Sebastiani was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as SmashMallow rolled out its S’more better campaign harnessing the brand’s photogenic qualities to encourage instagram fans to share their gourmet s’more pics.
However, instore demos in Kroger, Wegmans, Whole Foods and other retailers in which SmashMallow is being merchandized alongside premium chocolate and cracker brands have also created a real buzz about SmashMallow, which is in 6,000 stores and rapidly gaining distribution in multiple channels, he said.
“We’ve chosen a few strategic partners like Annie’s organic graham crackers and chuao chocolate and we are creating s’mores inside supermarkets around the country via demos with fun fire contraptions that are obviously safe to use, and it’s really injecting excitement into the category, which has had no innovation in decades."
'When people s’more with SmashMallow, they consume 2.5x more’
He added: “Until now the s’more meant a graham cracker, a piece of chocolate, often Hershey’s chocolate, and a vanilla based Jet Puffed marshmallow, whereas we are adding variety, and different flavors, and as a result, people are s’moring more frequently.
“And it’s not just at the campfire, they are creating a whole new event at home, using their stoves to make s’mores for desserts. We’ve even seem them s’mores with SmashMallow recommended as an alternative to wedding cake or on a dessert table at a bridal shower, as they create fun and engagement.
“What’s really exciting is that when people s’more with SmashMallow, they consume 2.5x more because there’s more than one flavor, so it builds in incremental sales for the category. We also know that people are eating SmashMallow instead of gummies, cookies and chocolate.”
Innovation: SmashCrispy, smashFluff, SmashBars…
Next in the line up (rolling out in September) are SmashCrispy snacks (in a six-pack in SmashMallow’s three top-selling flavors), which will go head to head with Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treats and sit alongside brands such as Nature’s Bakery fig bars; followed by SmashFluff (SmashMallow creme) in 2018 - which Sebastiani sees as a smaller commercial opportunity, but one that will show the brand can work across multiple platforms.
Single serve bars and other products are also in the pipeline, he added.
“People keep talking about sugar as the enemy, but the reality is that it is still a $40bn space and there is surprisingly little innovation. It’s just a conversation at this stage but I can see a single unit bar with a fun mallow base, maybe even a s’more bar, dipped chocolate SmashMallows, all kinds of things.
"I really admire companies like Jelly Belly that constantly keep the consumer excited with new flavors, so we are also working on new flavors such as holiday pumpkin, gingerbread houses, brownie batter, chocolate dipped products, salted caramel.”
Single-serve packaging to debut in 7-Eleven
There are also opportunities top grow sales with new packaging formats, he said: “We anticipate a third quarter launch into a regional division of 7-Eleven with a single serve 80-calorie 1oz pack that will open up all new kinds of opportunities.”
One extremely promising aspect to SmashMallow is that the brand seems to work in very different channels, from natural, club and conventional grocery to online and non-traditional channels, “which are becoming increasingly important,” he said.
“It’s growing exponentially faster than KRAVE, and some of our enormous success has come in channels outside of traditional food retail, such as REI, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Vitamin Shoppe. We recognize that the grocery retailing landscape is changing rapidly and we have to keep up."
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 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.
Can we make the marshmallow snackable?
He added: “As an entrepreneur it’s like putting a puzzle together. At the early stage you can get very focused on driving the number of doors and velocity per door, but you also need to step back and understand what you are really trying to do.
“And for us, the question is: 'Can we make the marshmallow snackable?' And the data so far is a resounding yes.”