Mother Raw plants seeds for growth on heels of rebrand

The company is taking on established salad dressing and ketchup brands that have long dominated Canadian grocery aisles.

MotherRaw_CEOShoot_01

It used to be the global CPGs that ruled the condiment aisles in mainstream Canadian grocery stores, and while many Heinz and Kraft brands still loom, smaller upstarts are giving them a run for their money these days.

Enter Mother Raw, a Toronto-based brand that is serving up a counterpoint to mainstream salad dressings, dips, BBQ sauces, ketchups and even a vegan queso “cheese-style sauce.”

“Organic, plant-powered” products from Mother Raw have approximately 3,000 points of distribution in Canada and the U.S., says Kristi Knowles, CEO of Reunion Foods, which owns the Mother Raw brand.

thumbnail-9

The brand, which was previously known as RawFoodz (image right), underwent a complete rebrand at the start of this year and Knowles and her team are now busy building brand awareness across North America. Mother Raw products are sold in a range of larger mainstream and smaller local grocers, including Whole Foods and Sobeys in Canada and H-E-B and Fresh Thyme in America. The brand also sells its products on its website, which features recipes and a blog.

In-store, the brand has been doing traditional sampling in-stores, but took that one step further over the long weekend by partnering with the “like-minded” Cece’s Veggie Co. (best known for popularizing spiralized zucchini noodles) on an in-store recipe demo at select H-E-B stores in the U.S. The concept of partnering with brands like Cece’s and Lightlife on store demos will be rolled out in Canada down the road, says Knowles.

Mother Raw also has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages promoting its 19 current SKUs and general brand online and is working with influencers.

While the Raw Foodz packaging vaguely resembled rival Renée’s Gourmet (owned by Kraft Heinz) dressings, the new packaging serves as a counterpoint to the more established condiment products that tend to feature bright, bold “very linear and structured” designs, explains Knowles.

“The strategy behind the design was to really push convention of the category,” she says. “Mother Raw is all about being organic and, yes, organic in the product, but also organic in the shapes – so nothing is linear, straight or harsh. It was meant to be organic, it was meant to be beautiful, it was meant to be unique.”

Standing out from the giants of the condiment world is key, as Mother Raw’s salad dressings usually sit in the same refrigerated dressing section near the produce in grocery stores. Since Mother Raw products are cold-pressed and thus have to be refrigerated, having a separate stand in another part of the store is not really a viable option, explains Knowles. She says the brand has also added “premium neck tags” to its salad dressing bottles that say: “shake me baby” on the front and explain on the back that since its products include cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil that slightly thickens in the fridge, the bottle needs a shake before being poured on a salad.

Also, the rebranding positions Mother Raw as a “premium” product aimed at health-conscious urbanites who are willing to shell out more for its products, which feature trendy (and pricey) ingredients like cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. Indeed, a bottle of Mother Raw salad dressing is substantially more expensive than Renée’s. While a 273 ml bottle of Mother Raw’s Caesar dressing costs $7.49, a much-larger bottle (750 ml) of Renée’s cost $8.99. Given the higher price point, Mother Raw is currently targeting those in large markets, such as Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, as well as California, New York and Chicago in the U.S., who are willing to spend more.

“We’re targeting people who are already showing that they’re interested in buying premium health food, so people who are currently buying some organic products or buying some plant-based items and that tends to be in more urban centres,” explains Knowles.

Meanwhile, plans are underway to place its new line of BBQ and ketchup products in the growing tofu, tempeh and plant-based meat alternative refrigerated sections of grocery stores, says Knowles, steering away from the traditional ketchup aisle featuring Heinz and other rivals. The unique placement will be tested out in Save-on-Foods stores in B.C. where Mother Raw products will be placed close to Lightlife, the plant-based meat alternative brand owned by Maple Leaf Foods.

Canada Product Shot Family_Unshaken_7028-FLAT-v2

Toronto indie agency Zulu Alpha Kilo worked with the brand on the new name, product design and overall brand strategy. The result is a brand that pays homage to its past while looking to future growth.

“With the rebranding, we wanted to keep the notion of raw in the name so all of our ingredients are co-blended with the name Mother Raw. It reflects on the founder of the product, Michelle who passed away, early on when I started to consult for the company,” says Knowles. “So it was sort of a beautiful nod to what was and a nod to Mother Earth, but raw is also meant to be kind of an attitude, so our whole mission is to invite everyone, everybody, everywhere… to eat more plants, more of the time.”

Toronto’s Whitecap Venture Partners made a “substantial investment [that] has made it possible to take Mother Raw North-American wide,” says Knowles, who did not reveal the specific amount Whitecap has invested in parent co. Reunion Foods.

And Knowles, who has extensive background working in sales and marketing for large CPGs including Unilever, Campbell and Molson Coors, says the aim is that the marketing seeds that Mother Raw has planted since its rebrand will ultimately help the brand bloom from a currently niche to a mainstream name. The Mother Raw brand was “built to be stretchy as we see opportunities,” explains Knowles.

“[We] have big plans for this brand,” she says, noting that it’s looking to further expand Mother Raw’s product line down the road. “We definitely have large ambitions and based on customer uptake there’s lots of reason to believe.”