While tempting to 'fast-track' a brand and push hard into expanding distribution, as a brand owner, Maldonado says he's less concerned with landing thousands of points of distribution than he is with building the meat snacks category and becoming the #1 selling better-for-you brand in its current retailer accounts.
"A lot of brands are celebrating that they landed in 10,000 doors or that they raised $10-12m this year. That's the easy part, and the work has only just begun. The hard part is getting the turns and velocities and staying there," Maldonado told FoodNavigator-USA.
"The CPG industry overall is learning that right now, and the strategics have learned... They’re no longer interested in buying a brand where all the growth is coming from new distribution vs. actual repeat purchases and household penetration, and all those metrics that actually matter."
That's not to say CHOMPS hasn't made huge strides in distribution since it entered its first retail account (Trader Joe's) in August 2016. Today, consumers can find CHOMPS in roughly 6,000 stores including Walmart locations nationwide, 1,700 Kroger locations, Fresh Thyme, and Meijer. Last month, the brand scored distribution with Sprouts and will be entering all regions of Whole Foods in October.
With every new retail account, Maldonado said CHOMPS is ready to win thanks to its four years of e-commerce and online brand building.
"When we do land in those accounts, the customers are already aware of CHOMPS," he said.
"We want to be the #2 better-for-you selling brand within the first six months, and within a year we want to be #1."
Launched last year, CHOMPLINGS meat sticks have become the fastest-growing offering in the company's portfolio, and have found success merchandized at the cash register acting as an impulse buy and first introduction for consumers to the brand.
Incremental growth wins
According to Maldonado, CHOMPS is focused on growing the meat snacks category through new customer acquisition and repeat purchases, rather than buying distribution like many of its competitors have done.
"What’s happening right now, in this category specifically, is you’re seeing a bunch of these private equity-backed brands which came in looking to be the next KRAVE or EPIC acquisition, and they were looking to build just top line revenue, and they were buying shelf space. They’ll spend whatever it takes in terms of slotting fees, and they’re not getting the turns or the velocities of a sustainable business," Maldonado claimed.
"We bring a lot of incremental growth to retailers," he said.
Recent data from one retail account showed that 53% of all customers who bought CHOMPS had never bought a meat snack before.
"For a category manager, that's huge. We want to make sure we’re not coming in and cannibalizing another brand, and that we're actually growing the category," said Maldonado.
Ready to capture 'significant share'
Even though CHOMPS is still a tiny brand, said Maldonado, compared to legacy brands such as Slim Jim and Jack Link's which command over half of the meat snack market share, it has captured 2% household penetration in the US, which equates to roughly to 6 million households.
And according to Maldonado, the brand is just getting started and it's ready to expand its presence in the center-store jerky set with its rainbow colored-lineup of meat sticks that jump off the shelf compared with the more masculine brands wrapped in black and red packaging.
"The way I see it is if we can see the type of the growth that we’ve seen with the amount of whitespace and runway in front of us, that to me is more exciting than anything," said Maldonado.
"For a brand like ours where we built things slowly and strategically, now we can go in and reap the rewards, and take some significant market share."