“Consumers want to know what is in the product, rather than what is not in the product,” explained Blake Sorensen, who recently changed the name of his company from Blake’s Nut Free to better meet this consumer demand and communicate the company’s value.
Last September, Sorenson said, he relaunched his young brand after less than a year as Blake’s Seed Based “to try and emphasize the fact that we make seed-based snacks that are top eight allergen free.”
The move – while risky at such an early stage – not only allowed Sorenson to align his brand with the rising demand for transparency, but also expanded the appeal of the company’s products beyond just allergy sufferers to include all consumers searching for a better-for-you option.
“What we found was when we had the old name we appealed to people who had allergies, but consumers who didn’t have a nut allergy would sometimes look the other way” because they perceived the products a lacking or not for them, Sorensen said.
Contrary to this perception, Sorensen says his snack bars, and the combination of pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds in them in them, offer all people – not just allergy sufferers – significant nutritional benefits.
“Seeds have similar nutritional benefits to nuts, but from an allergy standpoint there are so many fewer seed allergies. So, from a nutritional standpoint they offer a lot of protein and antioxidants for cardiovascular health, as well as healthy fats and fiber,” he explained.
Sorensen said he also boosts the nutritional profile of his snack bars by adding pea protein, noting “plant-based protein is huge.”
A perfect fit for planes and schools
Blake’s Seed Based snacks still have limited distribution in retail stores, having launched only a few months ago, but Sorensen says it has good traction online and is pursuing distribution in schools, hospitals and planes where nut allergies are a more central focus.
“We have found that people with food allergies are very loyal and they tend to order online and subscribe,” which creates a steady flow of business, Sorensen said.
In addition, he said, schools are interested in the product because many ban peanuts as a way to protect students with allergies. By offering Blake’s Seed Based products as an alternative, school administration also don’t need to worry about sequestering children with allergies at lunch – allowing them to have a more rich social life.
To further help children with allergies who may feel ostracized by limited choices, Blake’s Seed Based is on a mission to donate 1 million bars to area schools, starting with those in the South side of Chicago. It does this by donating one box for each box it sells, Sorensen said.
Gorilla marketing tactics
As a young startup with limited resources, Sorensen says that Blake’s Seed Based needs “to be as scrappy as possible,” which is why it is relying on “gorilla marketing” tactics, such as its “seed sauna on wheels.”
The sauna was inspired by Sorensen’s heritage and upbringing, which involved taking a lot of saunas. The seed sauna is a great conversation piece to talk about Sorensen’s background and his brand, he said.
“It is kind of an extension of our brand. We want to endorse healthy living. We want to endorse people doing things and taking action, and we will do that by taking the sauna to a number of events,” such as a polar plunge in January, ski resorts and other fitness-focused events, he said.
As Sorensen continues to build brand awareness and distribution, he also plans to expand the company’s portfolio beyond the four SKUs of snack bars and two SKUs of protein bars that he currently offers. In particular, he wants to offer nut-free trail mix and cookies.