Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 6




for a radically altered




ood startups and early-stage brands
are adapting to today's environment
by delaying product innovation,
pivoting to online retail and fine-tuning
marketing messages for the newly homebound, unemployed or anxious consumer.
Many who began the year with big plans
for new product launches or expanded distribution have shifted into survival mode.
"You might as well throw everything
out the window, right?" said Stephen Williamson, co-founder and chief executive
officer of Forager Project, San Francisco.
"It's a completely different business environment."
In February, Forager Project announced an ambitious lineup of product
launches, including organic oat milk,
plant-based yogurt, dairy-free butter,
grain-free cereal and grain-free tortilla-style chips, with plans to present them
to retail buyers at Natural Products Expo
West, the so-called Super Bowl of the
natural and specialty foods industry. The
event, scheduled for early March in Anaheim, Calif., with an anticipated 90,000
attendees, was canceled as the coronavirus emerged stateside.
"All in-store visits are effectively

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over," Mr. Williamson said. "We're no
longer having in-person meetings with
buyers for presenting new products and
new ideas. It's all via conference call or web
call. And the presentation of new products
is no longer in front of somebody. You send
it and hope it doesn't get messed up."

Changing course
Tara Bosch, the founder and CEO of
Vancouver, BC-based SmartSweets, was
set to debut Smart Chews, the brand's first
non-gummy candy and an innovation more
than two years in development. Like Forager Project and hundreds of other brands,
SmartSweets expected to unveil the new
product at Expo West. For her business,
however, with its robust online following,
the show's cancellation had a minimal
impact on launch plans, Ms. Bosch said.
"Because we are so digital heavy,
Expo West was always a pretty small
piece of the puzzle for how we planned to
introduce the product to our tribe," she
said. "We were excited to drive trial and
awareness, ...but we had always planned
to have our primary focus of the launch be
digital and social to drive the awareness."
A bigger adjustment was needed in

the product's marketing strategy. Smart
Chews, which are low-sugar, plant-based,
chewy, fruity candies, initially were to be
introduced with a "Chews your adventure"
tagline to promote the portability of the
individually wrapped confections.
"It's great for on-the-go snacking, but
now that we're all inside, that message is
not relevant," Ms. Bosch said.
The brand instead announced the
product with a "Daily dose of sweetness"
campaign, which Ms. Bosch said was designed to "bring a smile during this really
heavy time."
"How we're looking at things is
adapting versus putting on hold," Ms.
Bosch said. "We're certainly pivoting to
adapt to the world and how COVID-19 is
unfolding and how SmartSweets can best
serve consumers during this time as a
moment of comfort."
The new product was slated to launch
in 10,000 stores in June, but as retailers
delayed merchandising resets to prioritize
restocking shelves, that number has been
reduced to about half as many outlets.
SmartSweets turned its attention to driving sales through its website and online
retailers like
"Those with direct-to-consumer
May 12, 2020

Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020

Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 1
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 2
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 3
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 4
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 5
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 6
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 7
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 8
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 9
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 10
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 11
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 12
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 13
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 14
Food Entrepreneur - May 12, 2020 - 15