in recent years have taken a familiar product and made consumers think about it differently through branding, packaging, positioning or some culinary tweaks, said Sebastiani.
In the case of SmashMallow, Sonoma Brands has taken the marshmallow – with which all Americans are familiar - cleaned up the ingredients list, added a gourmet twist, and presented it in re-sealable packaging that makes it ‘snackable,’ and effectively created a new category and usage occasion, he added.
“I don’t have to invest a lot of capital in teaching Americans what marshmallows are, but I can teach them to think about them differently, just like I did with KRAVE."
Visit SmashMallow at Expo West at booth #H515