Harken Sweets' flagship products include two modern takes on classic candy bars in which industry veteran and company founder Katie Lefkowitz replaces the corn syrup, cane sugar and artificial sweeteners commonly used in confections with a “family-famous date caramel recipe” that packs a hefty dose of fiber and allows her to slash the amount of sugar and calories in her bars compared to their traditional counterpart.
“Harken is really about reinvigorating the confectionary space with the power of the date fruit,” which has “been around, obviously, for centuries, but I think they are really gaining the momentum that they have now because people are realizing how incredible the fruit really is,” Lefkowitz told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that her date-base caramel retains the fruit’s vitamins, minerals and – notably – its fiber, which is a shortfall nutrient for many Americans and which Lefkowitz reinforces in the bars with prebiotic tapioca, sunchokes and oats.
“What we have created here, what we were able to achieve nutritionally has really never been done before because of all of that R&D and research that went into making this date caramel,” she said.
In total, each bar has 13 grams of prebiotic fiber, about half the daily recommended intake, no added sugar – but about 8 grams of total sugar from the dates and extra sweetness from Monk Fruit, and 140 calories, which is about 40% of the bars’ category leading counterparts, Lefkowitz said.
Harken Sweets’ first bar – The Nutty One – is a better-for-you version of a Snickers bar, and the second bar – the Gooey One – is an allergen-friendly take on the first without the peanuts. Both bars have a nougat layer topped with the date caramel and enrobed in an oat-chocolate.
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Multi-prong marketing strategy helps drive velocities 5x faster than category average
While it is still early days for the bar, which has limited distribution in the New York market, Lefkowitz says it is “flying” off shelves with a velocity five times the category average.
Lefkowitz attributes this early success to a multi-prong marketing approach that includes building a ‘cult following’ online before launching into retail to ensure she could drive foot traffic and velocities. She also notes the importance of ensuring callouts on packaging grab consumers’ attention and meet their needs.
For Harken Sweets the most influential callouts on the bars’ packaging are that they have only 140 calories, have no sugar added or “fake stuff” and highlight the date caramel filling, which Lefkowitz notes is a primary differentiator from competitors.
Entrepreneurial intuition tops conventional wisdom
As Lefkowitz strikes out on her own to build Harken Sweets she says she is drawing heavily on her experience helping to build Caulipower alongside founder Gail Becker, who advised the team that it is better to say ‘oops,’ rather than dwell on ‘what ifs’ and what could have been.
With this in mind, she says, she is all in and “going big … not going little.”
She acknowledges that this may buck conventional wisdom around go-to-market strategy, but she says, “a huge element of this is where you have to trust your gut. As an entrepreneur, you have to know your consumers so well and know what they want. And I just think relying on your own intuition just as much as other sources of input” is essential to success.