Lenny & Larry’s: We didn’t set out to create a category, but that’s what happened

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Lenny & Larry’s: We didn’t set out to create a category, but that’s what happened

Related tags: Nutrition

With its distinctive brand and commitment to high protein, Lenny & Larry’s has carved out a loyal following and success across multiple retail channels, so what’s next for the company?

New flavors for sure, said Barry Turner, founder of Lenny & Larry’s. The company is continuously trying new flavors and releases seasonal flavors like Pumpkin during the Fall months, and coconut chocolate chip this Spring. New flavors will be revealed at the upcoming Expo West show in Anaheim.

There may also be some change in the size of the cookies. The current product is a 4oz cookie, but the company is aware of demand for a 2oz format for positioning at checkouts or in multipacks.

Lenny & Larry’s may also be working on other snack categories, said Turner, without revealing more about what they may be. “We focus on clean, plant-based ingredients and bakery-fresh products.”

Origins

You may be wondering why a company founded by someone called Barry is called Lenny & Larry’s. The story also involves a Benny, but starts with American Gladiators. Barry Turner was a chosen from over 350 participants to join the American Gladiators in 1992. He took the name Cyclone, but his gladiatorial career was cut short by an injured bicep. And so, in 1993, Turner decided to start a company with his friend Benny Graham, with the focus on protein.

“We predicted protein would be a huge trend in 1993,” ​Turner told us. “We were pushing protein before protein was cool.”

The pair considered Benny & Barry as the company name but thought the name Lenny & Larry's was funnier. Turner and Graham sold the company to Don Crouch in 2001, and then Turner bought back half of the company in 2007.

“In 2007 the industry had finally caught up with us,” ​said Turner.

The company started getting traction around 2010 with the high-protein brownie, and then changes to the packaging of the cookie boosted both shelf-life and sales. Cookies now account for 75% of Lenny & Larry’s sales.

“We’re a 24-year-old overnight success,” ​said Turner. “We didn’t set out to create a category, but that’s what happened.”

Retail

Distribution for the products has steadily grown and expanded and mainstreamed over the years, from Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, and gyms where it first started, to Whole Foods, Sprouts, and then 7-Elevens, and then Walmart, Publix, and Wegmans.

“We’re beyond where we can count the number of stores,” ​said Apu Mody, Larry & Lenny’s recently-appointed CEO.

The company’s primary focus has been on the US. “Demand grew so rapidly that we prioritized our domestic customers,”​ said Mody, but the company is beginning to explore international markets like Canada, the UK, and Australia.

So who’s buying? For Turner it’s simple: “Our customer is anyone with $2 and a mouth. We produce snacks that anyone can eat. We’re not a sports nutrition company. We’re a healthy snacking company.”

Drilling into the sales data, Mody added that the female consumers slightly exceed males, and the products really peak with fitness enthusiasts and Millennials. “With 15 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per serving, this really appeals to Millennials. As we’re designing new products, we keep those groups in mind.”

With all the money now floating around the food and beverage industry, and so much attention on such high-growth companies, is Lenny & Larry’s getting offers to buy the company? “It [the interest] was non-stop for a couple of years,”​ said Turner. “It’s flattering, but we stopped taking the phone calls after a while. It’s not something we’re interested in at this time.

“We did this with no money, no debt, no partners, no investors. You couldn’t create our business today. We’re not just a unicorn, we’re a purple unicorn.”

“When we set out to do this we expected success. We just expect it to take 20 years.”

 

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