When it comes to the future of natural products brands, the word “uncertainty” is probably a gross understatement. And while the world struggles to navigate the uncharted territory of the COVID-19 global pandemic, companies are changing their strategies in an effort to meet the new and quickly fluctuating challenges of the marketplace.
But while many natural products brands have shifted their focus onto building and strengthening e-commerce platforms to meet the huge demand for online sales, Supernola—a maker of snackable superfood clusters—is intent on continuing its expansion strategy into conventional brick-and-mortar stores, bolstered by a recently closed Series A investment round for an undisclosed amount of capital.
It’s not that Supernola doesn’t have an e-commerce platform—in fact, online business is booming right now, and always has been important to the company’s strategy, according to founder Cindy Poiesz. But despite the current market upheaval, the company’s main focus is still on maintaining the momentum of the pivotal expansion phase that kicked off in late January when the brand launched nationally in 6,500 Walgreens and 150 Giant Food stores across Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
To do so, Poiesz, along with Frank Jimenez, managing partner and president of parent company Evolve Brands, initially took some time to reassess the company’s strategy in order to find a way to turn the current situation from a negative to a positive. The answer, they concluded, was to continue to build relationships and to educate brokers, retailers and consumers about their products.
“We have a lot of brokers,” says Jimenez, “and we have an opportunity now to work with them to really make sure they understand our products and vision, as well as to strategize with them to develop ways to continue moving forward despite meetings being postponed or cancelled.”
In the absence of face-to-face meetings and sampling, the company has had to get creative with what this entails. The challenge has been helped by the fact that Evolve Brands owns its manufacturing facility. By leveraging the sudden ubiquity of video conferencing, Poiesz can take brokers and buyers on personalized (virtual) tours of the Supernola production facility to show them what makes these products unique from a processing standpoint.
“We would have never had the opportunity to do this with a buyer in Washington, D.C., for example—they wouldn’t fly out here to see our space,” points out Jimenez, “so we have this opportunity to really bring some personalization and authenticity to the table.”
This focus on education has also led to a shift in marketing strategy, aimed at influencing the way that Supernola is communicating directly with consumers. As a company that is typically involved in many of its consumers’ events such as marathons and runs, the leadership has had to get creative in terms of educating people about their products.
Fortunately, says Poiesz, this is helped by the fact that they launched a pointed digital and social strategy earlier in the year (in addition to a new web design and rebranding). The strategy here will be focused on interacting and having a conversation with target customers. This will involve many videos and other digital content set to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
According to Poiesz, “People are at home, behind their computers and behind their phones. We could really speak to them if we do it right, and even get some great feedback on what they're looking for in a product. So how do we kind of take advantage of that time that they have right now?”
In a world that has seemed more on the “glass empty” side of the spectrum lately, this brand’s upbeat philosophy comes across like a breath of fresh air. Ultimately, says Poiesz, the only thing brands can do is stay optimistic, try to be strategic and focus on the things they can control right now.