New Products & Partnerships
McDonald’s has announced the arrival of its McPlant platform, which will create vegan varieties of some of the chain’s classic food staples to hit menus worldwide in 2021. Among them is a plant-based burger that was co-created by Beyond Meat, which came alongside news that the meatless meat brand will also be available in 7,000 CVS locations across the country starting in January.
That isn’t the only exciting partnership in store for Beyond, with Pizza Hut teaming up with the plant-based meat veterans to collaborate on two new pizzas with plant-based sausage, available now at Pizza Hut locations throughout the U.S. for a limited time.
Juroku Cha, a Japan-based traditional Japanese tea brand, is now being sold on Amazon and across the United States in Asian grocers and speciality stores, marking the brand’s introduction to the American market.
Coffee Mate will launch three new flavors of coffee creamer next year, including Oatmeal Crème Pie, M&M, and Glazed Donut, as well as Brown Sugar and Almond Sweet Crème versions of their growing line of oat milk creamers.
Target is teaming up with Ulta Beauty to create mini Ulta locations within select Target stores across the country, a partnership that will feed the former’s beauty and personal care sales while giving the latter access to a wider audience of consumers.
Funding & Acquisitions
Probiotic juice shot brand So Good So You announced a $14.5 million funding round.
Utz Brands will acquire Truco Enterprises for $480 millions in a deal expected to close in December. This comes as Utz amps up its presence in the snack category, with their previous purchase of pretzel brand H.K. Anderson announced just over a month ago.
Crave Better Foods, LLC, is merging with Solero Organic Fruit Bars, previously owned by Iris Brands, LLC, and adding the brand’s operations to its Connecticut-based headquarters.
Beyond Meat has officially acquired its co-packer for $14.5 million, allowing the brand more flexibility to test products and scale up as needed.
Just months after launching in the U.S., Israeli food tech company Zero Egg has closed a $5.5 million funding round.
Upstream Battle for GMO Salmon
A federal judge has ruled that GMO salmon can be sold, but cautioned the FDA to reconsider its environmental assessment for the genetically modified fish, adding that the risks were not properly weighed. The verdict comes after a lawsuit was filed by groups representing fishermen and salmon advocates against AquaBounty, the creator and producer of bioengineered salmon line AquaAdvantage, citing concerns that the genetically modified fish could be detrimental to native salmon varieties if released into the wild. Taking the title of first GMO species approved for human consumption, the salmon are given growth hormones that allow them to grow twice as fast as wild salmon, a quality that makes them ideal for consumption purposes, but a potential issue for the environment.
The ruling is a victory for both sides, as AquaBounty will still be allowed to hit shelves next year and has even begun building a 10,000 metric ton facility in Kentucky to aid its future efforts. However, the lawsuit’s verdict does make it harder for future genetically modified meats to get FDA approval and necessitates a stricter process to understand how the bioengineered version could potentially impact the environment and native species populations. Despite this, AquaAdvantage is leading the way for other brands to follow, helping establish protocols that will make the process simpler for future GMO meats.
Returning to Normal for Packaged Food
A new report from Moody’s Investor Service shows that at-home food consumption will see a decline over the next 18 months as people begin to return to work and school, signalling a shift back towards pre-pandemic consumption patterns after over half a year of redefining “normal” for the CPG industry. A drop in sales for the packaged food industry is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021, as categories will be unable to maintain the surges experienced in the first few months of 2020 in reaction to lockdowns and the temporary closure of many physical retail locations.
Despite the relative drop in earnings, the outlook for the packaged food industry is stable, and benefits from the pandemic will lead to strong sales into 2022, especially for larger brands. Slow recovery is expected for restaurants due to capacity restrictions, which bodes well for at-home consumption for the time being, and the tendency for consumers to stockpile familiar products during the pandemic positions popular companies like General Mills and Conagra Brands to be particularly successful. This momentum may slow down the recovery of smaller brands, although it’s expected that big companies will gradually give up some share gains to smaller ones as inventory and consumption normalizes.
In spite of a challenging year for even the sweetest of industries, Mars Wrigley has been able to adapt smoothly to the transition to largely online retail, piling onto their virtual sales efforts with promotions and events to draw customers in. They notably came up with “Treat Town” for Halloween, a virtual trick-or-treating platform that allowed consumers to collect candy vouchers from friends to bypass the face-to-face aspect of the tradition that was cancelled in many areas. "What we wanted to do was learn," said Mike Gilroy, VP of trade development and sponsorship for the company. "We wanted to test and learn, test and learn to build muscle with an entrepreneurship mindset, and so ultimately creating that ecosystem for Mars Wrigley for an online opportunity."
Convenience store sales, which make up a large portion of the candy brand’s sales, were also forced to adapt during the pandemic, with chains like 7-Eleven and Wawa either partnering with delivery services or offering curbside pickup and contactless payment. For Mars Wrigley that shift has meant finding new ways to hone in on what customers want through packaging and price, with the brand adding that it plans to grow further into the category in 2021 by adding new varieties of some of their most popular products and doubling down on advertising in the fourth quarter so when consumers are ready to return to normal, Mars Wrigley will be on their minds.
Snacking is King
Mondelez International has found that snacking is more important than ever for consumers, with two-thirds saying they prefer it to a meal, up from 59% last year. In a period when many people are spending more time alone in order to social distance, snacking has become a solo activity that can be comforting, also leading to a particular preference from consumers for nostalgic childhood brands. Salty snacks have especially seen favor during the pandemic with a 7% jump in year-over-year sales, while chocolate has seen more sales in North America, with purchases of premium chocolate rising as people settle into a “treat yourself” mentality. Online snack buying has become more popular than physical channels, and 69% of consumers say they plan to continue shopping virtually even after the pandemic is over.
Not all snacks are having their day though, as Mondelez reports that either extreme on the spectrum (nutrition bars or overly indulgent treats) are less likely to resonate with consumers who are seeking bites that satisfy their cravings while still being mindful of health during this period of extreme awareness of health and cleanliness. Times are changing rapidly, and Mondelez agrees that the most important thing for brands right now is to pay attention to the signals that hint what consumers want as the snack industry booms.
What a Biden Administration Means for CPG by Geoff Freeman, Consumer Brands Association
A Starter Guide to Celebrity Capital for Consumer Brands by Aditi Dash, Medium