Even after expanding into other food categories where Kind's better-for-you mantra is resonating with consumers, the company's new CEO said it's just the beginning for a snack maker that became a household name through its popular bar.
"Whenever we ask consumers, they're very open to trying Kind in new spaces," said Russell Stokes, who was appointed CEO of the food company last October. "We're really looking for places where we can bring our promise and deliver something ... that doesn't exist in the category today."
Stokes said the company is looking at additional ingredients for its bars, with plans to launch a new offering later this year. The success of its Kind Healthy Grains granola in breakfast has prompted the company to explore more ways it could bring healthier options to the morning.
Kind also is looking to create more products for kids. And Stokes said frozen, where its plant-based ice cream has further opened up the evening snacking occasion for Kind, is an area where the company "is just scratching the surface."
In an effort to encourage people to eat more fresh, whole foods — and promote Kind as the next best option — the company will temporarily stop the sale of its popular snacks like its bars on its website on March 1 and 2.
Instead, beginning today, consumers will have the opportunity to buy a Kind Whole Fruit and Nut Box with apples, oranges, kiwis, raw almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds for $30, including shipping. Kind plans to promote the campaign in New York City, anchored by a faux, bar-filled vending machine that opens into a speakeasy-like secret farmer’s market. Consumers trying to buy one of its snacks will be given the opportunity to fill their baskets with fruits and vegetables for free and explore the immersive pop-up experience.
The effort to encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption comes as most Americans fall woefully short. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only 12.3% and 10% of adults ate enough fruits and vegetables, respectively.
Stokes acknowledged the nut and bar box move is "not a financial winner" for Kind and that the company will "take a bit of a short-term hit" online.
"We'd have to sell a whole lot of these boxes to offset our bar business," he said. "We're not doing this to drive sales in the short term."
But if the Whole Fruit and Nut Box proves to be a hit, Kind could decide to make the item a permanent extension to its portfolio, Stokes said.
Stokes' appointment came amid an accelerated push by Kind to move beyond its core bars to become a broader snacking company. Since the beginning of 2020, Kind, which prioritizes the use of plant-based, nutrient-dense ingredients in its foods, has expanded into refrigerated items, chocolate, energy bars, frozen food, cereal and snack mixes. Sales rose approximately 5% in 2021 to about $1.7 billion.
The expansion gained momentum after Kind was purchased by Mars in 2020 for an estimated price tag that valued it at more than $5 billion. Mars took a minority stake in Kind in 2017.
Kind's bars, which make up the lion's share of its business, have topped sales recorded before the pandemic behind strength in its Kind Minis and Kind Thins. The smaller portion offerings have brought new consumers and usage occasions to the brand and the category, Stokes said. During the past year, sales of Kind's bars have risen 12%, compared to 9% in the bar segment overall, Stokes said. Its granola has evolved into the top-selling brand in its space, with sales growing two to three times faster than the category as a whole.
Stokes said he is "delighted by the performance of the [Kind] business."
Still, with Kind only reaching about 20% of all U.S. households annually, there appears to be a long runway ahead for the nearly two-decades-old business. Stokes said with consumers snacking more and shifting their attention to whole ingredients in an effort to eat healthier — a trend that has only accelerated during the pandemic — Kind should be ideally positioned to benefit.