One of the most successful recent entrants to the US food and beverage market, KRAVE is marketed more like artisan coffee, chocolate or fine wines, and comes in gourmet flavors from ‘basil citrus turkey’; and ‘black cherry barbecue pork’; to ‘pineapple orange beef’.
Revenues, which topped $35m in 2014, nearly doubled in 2015 under Hershey’s ownership, and are still growing strongly as KRAVE continues to win new accounts, and existing accounts add more SKUs (stock keeping units), said Chambers, who moved to California last year to work with Sebastiani a few months after KRAVE was acquired by Hershey.
The plan is to double distribution by the end of the year
His aim is to double distribution [from where the brand stood at the start of 2016] for KRAVE “before the end of this year”, primarily through aggressively expanding its presence in the convenience sector.
While KRAVE had initially steered clear of c-stores and gas stations and instead targeted natural retailers, drugstores and mass grocery and club stores as word started to spread, the convenience market represented a huge – and still fairly untapped – market for KRAVE, said Chambers.
“Convenience is the real opportunity for KRAVE, it’s a very fragmented market still, but we own our own sales force, we’ve got 1,700 passionate sales people that can work to get KRAVE in that market, so leveraging Hershey’s scale & strength in this area will be incredibly powerful for the brand.
“We can leverage the scale of Hershey to really activate distribution and market the brand more aggressively. I think we can double distribution before the end of the year.”
KRAVE meat bars to launch in August 2016
KRAVE meat bars – which had originally been scheduled to launch in late 2015 - are now set to launch in August, said Chambers, who spent eight years with Hershey before joining KRAVE, most recently as general manager of Allan Candy in Canada, which Hershey acquired in December 2014.
While several senior executives from KRAVE had joined founder Jon Sebastiani at his new brand incubator Sonoma Brands, there had not been a ‘brain drain’ at KRAVE following the Hershey deal, said Chambers, who said Sebastiani was still working with KRAVE on a consultancy basis and had been recruiting for sales, marketing and R&D positions in Sonoma for several months to fuel the brand’s expansion.
As for synergies, while Hershey does not have other brands in the meat snacks category, joining forces with its new parent company had helped KRAVE secure some procurement savings, notably on packaging, said Chambers.
Preserved with sea salt and celery powder, KRAVE is made with whole muscle meat instead of meat scraps, marinated for 24 hours and baked, so it remains moist and tender.
The products - which are claimed to be "materially lower in salt (50-70%), cholesterol (50-70%), and calories (15-70%)" than major competitors' wares - are also free of gluten, high fructose corn syrup, nitrites or MSG.