Late last month, Simply Gum introduced Simply Candy – a clean label, all-natural twist on the beloved Snickers bar that it promises is more than a “me-too” product.
“This just has four ingredients: it’s dark chocolate, it’s dates, some roasted peanuts and a little bit of sea salt,” for a “very different flavor and a very different chew,” but also an ingredient deck that consumers can feel good about eating, even when they are indulging, the company’s vice president of marketing Jeannie Kim told attendees this week at ICR’s annual conference.
The expansion followed fast on the heels of the company’s DTC launch in July of Simply Fruit Gummies, which are set apart from the competition because the base is made of real fruit, there is no added-sugar and it is completely vegan, Kim said.
She explained the speed of the back-to-back launches DTC-only served two purposes – one to test whether consumers are interested in cleaner versions of beloved treats and two if they would accept a chocolate or gummy from a brand best known for gum.
While it is still early days, Kim said the resounding answer is ‘yes.’
Through surveys, reviews, direct emails with loyal consumers and press influencers, Kim said that the company has “gotten a lot of really good feedback, both positive as well as things that we can optimize. … But the initial read has been really positive. People really like the products and a few retailers have picked them up in their current state,” she explained.
After COVID hit impulse items hard, ‘we realized … we needed to enter some larger and faster growing categories’
The launches come at a time when the pandemic has severely dampened sales of gum and mints – the only two categories in which Simply Gum previously played – underscoring the need for a more diverse portfolio.
“Certainly during the first waves of the coronavirus we saw a lot of disruption both in terms of our manufacturing and staff as well as … impulse items were hit especially hard, such as gum, because it is a social item and used when you go out. But with everyone at home quarantining and wearing masks it simply wasn’t a necessity,” said founder Caron Proscnan.
And while sales of Simply Gum rebounded profoundly in 2021 and even outpaced many legacy brands sold alongside it at Target to have its highest grossing year ever, Kim said the leadership team realized that if Simply Gum wants to succeed long-term it needs to drive significant revenue growth.
“We realized to do that we needed to enter some larger and faster growing categories. And so our ambition is to really become the go-to brand for sweet snacking, simplified,” she said.
So, what does that mean?
“It means our mission is to create delicious snacks made the Simply way with good ingredients and thoughtful design. Whatever we create, we want to stay true to these two pillars within our product design to make sure we capture what was so successful” with the launch of Simply Gum, Kim said.
Proscnan explained that these values are reflected in Simply Gum’s short ingredient list, which uses chicle to create a soft but cohesive chew without the use of plastics, organic cane juice – or xylitol in the sugar-free option – organic vegetable glycerin, organic sunflower lecithin, organic rice flour and natural flavors.
As for design, Simply Gum’s clean, square box with a flip top lid filled with unwrapped squares of gum and a side pocket of papers in which consumers can dispose used gum, helped win over consumers – including serendipitously Kourtney Kardashian who discovered the product while shopping with her family.
With that foundation, the company chose to enter the gummy category because it is one of the fastest growing confection categories, Kim said.
According to Grand View Marketing, the global fruit snack market was roughly $4.92 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.2% from 2020 to 2027, with demand for better-for-you options a significant driver.
Likewise, Kim said, Simply Gum chose the chocolate category to enter next because of its size and versatility.
Beyond these categories, Kim said, the company has a robust innovation pipeline, experienced and dedicated team and confidence that in the coming years it will become a trusted brand for snacks made a simpler way and that drives revenue growth.