Acting Small to Win Big


Marcel Nahm
Vice President & General Manager, Snacks North America, The Hershey Company

When you hear the name Hershey, the first thing that probably comes to mind is our iconic chocolate bar. We have spent more than a century delighting consumers with treats that taste great and they love. Along the way, we have learned incredibly valuable insights into people’s wants and needs, their tastes and the way they engage with food – all of which is evolving faster and more than ever before.

Consumers are no longer simply eating three square meals a day at set times and they are paying significantly more attention to what they eat, whether it’s protein, carbohydrates, sugar, salt or fats. They are making mental calculations throughout their day seeking to strike a balance. They may start their day with fruit or yogurt, getting a salad at lunch and then maybe reward themselves with a sweet snack in the afternoon. Alternatively, if they have a lunch with more carbohydrates, then they are likely looking for a protein-filled snack afterwards.

These insights into the evolving eating habits of consumers were instrumental as Hershey developed its plan to broaden the portfolio and offer more delicious snacks that they want. This is key because Hershey’s growing portfolio of snacks beyond confection is going to be a big part of the company’s focus in 2016 and beyond.

Some of these snacks may already be familiar while others are just hitting store shelves. Krave jerky is a resounding success since we bought it in 2015, with the introduction of several new flavors of the beef, turkey and pork jerkies. Second, Brookside bars are available since Q4 last year, and new flavors will be launched this year. And finally, we just launched our new, complete-protein line called “SoFit” on Amazon.com and in a few parts of the country.

What may be most surprising to some is the way we are developing these new snack products. As I say to my team, “Welcome to a start up!” We’re taking an entrepreneurial approach, or as I like to say, “Acting Small to Win Big.” The question running through your mind might be: What does that all mean?

Put simply, we are operating very much like a new, nimble group that is able to take risks and try new things with these new snacking products, rather than doing the traditional national launch and flooding the market with a bunch of new products. We have adopted three core principles to guide our work: 1) Give consumers the great tastes they have come to expect from Hershey; 2) offer a balanced nutrition profile that meets the consumers’ evolving demands; and 3) make it portable to fit their needs and schedule.

Like many traditional start-up companies, our team faced many of the same trials and tribulations. We tackled budget and timing constraints. We confronted price jumps for ingredients that previously were cost-effective or crop cycles that were not in line with our production schedules and left us scrambling to find a solution. We also found ways to shorten the development and delivery process.

At the same time, we made sure to find unique tastes, rather than introducing just average tasting snacks. It was also important for us to balance new ingredient trends with broad appeal. Chia seeds may be hot, but you can’t eat those all day, right?

Of course some may think that Hershey’s name helps sell a product. Yet, the bottom line is that if you don’t have something that consumers like and want, a big name won’t overcome that. The real value that Hershey brings is a century of experience identifying tastes consumers want and making smart products that meet those goals.

Our current snack product lines reflect those challenges and successes. Krave has introduced several new culinary flavors of its beef, pork and turkey jerkies, which are gluten free and chock full of protein. They are flying off the shelves! Brookside bars are the best tasting Fruit & Nut bars in the category. With ingredients such as roasted almonds, real fruit, whole grain rolled oats and smooth dark Brookside chocolate, there is much to love!

These experiences with Krave and Brookside helped shaped a new line of portable snacks that are focused on significant protein content: SoFit. These products include fruit bars, seeds packages and squeeze pouches and all have what’s known as “complete protein”, the nine essential amino acids that the human body requires. Starting this month, we are offering SoFit in a handful of regions like Shop-Rite stores in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut where there are trained dieticians at many stores. It is also available online at Amazon.com.

While our entrepreneurial approach of “Acting Small to Win Big” is in its early days, we are already seeing success thanks to our core principles. We have shaved months off the time it takes to bring the seedling of a product idea to stores. We are meeting the demand from consumers, including for more high-protein snacks that taste great. And finally, we are providing these snacks in the form they want: portable to suit their increasingly busy lives.

By staying in tune with what people want and need from their snacks, we will continue to build on this success and develop new products with the quality and taste that is synonymous with Hershey.

I recently spoke with Business Insider on Hershey’s efforts to diversify the portfolio.

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