The strategic move not only offered much-needed financial relief to shoppers, but helped drive foot traffic to local stores at a time when many consumers were flocking to online retailers. It also earned the family-owned company a new level of consumer loyalty that continues to drive higher sales of its diverse product portfolio even as overall grocery sales growth slows, according to company president Jay Whitney.
“In the very beginning [of the pandemic], retailers were so challenged and distressed with what was going on that trade promotions – your traditional two-for-five or two-for-sixes – were put on pause for a moment as everybody tried to figure out how to navigate their way through” the pantry stocking and the heightened demand for food to prepare at home, Whitney said.
While the pause did not negatively impact many brand sales because consumers were buying products regardless to stock their pantries and fridges, it did hurt some shoppers, an increasing number of whom were being laid off or furloughed because of the pandemic, said Whitney.
Noting that FoodStory Brands wants to be a “servant leader,” Whitney said the company “challenged ourselves to find ways to bring relief to consumers that do go to stores and purchase our products.”
The fastest way that the company found to do that was with digital rebates through third-party vendors, including Ibotto, CoinOut and Shopkick, for is Fresh Cravings fresh salsa line, which FoodStory Brands promoted through increased social media content, including helpful recipes for creating new dishes at home, Whitney said.
“We had over 30,000 redemptions in the first month and a half of launching some of these digital rebates, and so it was a great way to convert our marketing dollars from events and sampling programs and give back to the American consumer in a way that allowed them to take control and make an impact,” Whitney said.
‘We are passionate foodies’ dedicated to fast innovation
Fresh Cravings fast pivot to embrace innovative, modern marketing strategies is in keeping with FoodStory Brands’ overall approach to business and product development, which Whitney said, “shoots for the gap where big CPG food is unable to meet consumer needs states as quickly as we can.”
He explained that the 5 year old company operates a “unique model in the food and beverage space in that we have an innovation squad of about 33 subject matter experts across culinary, innovation, product development, sourcing consumer insights and analytics, graphic designers, brand licensing experts, and social and digital marketers that allow us to thoughtfully curate what we call food stories with speed to market.”
Indeed, Whitney said, the company can develop and bring to market a new brand in as quickly as 90 days to six months versus the traditional model, which requires 12 to 24 months.
“We are passionate foodies that all of us love the energy and ability to innovate quickly and create transformational category business opportunities and be disruptive, which I know is a cliché term, but that is one of the things we have been very successful with this model,” Whitney added.
For example, he pointed to the company’s May launch in Walmart of two plant-based dips that Whitney said are already exceeding expectations. These build on other plant-based dip flavors launched last fall, which also have been well received.
“We are seeing a proliferation of plant-based across a number of categories, which has been candidly astonishing how fast it is growing … but we saw a gap in the dip space for plant-based options, which we believe could become like hummus in terms of household adoption and awareness,” Whitney said.
But to achieve this, the company needed to overcome the consumer perception that the term plant-based was synonymous with sacrificing flavor, taste and even texture. It did this by creating dips with a cashew base that were just as creamy as dairy and also offered comforting and familiar flavors, such as queso, ranch, spinach and artichoke and French onion, Whitney said.
Another example of how FoodStory Brands’ strategy is meeting consumer demand and fueling growth is the sales surge in recent months of the company’s Cocktail Artist brand, which is a non-alcoholic mixer line that launched in 2017 and was built around award-winning mixologists with whom the company partnered to create better-for-you mixers that are free from high fructose corn syrup and have no artificial flavors or colors.
“During the pandemic, one of the most astonishing categories for us is around the at home drinking and virtual happy hours,” said Whitney. He explained that consumers trying to recreate craft cocktails at home have helped drive 50-75% year-over-year growth for the Cocktail Artist brand, “which has been a silver lining from the pandemic.”
From savory to sweet, FoodStory Brands stretches across categories
FoodStory Brands is hoping to replicate the success of the cocktail mixer and dip lines in a new category with the recent launch of it is biscotti line Vero Amoro.
“Our Vero Amoro, which launched this spring, has a fantastic food story in that this is a product that we introduced to the American market that is Italian imported and as authentic as it gets because we partnered with a family in Italy that has been making this recipe for 115 years,” he said.
He explained that most biscotti sold in the US is made in America, but by offering a product twice-baked in Italy by a family deeply rooted in the tradition of baking biscotti the company is able to fulfill its mission to tell the most authentic food stories.
As illustrated by the company’s already diverse product portfolio, FoodStory Brands is committed to brining accessibly-priced, healthier foods and beverages to American and Canadian shoppers across categories – a mission that Whitney said it will continue to pursue “at a much broader level” in the coming years with the launch of additional brands and products across multiple categories beginning in 2021.