Ice Cream Goes Canine & Walmart Goes Fintech: CPG News, Week of Jan 11-15

by Veronica Drake

7 Minutes



Funding & Acquisitions

Utz Brands will acquire the Vitner’s snack brand from Snak-King Corp. for a purchase price of $25 million, it was reported this week. 

Outstanding Foods announced a $10 million Series A this week led by SternAegis Ventures, with plans to use the funds to expand its retail footprint and increase its DTC marketing after a lucrative 2020 for the plant-based snack brand. 

Muniq, a health and food technology company, closed an $8.2 million Series A this week that will be used to advance clinical research to help the brand’s efforts to improve health through the gut microbiome. 

Months after Coca-Cola announced plans to discontinue Zico, PowerPlant Ventures, which is co-founded and co-led by Zico’s original founder Mark Rampolla, revealed this week that it will acquire the coconut water brand for an undisclosed amount. 


New Products & Partnerships

Our canines’ days just got a little sweeter thanks to Ben and Jerry’s, which has announced it will be creating two “ice cream” flavors for dogs, formulated with a sunflower butter base and pea protein. 

Chobani will launch a line of RTD coffees that feature the brand’s oat milk and dairy creamers. Coming in four flavors, the products will debut later this month nationwide.

Continuing their expansion into the non-alcoholic beverage category, Molson Coors is launching sparkling CBD water Veryvell. The drinks will come in three flavors and are exclusively available in Colorado, which will serve as the brand’s testing ground to evaluate potentially expanding into more markets as CBD becomes a bigger part of the CPG industry.

Ladera, formerly known as Ladera Granola, is branching out into new categories after a decade of existing only in the granola market. Launching its first new products, a line of protein bites,  in December, founder Brian Tetrud says that the brand will ramp up its innovations in 2021 to tap into new ways to bring healthy eating to consumers, including snacks featuring plant-based protein, as well as create educational programs to promote healthy lifestyles.


Banking on Walmart

Walmart announced on Monday that it will launch a fintech startup in partnership with investment firm Ribbit Capital, which already has a number of fintech companies in its portfolio, including Robinhood, Affirm, and Credit Karma

While the move solidifies Walmart’s role as a financial force in its customers’ lives, it is not the first financial service that the retail chain has offered. It currently has Walmart MoneyCard, a prepaid debit card that encourages money management and works for consumers with a challenged credit history, and also has layaway programs to allow shoppers to make payments over time on their purchases. But this new startup will be an even deeper dive into the financial relationship between Walmart and its customers. “For years, millions of customers have put their trust in Walmart to not only save them money when they shop with us but help them manage their financial needs,” said John Furner, CEO of Walmart US. “And they’ve made it clear they want more from us in the financial services arena.”

With reports that 16% of Americans are “underbanked,” meaning they utilize alternative financial services like money orders and are more likely to turn to short-term financial solutions like high-interest payday loans, and 6% of Americans simply have no checking or savings accounts, Walmart’s attachment to this startup will give it access to millions of consumers who do not ordinarily work with banks or financial advisors.

While the startup’s name has not been announced and it has not disclosed when it will launch, a statement said its purpose is to develop innovative and affordable financial products for its customers. It will be majority-owned by Walmart and members of its C-suite will serve on its board, although it has said it is open to partnering with other fintech companies in the future.


Vaccinating the Supply Chain

A new study has found that supply chains across categories in the US are being impacted by an increase in day-to-day absentee workers, a number that has not waivered since the start of the pandemic last year. According to data from the labor department, 1.9 million workers called out from work in December due to illness, nearly matching the record of 2 million that was seen in April. Meanwhile, a different study from The U.S. Census Bureau found that aside from those who were out sick, 18 million people did not work in December due to other sickness-related factors, including worries about going to work and contracting the virus or staying home to care for a sick loved one. This inconsistency in employee availability has made it difficult to keep the momentum of economic recovery that is currently the focus for many industries after a year of challenges. 

The subsequent impact on the supply chain could show up in price hikes or limited availability of certain items, and has caused leaders in industries ranging from meatpacking to CPG to advocate for getting their workers to the frontlines for vaccinations. Companies have reported anywhere from 10% to 25% absenteeism over the last two months, which has led to some creative solutions to help offset the impact of the shortage; back in August, General Motors Co. had whitecollar workers on the production floor to help make up for missing labor. 

As a patchy vaccine rollout ramps up and the third wave of the pandemic takes its toll, companies are optimistic that with vaccine availability, absenteeism could start dropping in Q2. “We know when the absenteeism will end, and that’s when we get the vaccine in people’s arms,” says CBA CEO Geoff Freeman. As the situation progresses, brands and consumers alike will wait to see results.


Marketing Barbie

While the Barbie brand has been a household name for decades, company executives are talking about how a years-long rebrand effort culminated in the 2020 pandemic. While Mattel, parent company of Barbie, has always dedicated research to understanding what products girls use throughout the day and what their key interests are, last year’s Covid-19 crisis forced them to take a step back from selling products and focus on being a source of entertainment during a challenging time. 

The journey began years ago when the brand realized they were no longer as relevant as they once were; resultantly, Barbie has debuted several new concepts in the past decade, including a more diverse range of body types for their dolls and an app that caters to the increasing prevalence of gaming as a hobby that girls partake in. It also launched social campaigns, including the Barbie Dream Gap initiative, which helps to get at the root of girls’ self-limiting beliefs that research for the brand has said begin at around five years old. 

But when the pandemic hit, marketing plans were largely unusable as consumer focus turned away from toy purchases. Instead, Barbie sought to become a source of entertainment and comfort for both children and their parents. They debuted a digital playroom that acted as a resource for parents to give ideas on things to watch or games to play with their children, and created an animated Barbie vlog series that included Barbie dealing with the new normal and showed her doing things like wearing a mask and baking bread. The pivot to a less product-focused approach allowed the brand to remain relevant and expand outside of its typical arena to be useful for the situations its customers were dealing with. Barbie’s SVP and global head of Barbie & Dolls portfolio for Mattel says that while she’s optimistic about the future, it’s important for the brand to continue to follow through and be a source of comfort for its users. 


Good Reads

The Intersection of Forecasting, Machine Learning & Business Intelligence by Eric Wilson, Institute of Business Forecasting & Planning

CPGs wake up to breakfast's new future after coronavirus shakeup by Christopher Doering, Food Dive

Packaging, PPE and surgical supplies: How COVID-19 is pushing hospitals to reduce waste by Deborah Abrams Kaplan, Supply Chain Dive

About Unioncrate

Unioncrate is an AI-powered Supply Chain Planning Platform that gives CPG brands the technology they need to compete and win in a rapidly changing consumer landscape. Our automated demand and supply forecasts deliver unmatched accuracy, collaborative visibility, and actionable intelligence, simplifying a manual-heavy process and slashing hours from your week.

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