“We have been a very focused business – launching only a few products over the years,” but investing heavily in our infrastructure and existing brands, which in many ways has been a winning strategy, Craig Lieberman, the founder and president of 34 Degrees, told FoodNavigator-USA.
But, based on the recent mega shifts in how consumers eat and buy food, he added, he recognized that the company needed to “turn on that innovation engine a little faster and start to develop some new items” and enter new channels to stay relevant.
“Building brand awareness and ramping up our innovation both require resources and capital,” and to do them “aggressively and effectively,” Lieberman said he needed help both financially and logistically.
“I opened the door to look at what was on there in terms of investment that we could take on that wasn’t just money, but was more strategic … and the more I looked around the more I realized the traditional avenues of bringing investment didn’t feel right,” he said.
“At the same time,” he added, “Fresca started to invest in brands and develop their own brands and I put two and two together and realized the best potential strategic partner for us was the one that we already had,” and which had helped the brand develop products and marketing for the past 10 years.
So the two struck a deal: 10% of the business from 34 Degrees in exchange for $3.4 million from Fresca Foods and an understanding they both would work together to build brand awareness and new products.
Reaching new consumers
34 Degrees isn’t wasting any time putting the funds to use. It already is investing heavily in building brand awareness through trade, and at the end of the month it will launch its first comprehensive consumer marketing campaign.
“We have worked with a new design and brand agency to develop a really, in my mind, incredible consumer awareness campaign that we are going to invest heavily in over the holiday period,” which is a time when many come together over food, Lieberman said, adding his crisps are the perfect accoutrement for festive meals and parties.
Through the campaign he hopes to “really blow out the company’s reach … to a target of 10 million people,” he said.
“That is the first step – to really develop a campaign that will tell our brand story to a much larger audience and introduce our brand to people for the first time, because even though we have a great following of people who know 34 Degrees and love 34 Degrees, there are still a lot of people who don’t know 34 Degrees – even after 10 years,” he said.
What do consumers want?
In addition to building brand awareness, Lieberman is using the funds “behind the scenes to look at how consumer behavior is changing … and how the retail landscape is changing and how people are shopping in different ways” to make sure the company is offering products that meet consumers’ evolving needs.
“We have a great core business that we will continue to focus on and build, but there is a lot of other areas we can take our brands … to create new ways for consumers to enjoy them,” he said.
While Leiberman admits he is undertaking a lot in a short period, he also said he is “really excited about where we can grow our brand and business over the next few years,” especially with a partner he trusts.