“There’s the education piece that I think all of us brands in this space are still navigating,” said Landau, who has been navigating those waters with the brand’s first functional food product, Uplift Gut Happy Cookies, which was launched right at the peak of the pandemic when new product additions were the last things on many retailers’ minds, she said.
However, she and her team found still found success with online marketplace Thrive Market and several brick-and-mortar retailers where the cookies are merchandised by other single-serve functional snack foods.
Landau founded Uplift Food in February 2018, and in March 2019, Mondelēz International took a minority investment in the emerging brand as part of its first investment under SnackFutures, the company’s innovation and venture hub.
Uplift Food’s flagship and first product, Daily Uplifter, is a plant-based powdered supplement containing 4 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of probiotics, prebiotic resistant starch from green banana flour, and prebiotics from Jerusalem artichoke inulin powder, and XOS.
Read more about the research behind each individual ingredient HERE.
Not a line extension, but rather a separate product with its own marketing strategy, Landau said that some of the more technical messaging used in the supplement category with its Daily Uplifter product, may not land as successfully with a general consumer just dipping their toes into prebiotics and gut health.
“There are a few prongs to the messaging. One is connecting prebiotics and gut health. I talk a lot about prebiotics as the fuel for the probiotics,” Landau told FoodNavigator-USA.
Communicating prebiotics to consumers starts with credible ingredient formulation
In R&D for two years before launching in April 2020, Uplift Gut Happy Cookies took on a slightly different tone beginning with its formulation.
“The ingredient deck was really thought through... I was more looking for that whole food source,” said Landau.
“I put on my dietitian hat, and I thought about how I wanted a blend of prebiotics, I wanted resistant starch as well as soluble fiber and polyphenols. In that same respect, I had guardrails around other nutrition in terms of sugar, saturated fats, ‘x amount’ of protein.”
For its prebiotic content in the cookies, Landau stuck with its whole food source approach and stresses the product’s diverse use of prebiotics (utilizing tapioca fiber, tigernuts, lupini beans, and kiwifruit) and dietary fibers.
"It’s that diverse blend of prebiotics that is the integrity of Uplift Food," said Landau.
“That’s what sets us apart from a lot of products that just claim they have a prebiotic in there and they just use inulin or they just use soluble corn fiber, or they pump their product with one type of isolated fiber that by content claim is a prebiotic, but in the dose given in may not actually have prebiotic benefits, or lead to stomach distress.”
Uplift Food performed a small human clinical research study to confirm the gut health benefits associated with consumption of the equivalent to 1 serving (40g) per day for one week of the cookies’ key proprietary gut health ingredients.
“We proved that within less than a week you have a significant benefit to your gut health, specifically, a significant benefit to your butyrate [short-chain fatty acids which ‘fuel’ production of colonocytes – the cells lining the colon], which then has a roll-on effect to everything,” said Landau.
Providing an ‘uplifted’ experience
Even if consumers of Uplift’s prebiotic cookies aren’t researching the science behind prebiotics, Landau said that her goal as a brand owner is to be true to the company’s name and “uplift” anyone consuming her products.
“We want people to feel uplifted and good when eating our products,” she said, noting the intentional smiley-face branding and use of bright colors as a way to communicate these healthy and mood-boosting benefits to consumers.
Uplift Food is expanding distribution of its Gut Happy Cookies line to more retailers, and has a few more functional food product launches planned for Q1 2021, Landau added.