Developed in 2019 - with Green Park Brands (a holding co founded by Bisterzo) as its lead investor – Mavericks Snacks launched at Whole Foods stores nationwide in late April 2020 with two peanut-free, school-safe products that meet the USDA Smart Snacks requirements: Crackerz with 8g whole grains per serving, and Cookiez with “40% less sugar than the leading natural competitor and 60-75% less than iconic conventional brands.”
The Mavericks Snacks brand – which is also available on Amazon - is now rolling out to 620+ Target stores, with additional high-profile retailers slated to come on board next year, said president Christian Quie, who spent nine years at General Mills working on brands such as Annie’s and Nature Valley before launching BEAR Yoyos fruit snacks in the US.
Other team members include Cita Bodea, a former director of operations at Caulipower; and Tina Pate, former director of field marketing at KIND Snacks.
"At Mavericks," said Quie, "our kids targeting strategy focuses on ‘playing up’ to the older sub-segment of 8-11 year olds within our broader target demo, 4 – 11 yr olds (middle childhood years).
"Because we know 4 – 7 or 8 year olds look up to older kids, our marketing approach focuses on aging up to a slightly older cohort. For example, our social strategy reflects partnering with 8 – 11 year old influencers as their reach and engagement within our community really performs well."
Retailers are looking for disruption in the family or kids subsegment
While Whole Foods has been an incredible launch partner, Mavericks Snacks is “not a brand that can just live in west L.A [where it’s based],” and has mainstream potential in conventional food retailers, said Quie, who is projecting to close the year with more than $1m in revenue.
“We are going to be more aggressive in conventional grocery than perhaps a traditional launch would be, but that said, covid has slowed down our ability to get meetings and decisions at retailers, so it’s going to be a bit more tempered growth."
So are retailers open to introducing new brands right now?
“Tier one retailers are doubling down on their core and rationalizing SKUs," said Quie, "especially as many think a second wave of covid will hit, which makes it more challenging for new brands."
But at the same time, he added, "the core cookie and cracker categories are doing very well well, however there’s not been any innovation and retailers are looking for disruption in the family or kids subsegment.”
Raising awareness during a pandemic
But how do you reach young children, especially when sampling is off the menu, events have been cancelled, and fewer parents are shopping with kids (if they have the option to leave them at home with a partner) thanks to covid, such that ‘pester-power’ is not, well, as powerful?
It’s been a challenging time to launch a brand, even with the caveat that many packaged foods brands have seen an uplift as food consumption has switched towards the home, said Quie.
“The 'back to school' emphasis at retailers has not been the same as usual as more than 60% of students did not go back to school [in person].
"But we saw a crescendo in unit velocities during the back to school period, and what's encouraging is that now we're off end-caps at Whole Foods, we're three times greater than we were pre-'back-to-school,' so that's a strong indication of repeat. We've been off promo for four weeks and our velocities are maintaining, which is great."
He added: "The challenge right now is to raise awareness at a time when people are not in 'discovery mode' when they're shopping, because if people try our snacks, they absolutely love them."
“We are authentically kid-first, and aim to speak to ‘mavericks,’ a term we use to define our consumers: kids aged 4 to 11.
"This a period in a kid’s life when they aren’t afraid to color outside the lines, ignore the impossible, and believe they can change the world.”
Christian Quie, president, Mavericks Snacks
"We feel that there's real white space in the category for kids aged 4-11. We've seen a lot of adult brands expecially in the bar category that have put the word 'kids' on some products, but they're not really dedicated brands for kids.
"When you're 4-11, it's a time when you're at your most creative, when you're the most free, and we developed something with gamification, that's playful, and colorful, and we took it to Whole Foods and they were blown away.
"As a brand our sweet spot is younger kids, but we're also seeing that older kids are eating the products and we've had great reviews."
Livio Bisterzo, founder and CEO, Green Park Brands (brands it works with include Mavericks Snacks, UGLY Drinks, Hippeas, buddy nutrition and reel paper)
FOOD FOR KIDS 2020 TRAILBLAZERS
Check out the 2020 gallery of trailblazers and sign up for our FREE 'Meet the Trailblazers' webinar on November 11, featuring this year's three winners: Mission MightyMe (peanut puffs for early allergen introduction); CHUM Fruit Bites (clean-label fruit snacks); and Good Feeding/Go Well (DTC babyfood underpinned by proprietary technology that preserves colors, flavors, textures and nutrition).
The three winners will be quizzed by industry veterans Mark Rampolla, Brad Barnhorn, and Jon Sebastiani.