Retail

The Omni Sales Crunch Of Specialty Snacks

In Americans’ busy lives, snacking has become as vital as one’s three daily meals, especially for those with packed schedules. Granola bars or chips, necessary energy boosters, are supposed to be healthy, but these products are often loaded with sugar and calories.

Specialty snack maker TeaSquares keeps this in mind with a product powered with energy from tea. Their snacks are meant to keep people “energized and focused and going throughout the day,” Founder Jordan Buckner told PYMNTS.com in an interview.

The development process for TeaSquares wasn’t easy: It took 80 different variations to get the ingredients and flavor profile just right. The resulting product has millet, almond and pumpkin — among other ingredients — that is lightly sweetened with agave nectar. Buckner said the product almost has the texture of popcorn or rice cakes, like a “lightweight, crunchy, airy snack.” The idea was to create a snack for the office worker — not the person hitting the gym.

Snack bars tend to be protein-focused, which would appeal to someone lifting weights, but a worker in a cubicle might benefit from caffeine instead. (Protein provides more of a physical boost, while caffeine provides a mental boost). TeaSquares’ products are also geared toward consumers looking to focus, such as college students and those working long hours — or those powering through the overnight shift. It’s hard for anyone “to stay completely focused for eight to 10 to 12 hours [a] day when [they’re] working harder and longer hours,” Buckner said. TeaSquares seeks to give consumers the pick-me-up they need to get through the day or night.

And why tea? For one, consumers are reducing their coffee consumption. Coffee can also be acidic and hard to digest. But tea “contains an amino acid that actually helps to regulate the absorption of the caffeine,”Buckner said. In terms of caffeine, each TeaSquares serving contains the caffeine of about one cup of tea — or the equivalent to just under one cup of coffee. When people drink tea, they may not get the jitters or the crash that comes with coffee. Instead, consumers sometimes turn to tea because it’s known to have a long-lasting sustained energy boost.

Omnichannel Distribution

In terms of distribution, TeaSquares sells to offices — particularly Chicago tech companies — that are buying the snacks for their employees. As a result, some consumers are experiencing TeaSquares for the first time through their workplaces, thus promoting the brand. The company also has its products on the shelf in Whole Foods and Mariano’s, with plans to be in Jewel-Osco later this year.

Once TeaSquares arrives at brick-and-mortar stores, the company supports its products with in-store demos and sampling so people who aren’t familiar with the product can try it. Primarily, the company is focused on the Chicago area, but it does have some outposts elsewhere. In terms of eCommerce, TeaSquares sells products directly through its own website and through Amazon.

As it turns out, the grocery enthusiasts at Amazon are selling an awful lot of chips, chocolate and candy on the site each year. The first half of 2017, for example, has been particularly lucrative on the junk food sales trail — Amazon saw sweets and snacks up 42 percent to $215 million from January to August, according to the researchers at One Click Retail. And, in 2016, Amazon posted total sales of $240 million in those categories.

Sample Packs

Beyond Amazon, the company offers a trial program through word-of-mouth advertising to encourage people to try TeaSquares. A recommendation from a friend can encourage a customer to visit the TeaSquares website and request a sample for the cost of shipping. The idea is that those consumers will return to purchase the item.

While TeaSquares is currently designed to help people focus, Buckner is looking to expand his product line to encompass foods designed with other benefits in mind. For example, Buckner is looking to protein for strength or superfoods for immunity, as tea has a “wide range of functionality benefits” by pairing it with super foods.

The company’s products are available to customers throughout the country on its website and Amazon, but it’s also looking to build partnerships and end up in office breakrooms from coast to coast.

“We want TeaSquares to be in every office pantry,” Buckner said, adding that he wants to bolster the market with his retail partners as the company grows.

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