Confectionery and snacks giant Mondelēz, which spun off from Kraft Foods in 2012, has increased snacks sales over the past three years, and in 2018 saw a 2.7% increase in snack revenue across its key markets including North America, according to the company's presentation at the CAGNY (Consumer Analyst Group of New York) Conference last month.
"Last year, we doubled down and said ‘we will explicitly focus on snacks’," Brigette Wolf, head of SnackFutures Innovation, told FoodNavigator-USA at the recent Natural Products Expo West show.
SnackFutures will refresh existing legacy brands within the Mondelēz snack portfolio, create new brands, and invest in innovative startups, according to the company.
"All three of those are under the SnackFutures umbrella, but we can really cross pollinate and be agile and flex as we work with entrepreneurs or startups or different trends or different potential partners."
SnackFutures made it first investment, taking a minority stake in prebiotic functional food brand, Uplift Food.
"It [Uplift Food] was right on target with where we wanted to play, and it was seeing how could we bring this area into the world of snacking," Wolf said.
"What you’re going to see out of us are all sorts of different types of brands that we haven’t had in the past, and entering different types of categories where we hadn’t been before such as re-imagining vegetables or looking at our supply chain and looking at waste differently."
Mondelēz is targeting SnackFutures to contribute $100m to revenue growth by 2022, the company said late last year.
"For us, it’s going to be incremental to our businesses today, it’s going where we haven’t been before," Wolf said.
According to Wolf, the snacking category encompasses so much more than throwing a protein or granola bar into your bag as you run out the door in the morning, it's a reflection of evolving lifestyles with consumers taking an interest in taking care of themselves "from the outside, in" and using snacks as vehicles to do so.
"It’s not snacks taking over the world, I think it’s consumers’ behaviors and lives [changing]-- they’re making different choices," she said.
"We are seeing everything 'snackified'," she said.
'Those founder stories are always super important'
For an emerging food startup hoping to catch the attention of a CPG with deep pockets such as Mondelēz, Wolf shared that along with innovative, disruptive products there has to be a passionate founder behind the brand.
"I think those founder stories are always super important," she said.
SnackFutures' investment in Uplift Food, for instance, was driven not only by the company's focus on the emerging category of gut health but also the passion of its founder, Kara Landau.
"As with any startup and founder, you look for someone who is passionate and knows the consumer and what they’re doing, and Kara was very much engaged," Wolf said.
As the SnackFutures arm grows, snacks focused on wellness will be a core focus for the innovation and venture arm, added Wolf.
"The uprising of well-being snacks, well being for people, well being for the planet is continuing to grow; and that’s where we’re really trying to look at. [We're looking at] things that are both progressive for consumers in the area of planetary health and how we can bring consumers snacks that serve that, and we see many companies starting to work in that area from alternative meats to plant-based proteins," said Wolf.