- Abbott Laboratories, the global leader in manufacturing heart stents and adult nutritional beverages, is stepping further into the burgeoning snack industry with a line of snack bars, called Curate.
- Abbott plans to combine ingredients like quinoa and hemp seeds with flavor profiles like chocolate and balsamic vinegar to create products that appeal to consumers.
- Abbott brought the Curate products to market in seven months under the leadership of Dustin Finkel, who has served as general manager of nutritious snacks since December 2014, when he was tasked with boosting sales of the segment.
Finkel told Bloomberg that the company has a three-year plan for Curate products to move beyond traditional snacks. Sales will likely start out on the relatively small side, compared to other Abbott products like Similac and Ensure, but by integrating into the fast-rising healthy snacks sector, Finkel could be positioning Curate on a path for growth. About 60% of consumers are looking for more healthful snack varieties, according to a Mintel report released in July 2015, so this is a key business for Abbott to expand into.
One challenge for Abbott is in the way the product came to market directly from the company. Commonly today, smaller companies and startups will produce healthy snack brands and similar products, and after they build up a following among consumers, a larger company, like Abbott, acquires them. Abbott itself employed this strategy in 2003 and 2004 when the company acquired ZonePerfect and EAS, two brands which already had a loyal customer base of dieters and athletes. But a new healthy snack brand that comes straight from the company could find itself at a disadvantage when trying to compete with other healthy snacks on the market.
For Abbott, it will be all about positioning. With Curate, Abbott is attempting to go beyond the healthy ingredients typically found in snack bars in the hopes that consumers will appreciate the company's focus on high-profile flavors to elevate the healthy eating experience. Whether the strategy will pay off depends on how accepted these non-traditional flavors — such as The Dark & Tempting variety, which combines figs, hazelnuts, orange with sunflower kernels, and balsamic vinegar — will be. It's unclear whether that will be enough differentiation to stand out among snack bars from companies like General Mills and Kellogg or popular dedicated snack bar brands like Kind and Clif Bar, which already have established followings.
Abbott could also find itself struggling with those very flavor profiles, which focus on sweet and salty at a time when many consumers are veering away from both sugar and salt in their food.