When Walmart met with executives from FoodStory Brands in 2014, the Arkansas retailer was looking for help to revitalize its refrigerated salsa business.
After talking with officials from the world's largest retailer, FoodStory Brands' CEO quickly dispatched a team from its Arizona headquarters to create a whole new brand. Within 45 days, the team developed Fresh Cravings Salsa, subjected it to a blind taste test, trademarked it and found a co-packer to produce it.
Pleased with the early results, Walmart rolled out Fresh Cravings Salsa to 900 stores as a test, before expanding sales to 1,500 locations within six months and more than 4,000 in a year. Today, Fresh Cravings is the top refrigerated salsa at Walmart and the third best selling brand nationally in the category behind Garden Fresh and La Mexicana.
"Several of the opportunities that we have been able to successfully connect on are at the burden of Big Food being unable to answer the need as quickly as we can. We don't have big company bureaucracy and red tape," Jay Whitney, president of FoodStory Brands, told Food Dive. "We continue to go where the white space leads versus being restricted to specialists in one category."
For FoodStory Brands, the creation of Fresh Cravings marked an opportunity to not only help Walmart, but freshen the salsa category. Sales of shelf stable and jarred salsa were flat at $1.3 billion in 2017, according to Nielsen, while growth in the refrigerated segment was more upbeat, rising 7.7% to $349 million.
"Several of the opportunities that we have been able to successfully connect on are at the burden of Big Food being unable to answer the need as quickly as we can. We don't have big company bureaucracy and red tape. We continue to go where the white space leads versus being restricted to specialists in one category."
President, FoodStory Brands
Of the fresh ones available, none of the more than 260 brands dominated the category like Sabra in hummus or Wholly Guacamole in its category, giving Fresh Cravings the opportunity to become synonymous with the offering. The other refrigerated salsa brands also didn't prioritize fresh ingredients, textures and tastes increasingly popular with consumers, the company said.
As FoodStory Brands looks for places where it can develop new products, it has focused on areas popular with shoppers, including transparency and cleaner ingredients. It developed Cocktail Artist in 2017, a line of mixes and bar ingredients created in collaboration with mixologists that used premium ingredients and lacked high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors. It also licensed the right to make Jurassic World Chicken Nuggets with all white meat, no antibiotics and whole grain breading.
"Underneath all of that there is a lack of trust in Big Food, which has given rise to boutique and smaller brands," Whitney said. "This has paved the way for FoodStory Brands."
The company has employed a two-pronged approach in bringing foods to market: tapping into designing a new product from the ground up internally, and licensing an existing idea or brand that already has a connection with consumers in the marketplace.
In the case of its Jurassic World Chicken Nuggets, there were other dinosaur nuggets on the market, but FoodStory Brands was looking to create a more authentic product that could stand out.
For its Tres Leches cake, the company wanted a mainstream celebrity who had crossover appeal to promote the brand. Actress Eva Longoria, who liked to cook and had been on TV discussing the topic, was contacted about a branding agreement that incorporated her own family recipes — giving the product instant credibility, according to Whitney.
FoodStory Brands has the added benefit of doing everything but the production in-house, Whitney said, using a team of 25 people who not only develop and test the products but focus on selling, marketing and designing the packaging. By having more control over the item throughout the process, FoodStory Brands is able to get a product to market in about 60 days compared to a year to 18 months for bigger manufacturers.
The fast-growing company is aiming to sell its products at 20,000 stores, up from 14,000 today, behind sales of $200 million by 2021. Its products have or currently are being sold in Walmart, Publix, Kroger, Costco and Target.
FoodStory Brand's rapid growth and product niche catering to trends that are popular among today's consumers has attracted the interest of Big Food companies who have offered to buy its Fresh Cravings and Cocktail Artist brands.
"We don't design brands to sell them, we design them to build them and have them be successful and connect meaningfully with consumers," Whitney said.