Enjoy Life Foods has dozens of snacks products free-from 14 common allergens, non-GMO, and gluten free. The next trend the brand wanted to tap into was plant-based protein, a still booming category. So when the brand decided to launch its protein bites in 2016, it took an accelerated approach.
"We just said, let’s get this product to market," Warady shared at the 2019 Food Innovate Summit held in Chicago earlier this week.
"We launched when we knew we were not ready. Why not? Why does everything have to be perfect?"
Protein Bites launched in March 2016 at the Natural Products Expo West show, where they were labeled as 'Pro Burst Bites'. The product was not perfect, according to Warady, and once it hit retail the following June, it had trouble mainly due to taste.
"The product inside the bag looked nothing like the outside the bag. And what was worse, it didn’t taste great," he said.
"In 2016 we struggled. We had our challenges, it wasn’t successful. It kind of sat on the shelf."
Listening to the consumer
When a product does not perform well at retail, it may not be time to throw in the towel just yet, according to Warady. The upside of launching a not so stellar product is that Enjoy Life Foods was able to figure out what its consumers liked and disliked about the protein bites.
The brand learned from online surveys that consumers loved the fact that it had 6 to 7 grams of plant-based protein, but that the recipe needed to change. Enjoy Life Foods took out palm oil and switched to making the bites with a machine instead of by hand.
"Our consumers were talking to us and one of the things that they were saying is ‘we don’t like palm oil'," he said. "Now, there’s nothing wrong with palm oil from a health standpoint, but what we do today, is we declare that we’re palm oil free Why? Because we can, and because consumers want it," Warady said.
"If you stop listening to consumers, why are you in the business? Consumers will tell you exactly what they want."
What Enjoy Life Foods has going for it, is that the brand knows its target consumer inside and out, according to Warady. The brand breaks down its core audience into two distinct groups: 'the worriers' who have a food allergy or medical condition that restricts their diet (which is about 34 million in the US) and 'the wonderers'.
"The wonderers don't have a medical problem, they just wonder if they eat less gluten will their hair be less brittle; they have pizza and beer on the weekend but are vegans Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The wonderers go in and out of the category," Warady said.
"When we look at our target consumer it’s 76 million people."
Knowing its target consumer meant Enjoy Life Foods had a little leeway when introducing new products to the market that didn't quite hit the mark.
"Our consumers are very forgiving. They get mad, but they are forgiving."
To turn its product around, Enjoy Life Foods relaunched in 2018 with new branding, on-the-go packaging, new flavors, and improved formulation. The range now includes a resealable multi-serve pack and single-serve on-the-go packages in six flavors (dipped banana, dark raspberry, cinnamon apple, sunseed butter, mango habanero, and cranberry orange).
The brand also changed the name from 'Pro Burst Bites' to a more straightforward description of 'Protein Bites' because "people kept asking us, 'what the hell are Pro Burst Bites?'"
According to Warady, as a result of the relaunch, Amazon reviews went from describing the taste of the product as 'nasty' to 'little bites of happiness.'
"We were able to turn this around in a short period of time -- and on the cheap," he said. The maximum R&D investment was $150,000, according to Warady, which the brand was able recoup in sales within the first month of relaunching.
Now Enjoy Life Foods Protein Bites sit on the shelf right next to power brands including Lenny & Larry's protein cookies at CVS and are one of the few branded food items at Trader Joe's.
"We’re literally getting a new listing about every 10 days across the country," Warady said.
"Part of our mission is ubiquity and create the right price pack architecture that meets the needs of these channels."