Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Bragg Live Food Products sees apple cider vinegar sales surge during coronavirus pandemic
According to market research released by Market Watch two weeks after the coronavirus pandemic was declared, global sales of apple cider vinegar could grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5% from $1.9 billion in 2020 to $2.43 billion by the end of 2026. Mordor Intelligence is even more bullish on the ingredient, predicting in a more recently released report that global sales will climb at a 5.4% compound annual growth rate from 2020 through 2025.
Both reports attribute the ingredient’s promising future to a growing body of research supporting several health claims, including weight loss, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure reduction and anti-bacterial effects. They also note the ingredient’s increasing application in personal care, pharmaceuticals and, of course, cooking.
While the natural industry has promoted these attributes for years, messaging about the versatility and benefits of apple cider vinegar are starting to seep into the mainstream thanks to celebrities, including singer Katy Perry who, along with actor Orlando Bloom and an investor group, acquired one of the top purveyors of apple cider vinegar: Bragg Live Food Products.
As the one year anniversary of the acquisition approaches, Bragg’s newly appointed CEO Linda Boardman shares with FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast why apple cider vinegar is at the forefront of health and wellness conversations, the trajectory of the company following the acquisition and the impact of the pandemic on both.
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The rise of apple cider vinegar
Like many companies that sell pantry staples, Boardman says that Bragg Live Food Products has seen a surge in consumer interest and purchase of its products – especially apple cider vinegar – since the novel coronavirus came to the US earlier this year.
But, she adds that consumer interest in the ingredient was on the rise well before the pandemic was declared, thanks in large part to its versatility.
“Last summer we did a consumer research project really trying to get a better understanding of consumers’ use and attitudes around apple cider vinegar and what we found was while the number one usage for apple cider vinegar is in culinary, as a cooking ingredient, the top most loyal consumers are using apple cider vinegar many times on a daily basis as a wellness drink,” for cleaning, as a hair rinse or homemade skin tonics, said Boardman. “So, it really has myriad uses.”
With the pandemic, people are using it even more because they are cooking at home more and they are looking for products to help boost their immunity, she added.
Pivoting from launch mode to support mode
While the spike in consumer interest and sales of apple cider vinegar is overall good news for Bragg, Boardman acknowledged the pandemic has forced the company to reconsider its priorities for 2020 and reallocate resources.
For example, she said, Bragg has pushed back new product launches originally slated for March so that it can focus on being a good partner to its retailers, distributors and consumers – many of whom may be discovering apple cider vinegar for the first time and are hungry for knowledge.
“We have really been working on … being a good partner to our distributors and to our retailers and helping them just keep up with the planning and the demand,” because their jobs are really challenging right now, Boardman said. This support includes “digging into some of the data and just helping retailers looking at their demand and …making sure that they are ordering enough product.”
Boardman said that the company also recently learned that apple cider vinegar is “a very popular search word on social media,” which indicates consumers want more information about how to use it and its benefits.
On that front, she said, “we have a huge opportunity” to expand consumer education through marketing, which wasn’t an option for Bragg before the acquisition.
Product innovation continues
Part of bringing Bragg products into more homes is offering a wider range of options – because not everybody is willing to sip two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with soda water to reap the ingredient’s benefits.
“Bragg is trying to develop new formats for apple cider vinegar that offer consumers different flavors and more convenient formats,” Boardman said, adding the goal is to launch the products at Natural Products Expo East this fall.
She admitted that product innovation is more difficult during the lockdowns, but with video conferencing and shipping samples the company still is able to do consumer research and finalize the products. She added that with many retailers pushing back resets, the company has extra time to perfect and finalize new products, despite extra hurdles.
Boosting visibility of existing products
At the same time that Bragg is developing new products, it also is boosting support for its existing line-up in a way that wasn’t possible before the acquisition.
“We still have big opportunities in products that Bragg has had for a long time,” Boardman said. She explained that before the acquisition Bragg “didn’t have the infrastructure to really be able to see the full potential” because it only had one sales person who had one assistant for the whole company.
Other products include flavored apple cider blends, nutritional yeast, amino acids, salad dressings and a seasoning blend.
New channel development
With a bulked up team, Bragg also is exploring new channels – including ecommerce, which Boardman acknowledges presents several unique challenge to the company because many of its products are heavy and fragile to ship.
Looking forward, Boardman said that she is optimistic about the future for Bragg, which she says will forge forward with the same three-prong approach it already is using, including focusing on consumer and retailer education, product innovation and increased distribution both in the US and internationally.