During a webinar hosted by natural product professional organization Naturally Chicago, titled “Market Share is King,” several food and beverage leaders discussed their recipe for retail success, which included how they approached the market differently.
Chomps targets vegetarians, ditches aggressive branding
Chomps approaches the meat snack category differently from many competitors by focusing on overlooked consumers, said Chomps Co-founder and Co-CEO Pete Maldonado.
"There's probably a lot of people out there who have tried veganism or vegetarianism, and stopped eating red meat for whatever reason, maybe because it was a trend. I [felt] at some point, they would maybe miss eating meat, or ... they were kind of forced to get back to eating meat. Either way, we were going to be there with open arms."
To target these consumers, Chomps focuses on nutrition, the environment, and animal welfare -- attributes that Maldonado predicted would resonate with these consumers. These ads “ended up being [the brand's] best-performing ads for the entire year,” he said.
Chomps also found an opportunity to market its products to women after finding from its internal data that “75% of [its] customers were female.”
The meat snack market historically has focused on masculine messaging and branding, which turned off some consumers, Maldonado said. Chomps embraced light colors on its packaging and leaned out from the more aggressive angle of its competitors Jack Links or Slim Jim, he added.
Shaking off slower growth by innovating on convenience
Pasta company Barilla Group also earned more shelf space at a time when pasta sales were slowing by offering more convenient options, Jean-Pierre Comte, president region America at Barilla Group, shared.
From 1996 to 2010, Barilla was able to go from no market share in the US to about 20%, Comte said. But at the start of 2010, the brand was challenged by the Atkins Diet and carb phobia, and consumers' attitude that “pasta was a little bit boring” and that it took too long to cook.
To address these challenges, Comte saw two options: “Either you try to race to the bottom and compete on costs. Or on the opposite, you try to look at the sky and raise the bar and bring additional benefits in terms of innovation and communication.”
Barilla noticed an “emerging need for convenience,” especially from Millennial and college-aged consumers who might like pasta but not been able to cook it, Comte said. In response, Barilla launched a pre-cooked pasta in a pouch that consumers could microwave for a couple of minutes.
Unite embraces heritage to tell a different story
Unite Co-founder and CEO Clara Paye is setting her brand apart with a focus on lesser-served consumers, while also leveraging her 17 years of experience in the plumbing manufacturing industry to navigate business challenges.
Paye was new to the food and beverage world when she launched her protein bar brand in 2020. Out the gate, Unite found retail success in year one with a deal with Walmart. Paye credited her success to her authenticity and not copying what other brands were doing.
"Innovation I think, is a lost art... Somebody sees the big flashy number or the big, flashy PR, and they say, 'Well, I can do that,'" she said. "They just try to copy, and I don't think that's going to get anybody anywhere."
From her work in the plumbing world, Paye knew “the language of logistics and supply chain,” which she said allowed her to adjust and pivot, even in the case of reformulating products to respond to supply chain issues. “Between 2020 and now, we've never had a backorder, and we've never been out of stock,” she added.
Unite also is on a mission “to build this bigger wellness table and have everybody take a seat at it” by creating products that speak to a sense of nostalgia for everyone, Paye said. Currently, Unite offers its gluten-free protein bars in Churro, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Peanut Butter and Jelly flavors.
“When I looked at wellness, I had this realization that … if there aren't products that are nostalgic, or culturally inclusive, or relevant to you, then chances are you're not going to participate.”