The fall equinox is almost here, and change is upon us once again. But enough bad puns about seasonality! Let's get to the most important news for the week that was.
Intriguing, Innovative Partnerships
Morningstar Farms is introducing the latest addition to their Incogmeato line, with a mouse-ears shaped twist. The plant-based brand has partnered with Disney to bring soy-based, Mickey Mouse-inspired nuggets to retailers nationwide, hoping to appeal to a younger audience. Disney is also hoping to enhance their presence in the plant-based category, adding over 400 new plant-based offerings to menus at their Florida and California resorts last year.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has released its second flavor collaboration with Tyler, The Creator, following last year’s “Snowflake” flavor. “Pluto Bleu,” a blood orange and blueberry combination, launched on Thursday and will become available on the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream website starting on September 21.
Candy brands American Licorice, Goetze’s Candy, Jelly Belly, and Spangler have teamed up to create the “Boo Box,” a Halloween-themed box filled with candy, activities, and a mask. The box comes as brands search for new avenues to explore for the upcoming candy season in the wake of Covid-19 and its potential stifling of the trick-or-treating tradition.
Meanwhile, Hershey’s has launched a website to map out the safety of trick-or-treating by county. Color-coding the counties depending on the number of confirmed cases in each of them, the page makes recommendations for each risk level, with suggestions like going out with masks on or staying in with a scary movie. The holiday plays a key role in generating annual revenue for candy brands, but the pandemic made this year’s celebrations uncertain. Brands are searching for ways to combat that while staying safe, with many choosing to begin Halloween promotions earlier to encourage more spending.
Sports-focused nutrition brand Honey Stinger and shoe brand Merrell have released a shoe collaboration, announced Honey Stinger in a tweet on Thursday. The limited edition trail running shoe takes visual inspiration from the brand’s signature honey color and are available directly through Merrell’s website. “Teaming up with Merrell to create this limited-edition shoe was a natural fit for the Honey Stinger brand,” says Honey Stinger CEO Mike Keown. “Their deep passion for the outdoors and commitment to sustainable sourcing are well aligned with our own values, and we are excited to be able to express and celebrate both of those aspects with this unique collaboration.”
Frozen dessert brand Enlightened has released two new seasonal flavors in their Keto Collection line, partnering with Delish to bring consumers “creative ways to give their favorite dishes a low-carb twist,” says Delish editorial director Joanna Saltz. The Pumpkin Cheesecake and Peppermint Brownie flavors will be available nationwide through the holiday season, marking the beginning of this year’s seasonal festivities.
PepsiCo is launching Drinkwell, a sleep and relaxation-focused beverage that propels Pepsi into the functional beverage category. Set to hit shelves in the first quarter of 2021, the release strikes at a time when more and more consumers are reporting sleeplessness as a result of pandemic-induced anxiety.
General Mills is introducing a keto line called :Ratio, also in response to consumer trends that point towards a demand for healthier, better-for-you options. The release includes five varieties of yogurt and two snack bars, and is backed by figures provided by General Mills that claim the ketogenic category will grow by +5.5% by 2027 thanks to consumers' increased interest in it.
Gravity Products, parent of the weighted blanket brand Gravity Blanket, has announced its partnership with Target, bringing their blankets to 900 brick and mortar locations and Target’s online platform. The blanket brand has quickly extended its reach into several retail locations since being founded in 2017, including Amazon, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales, but their partnership with Target marks their largest one to date.
Investments & Acquisitions
Bulletproof raised $13M in capital, and credited the influx of cash in part to the pandemic-led shift to consumers seeking out immunity and wellness products in larger quantities than ever.
Israel-based company Meat Tech 3D announced its acquisition of an undisclosed cell-based fat producer, furthering its reach even more after launching daughter company Chick&Tech earlier this month, and kicking off what Head of Business Development Simon Fried describes as the “first of many” acquisitions for the startup.
True Gum, a plastic-free and plant-based gum brand based in Copenhagen, received a €1 million investment from a German VC to push their expansion efforts forward as consumers continue to seek out sustainable versions of their favorite legacy products.
Kraft-Heinz is selling Lactalis, which includes brands like Breakstone’s, Knudsen, and Cracker Barrel, for $3.2 billion, its CFO Paulo Basilio announced. The sale comes as part of an effort for Kraft-Heinz to regain their footing after a $12.6 billion loss in February 2019.
Phytolon announced $4.1 million in funding for its production of plant-based food colors, which are increasingly in demand as the popularity in plant-based products booms.
Grocery stores are falling back into favor as consumers return to in-person shopping after months of opting for online options. Chains including Publix, Albertsons, and Trader Joe’s all saw year-over-year growth in August, with Whole Foods Market reporting an increase in visitors last month. Kroger also saw a growth of +8.2% in revenue compared to last year, marking a potential light at the end of the tunnel for many of the chains that experienced a drop in customers beginning in March. As more people return to in-person shopping, a survey by Takeoff Technologies found that while delivery speed is a main factor for online shoppers, price is the priority for those going into the stores. It also found that household size plays a bigger role in the decision to shop online than household income or age, meaning that online retailers should focus on large families as a key demographic, and improve prices and delivery speed to sway in-store shoppers to switch to virtual shopping.
Plants Are Meat, Too!
As the plant-based market continues to grow and overtake animal products, the category faces more legal challenges in its journey to establish the industry in the mainstream. Most recently, Oklahoma’s ‘Meat Consumer Protection Act’ has allowed plant-based brands to use terms like ‘meat’ and ‘beef’ to describe products, with the stipulation that they disclose the product’s true sources, like soy, “in type that is uniform in size and prominence to the name of the product.” The law, which will go into effect on November 1st, has been challenged by the Plant Based Foods Association and plant-based meat brand Upton’s Naturals due to the “oversized” nature of the required disclaimers. PBFA executive director Michele Simon explains that while the brands are not hesitant to share that their products are vegan with consumers, “it’s customary for the font size of product names to be the largest on the label...Our members want the flexibility to be able to choose the labels and messages of their choice, so long as they are truthful and not misleading.” She added that certain members of the PBFA would even consider removing the products from the Oklahoma market if the law goes into effect. Because the plant-based craze is still relatively new and so many products are being added to its lineup, there are issues to be worked out when figuring out how to describe vegan products that are designed as replacements for traditional animal ones. As this process continues, brands are subject to an uncertain and unclear standard that is still in its infancy.
Kosher Crisis Hits $19 Billion Market With Rabbis Stuck at Home by Bruce Einhorn, Bloomberg
Innovation takes on a different meaning as pandemic forces CPGs to get creative by Christopher Doering, Food Dive