In late January, Merisant launched Sugarly Sweet Zero Calorie Sweeteners exclusively on Amazon after working with the online retailer to develop the new products in just 90 days as part of the Manufacturer Accelerator Program on Amazon.
“This was done in record timing for us, and coming from other CPG companies, I think that is record timing industrywide,” E.G. Fishburne, director of North America Marketing for Merisant, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Brian Huff, president of North America for Merisant, explained that typically it takes Merisant at least six months but more typically 12-18 months to bring a new brand all the way from development to launch. But, he said, with the help of Amazon's Manufacturer Accelerator Program the timeline from development to deliverable was dramatically shortened.
He explained: “Amazon has got a great infrastructure and a great process to get your products online and searchable and discoverable fairly quickly.”
Huff noted that fast turnaround “was a great challenge for the team, and we had a great celebration when we pulled it off, but what we found through this process is there are a lot of areas where with the right focus and the right goals in place – and certainly without compromising quality in any way, shape or form – we can do things a lot faster” than the company historically has.
For example, Fishburne said that creating the graphics and branding for Sugarly Sweet under Merisant’s old system typically would have taken several weeks to bring all stakeholders into alignment and gather the appropriate approvals. But with Amazon’s compacted timeline, the company hired a local agency to create the images, logo and packaging and within a week they were all approved.
“This process showed us we are nimble and agile like a small company and were able to knock those graphics out very quickly,” he said.
Huff added the process showed Merisant how “we can use speed as a weapon and to gain a competitive advantage.”
A diverse portfolio appeals to diverse consumer needs
Speed was of the essence for Merisant for launching its diverse Sugarly Sweet line in part because it wanted to capitalize on the growing consumer trend to reduce sugar – and in particular it wanted to appeal to younger consumers.
Equal, while well known in the sweetener category, appeals more to older consumers who have used it for decades. But younger consumers’ needs are different and the company wanted to meet their diverse needs.
It is doing that by offering a wide range of sweeteners through its Sugarly Sweet platform. The lineup includes four different zero calorie choices – one from stevia sold in a green packet, a sucralose option in yellow and bulk granulated pouches, an aspartame option in blue and a saccharin choice in pink.
“We did make the decision to include Equal on the packages of Sugarly Sweet to give consumers that endorsement and credibility so they know it is brought to them by a reputable company and brand that has expertise in sweeteners. That will give them confidence and broaden the chance of introducing the Equal brand to new consumers who may not have purchased the original Equal brand before,” noted Fishburne.
Equal Plus brings fortification to the sweetener category
The company also created a new line of vitamin and mineral fortified sweeteners under the Equal Plus brand. Consumers can choose from three choices – vitamin C & Zinc, B vitamins and Antioxidant vitamins C & E. Each packet provides 10% of the daily value of the mineral or vitamins so that they qualify as a ‘good source’ of the nutrients.
“Consumers are looking to get more out of their foods, including more vitamins and nutrients, and that hasn’t really permeated into the sweetener space,” Fishburne said. “So, we thought it was a natural fit with someone adding a sweetener to their coffee or beverage in the morning. Why not have that added benefit of getting a good source of a vitamin in that as well.”
Ultimately, both of these new launches are aimed expanding the consumer base of Equal and meeting consumers changing needs, he added.