How Healthy Snack Brand Solely Is Pushing All the Right Buttons with Buyers 5/18/2022
When a product’s ingredients ARE its name, you know it’s clean food. And clean food is exactly what Solely promises in big bold lettering on each package.
Take its Spicy Fruit Jerky as an example. My favorite flavor, it has printed on its packaging: “Solely: ½ of An Organic Pineapple with Chili & Salt.” It’s ingredients? Organic pineapple, organic dried chili, salt. Simple.
Or its Dried Fruit line. The packaging of one of the products reads, “Solely: Organic Mango Strips.” It’s ingredients? You guessed it: organic mango (and nothing else, as Solely notes in its promos).
Indeed, Solely ticks all of the boxes that grab buyers attention these days. It makes healthy, organic products with minimal ingredients. It’s vertically integrated and controls its entire supply chain (translation: no out of stocks). It has a low carbon footprint and minimizes waste. Plus, it takes exceptional care of those farmers who grow the fruit for its products.
On top of this, the company’s sales team engages buyers from the perspective of helping them deliver on their category objectives, regardless of whether this engagement is face-to-face in virtual meetings at ECRM sessions or via lightning-quick responses to buyer inquiries on RangeMe, where Solely is a premium member.
So it really should come as no surprise that the company has grown its distribution to more than 30,000 retail locations since launching three years ago. During that time span, the company has racked up hundreds of buyer meetings by participating in more than 20 virtual sessions, tons of buyer interactions on RangeMe, and has demonstrated how consistency and outstanding service to the retailer community can lead to exponential success at retail.
Three companies in one
Solely consists of three different yet complimentary business lines with the goal of making simple, clean food accessible to all. It works with institutions around the world to bring fruit to children who don’t typically have access to it and has developed some technologies to help accomplish this. It also provides fruit ingredients to other companies.
Its consumer products brand is considered by CEO Simón Sacal to be the icing on the cake. “It’s the most important part of the business in terms of potential,” he says. “We’ve put into it all of the technologies we have developed and everything we have learned over the years to turn it into a platform that has very interesting attributes and values.”
The brand consists of four product lines, including a fruit jerky, dried fruit, fruit gummies and dried spaghetti squash, each of which is organic, contains no added sugars or preservatives, and is made using patented technology and processes developed by the company. “We don’t believe in a product that is healthy and not indulgent,” says Sacal. “Every product has to taste great to be a sustainable business. We believe in clean food, which has just a few ingredients, that is priced for massive consumption, not for niche consumption.”
Its Fruit Jerky consists of cold-pressed organic fruit. “The only thing we do is slice and dice the fruit and cold press it using patented technologies,” says Solely Chief Revenue Officer Michel Algazi. “We eliminate a lot of the water but keep the nutrients, flavors and aromas. The form factor is super practical, resulting in a product with a one-year shelf life and can be carried in your back pocket or purse. It was the most successful launch in Whole Foods Market’s functional snack set. We were WFM’s Global Supplier of the Year last year [for the Center Store category].”
The Dried Fruit line is similar to traditional dried fruit products in its form factor, but that’s where the similarity ends. The organic fruits are not aged using gases, nor do they contain sulfites or preservatives, and are extremely competitive price-wise, according to the company. There is also an indulgent line extension with a cacao drizzle.
Solely Fruit Gummies contain no gels, gum, sugar or artificial flavors and colors. “It’s 99 percent fruit,” says Algazi. “With a deep R&D bench, we were able to develop a unique product using a patented technology. Imagine a parent having the opportunity to offer their kid the indulgent experience of candy, but with all of the benefits of fruit.”
Solely’s latest product is a single-ingredient dried spaghetti squash that serves as a replacement for pasta with 85 percent less carbs and calories and is certified gluten-free.
Taking care of its people and the planet
Not only are Solely’s products developed to be better for consumers, the brand’s processes are designed to be better for the growers it employs as well as the planet. It has a couple of manufacturing plants in Mexico and one in Costa Rica, in order to be closer to the source of the crops.
“We work with out farmers on three different levels to help get perfect fruit to market,” says Sacal. “First, we help the farmers transition to organic, which is a three-year process. Second, we use the entire yield of their farms, even the so-called ‘ugly fruit,’ not just the beautiful table fruit, so this gives the farmer better control over their finances, and a lot more income. Typical farms use only around 70 percent of their yield for table fruit, and the rest goes to waste. Environmentally, there’s a huge impact because for the same amount of land and fertilizer, you are getting more calories into the market.”
In addition, Solely manufactures every product that it sells in its own facilities, employing 1,500 people globally, and using patented technologies it has developed over the years. Believe it or not, it’s very difficult to make an organic, single-ingredient product that tastes great and is shelf-stable, and make it in a way that reduces waste and has a low carbon footprint. Because the cold-press process removes most of the water from the fruits, the resulting products take up less space, weigh less and as a result requires fewer energy to transport that if they were shipping the full fruits themselves.
Success at the shelf
All of the above attributes notwithstanding, if a brand doesn’t successfully engage the retail buyer community, it won’t get its products on the shelves, and this is an area in which Solely truly crushes it – both at ECRM virtual sessions and on RangeMe. The brand’s first session was in January 2019, the last in-person session prior t the pandemic. Ever since, just about all of their meetings with new buyers have been digital. They have been to 20 sessions across multiple categories, including Convenience, Plant-based Food & Beverage, Commercial Foodservice, Snacks, Impulse, Front-End & Checklane and Natural, Organic & Healthy Foods.
“This partnership with ECRM and RangeMe has been an incredible opportunity for us to keep the communication going with buyers,” says Algazi. ”We met CVS on the platform. We met a lot of the club stores on the platform. We’ve met tons of regional retailers across channels. We’ve reached out to a cross-section of buyers and cast our message wide. On RangeMe, we optimized our presence with the right tags, the right keywords, made sure we have all of the details about the products as well as nice glory shots of the products. Plus, we are as responsive as possible to all buyer inquiries and leverage the insights RangeMe provides related to buyer activity on our brand page."
When it comes to buyer engagement, Algazi stresses the importance of reach and frequency – getting in front of enough buyers to discuss the product line in a compelling way, but also frequently enough for them to consider the brand and eventually make a purchasing decision.
“This is why we have really leaned in and done so many virtual sessions, because we believe in the value of reach and frequency,” he says. “And the reality is the buyers do as well, because we’ve met with people two or three times on the platform and occasionally it takes that amount of time to go through the consideration process. It’s led to some amazing opportunities with top retailers.”
'This partnership with ECRM and RangeMe has been an incredible opportunity for us to keep the communication going with buyers.'
- Michel Algazi, Chief Revenue Officer, Solely
Prior to each session, Algazi and his team perform a ton of due diligence, analyzing data from market information services such as NielsenIQ, IRI and SPINS, have discussions with their brokers and conduct research to get a better understanding of each retailer’s assortments and where the gaps may lie that they can fill to help drive growth. And while the company and product overview portion of their presentations may be repeated from meeting to meeting, the remainder is customized to each buyer’s particular needs based on the research.
A large part of this is demonstrating how they differentiate themselves in the market, the social and environmental impact they have, and the velocity that they drive at the shelves, particularly through heavy promotions such as social media and TPRs. Plus, in today’s world of supply chain issues and out-of-stocks, they know it’s reassuring for buyers to learn that Solely controls its entire supply chain from farm-to-shelf.
“We believe that buyers and merchants really appreciate sitting in front of a party that understands their needs, that has done the due diligence, and will present to them something of value,” says Algazi.
If the growth of Solely is any indication, Algazi is 100 percent correct.