Founder and CEO Sergey Konchakovskiy came up with the idea for Clio with a little help from his kids, who discovered a leftover ball of strained Greek yogurt wrapped in a cheesecloth sitting in the fridge. As his kids played with the malleable dough-like form, they wanted to liven it up with chocolate and other sugary ingredients, recounted Konchakovskiy.
When Konchakovskiy narrowed his vision for Clio Snacks down into snack-sized chocolate dipped Greek yogurt bars, hoping to develop and launch the brand in the US market, he ran into several roadblocks from a processing and production standpoint.
"Most of the people that I was talking to didn’t understand the concept of the product, and those who did, said it wasn't possible to produce," he said.
Konchakovskiy purchased "some old junk equipment" that got him close to the form of the product he was aiming for, but it would still be another five to six years before Clio Snacks would launch in 2015.
"That bar I made in 2015, is very different than what can you buy in stores today, because we went through a lot of formulation stages," Konchakovskiy told FoodNavigator-USA.
Now working with upgraded, customized equipment and the right recipe, Clio Snacks had what marketing director, Rachel Moore, refers to as its "coming out year" in 2018 with a complete rebrand and distribution with Whole Foods, Walmart, Harris Teeter, and ShopRite backed by an investment from Alliance Consumers Growth (ACG). More recently, Clio has launched into Costco stores in Texas and Los Angeles, California.
The brand can now be found in more than 4,000 stores with more listings on the way, according to Konchakovskiy.
"Clio grew close to 300% from 2017 to 2018, and we are expecting triple digit growth in 2019," he said.
Last week, Clio Snacks debuted its newest flavor addition at the Natural Product Expo West show: a coconut flavored Greek yogurt wrapped in dark chocolate. The brand's other flavors include: vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, peanut butter, hazelnut, honey, and espresso.
Greek yogurt decline is temporary, claims founder
Is it yogurt, a snack, a dessert? All of the above, said Konchakovskiy and Moore, who see consumers consuming it as on-the-go snack or as a small dessert at the end of the day.
"I don’t of know many people eating yogurt for dessert," added Konchakovskiy.
When asked what makes Clio Snacks an attractive sell for retailers given the overall decline of US retail sales of yogurt (-3.4% in the 52 weeks to Jan. 26, 2019*), and an even steeper drop in Greek yogurt (-6.7% for the 12-week period to Jan, 26, 2019*), Konchakovskiy and Moore noted that the brand is bringing pure incremental growth to the category.
Konchakovskiy also believes that the decline in Greek yogurt is temporary and partly due to the disorienting selection consumers face when shopping the yogurt aisle. He also noted that per capita yogurt consumption in the US is still a fraction of what it is in other parts of the world.
"Our mission is to supplement the category, I always thought of CLIO bars as another form of a typical standard yogurt cup," he said.
"You’re having new entries in the form of plant-based (+36.9% over the same 12 week time period*) and Icelandic (+15.8%) and other types of yogurt, but there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in form factor, outside of drinkables," Moore said.
And consumers are responding to Clio Snacks since it hits the sweet spot of permissible indulgence, Moore continued.
"To narrow it down, where we see the golden nugget behind this brand is the balance of health and indulgence," she said, adding that the brand over-indexes with WW (Weight Watchers) followers.
"There are so many brands that are entering other categories with this balance of permissible indulgence and what we love about being in the yogurt category is yogurt naturally brings up the essence of health through high protein and probiotics," said Moore.
Outside of its health credentials (8-9g of protein and billions of probiotics per bar) and its expanding roster of flavors, Konchakovskiy said the brand will be drawing further attention to its environmental impact.
"Comparing us with a plastic yogurt cup, we generate about 40 times less plastic waste, which is huge," he said.
"As we innovate into new lines, we're making sure we're strategically thinking about the impact on the environment and making sure we're consciously making decisions on packaging accordingly. That's something that's of high importance for us," added Moore.
* Source: Nielsen data, all outlets combined, including c-stores, 52 weeks to January 26 and 12 weeks to January 26, 2019. Source: Nielsen Retail Measurement Services, inclusive of Nielsen's Total Food View, Total U.S. xAOC incl. Convenience.