Why Healthy Crunch started selling food at Staples

From Shopper Marketing Report: The brand taps new channels for allergen-friendly, school-approved bars, butters and jams.


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Healthy Crunch is looking to white space beyond snacking and tapping online retail to do it.

The brand is launching what it calls Canada’s first keto-certified seed butter and chia jams, as well as instant lattes and school-approved, allergen free low-sugar granola bars.

All four product lines will be available first through Costco’s online channels, but the granola bars and lattes will also be on Staples.ca, a retail channel most don’t associate with snacking. Granola products will then be rolled out at more conventional locations like Whole Foods, No Frills and Loblaw in September.

Healthy Crunch’s business, with its coconut chips and trail mixes, has been mostly centred on snacking and selling predominantly in traditional retail outlets, according to company founder Julie Bednarski, who adds that the brand usually gets “aggressive in its promotional spend in-store.”

But with COVID-19, everything has been moving online. Plus, shoppers and retailers alike have been focusing more on buying and promoting staples, leading an upstart in the niche health category like Healthy Crunch to rethink its strategy. When the brand got an opportunity to partner with Costco, which has seen a huge e-commerce spike of late thanks to pandemic demand, it shifted its efforts to getting more of its products online with retailers to move with the market.

Bringing Staples into that mix came as a result of its latest product innovations being perfect for an occasion it had never tapped before: back-to-school. While parents are browsing for school supplies – an activity that is taking place more and more online – they have an opportunity to be introduced to the Healthy Crunch brand, selling “school approved” granola bars and finding its five seed butter SKUs that are more allergy-friendly than peanut butter – something high in demand for those parents who need lunch options that are safe for their kids’ classmates that may have nut allergies.

“Innovation is a big thing, and we always knew we’d innovate in other categories outside of snack food,” she says. “I realized there’s no school approved allergen-free, keto-certified spreads with these unique flavours.”

For its new products, the brand has its keto-friendly branding complimented by “school-approved” messaging featuring prominently on the packaging. Its messaging also focuses on versatility of products and usage occasions – for example, the brand highlights how instant can be incorporated into smoothies, popcorn and ice cream.

The jam category, Bednarski says, has been stagnant in terms of product innovation for a long time, and largely dominated by the likes of Smuckers. It’s also a category where the most popular options are high in sugar, and Healthy Crunch has spent three years playing around with a low sugar product line that still had the right consistency, landing on one based on chia.

Packaging design has been key to Healthy Crunch’s success, Bednarski says, having worked with Toronto graphic design agency Shintani Giordan since the brand was founded in 2014. With only a few seconds to grab people’s attention, she says it has colourful and playful palettes as well as patterns of ingredients on the outside, making it differentiation point immediately pop on shelf or online product listings.

Other parts of its digital push include beginning to explore digital flyer apps, and it has been doing giveaways with influencers and working with subscription box companies, as trial is an important part of getting repeat business. It is also continuing to focus on social, where it is looking to resonate with audience looking for “better-for-you” options more broadly, instead of getting to granular.

“Other companies focus on allergen free or vegan companies, but we are trying to bring it to more of a mass market,” Bednarski says.