Startup Spotlight

DEUX founder discusses ‘year of retail,’ growing with Sprouts, Target

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

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Better-for-you sweet snack brand DEUX is making 2024 “a year of retail" with its recent expansion in Sprouts, while tapping into larger permissible indulgent trends, brand Founder and CEO Sabeena Ladha shared with FoodNavigator-USA during a Startup Spotlight interview.

Launched in 2020, DEUX — pronounced dough — offers a range of permissible indulgences​, including vegan and gluten-free donut bites, cookie doughs in resealable jars, and dessert spreads. Last month, the company launched three flavors of its donut hole —  Chocolate Glaze, Glaze, and a limited-edition Not-so-Red Velvet — in over 400 Sprouts stores. 

‘Sprouts, Whole Foods, Target — those are really the mechanism for scale’ 

DEUX started primarily as a direct-to-consumer (DTC), but has shifted focus to retail due to increasing digital expenses, including Meta (Facebook’s parent company) ads, Ladha explained. The brand plans to expand its retail distribution in 2024, or what Ladha has dubbed its "year of retail."  

“The biggest thing for us, even when we set out to launch the brand, is how do we ensure we are where the consumer is. She might want — I say she because 94% of our audience identify as women — but she might want to buy on direct-to-consumer, but then ... she is doing her grocery shopping at Whole Foods, and she wants to pop [Deux] in her basket. We want to be where she is and be channel agnostic in that way.” 

Ladha also sees DTC as a channel where she can hear directly from her customers to ensure that they receive the best-tasting product.   

“We will get feedback on products before we launch them widely into retail. We have actually killed some products before we launched them into retail because we got that feedback. ... Direct-to-consumer remains important as a data collection mechanism, but retail — Sprouts, Whole Foods, Target — those are really the mechanism for scale for us.” 

Deux founder shares tips for applying to Target Accelerator program  

DEUX has gradually been adding stores and retailers in the last several years. In 2021, Deux was selected to be a part of Target’s Takeoff startup accelerator program​, which allowed the brand to gain distribution at the retailer. 

The Target Takeoff program helps brands like DEUX understand all complexities from delivering products to the retailer, planning inventory, and finding the best digital strategies to grow with Target, Ladha explained. Out of the many accelerator programs, Target's "is so well done" because of the one-on-one time with Target buyers, she added.

"I'm so grateful for [Target Takeoff] because not only do you get an opportunity to meet with your buyer — I got to meet with my buyer three times during that program, which is unheard of especially at Target where they do most of the business with brokers ... but you also understand that behemoth and the system that is Target because it is a really intimidating retailer."

Founders who are considering submitting to Target Takeoff later this year​ should focus on how their specific product addresses a need for Target and find a win-win for both sides of the deal, Ladha suggested. Target Takeoff applicants should also consult with current or former brands that sell to Target to learn from their experience, she added.

“[Founders] are so hell-bent on our product and pitching our brand and what it should be and what the price point should be and who the consumer should be that we don't take into account the retailer's customer or the retailer's objectives or their values as a company. And if you can incorporate those and make it a win-win for both you and Target, then that makes the most sense versus just trying to shove your brands down a buyer's throat.”

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