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Let’s face it. Most energy bars are just candy in disguise. It’s easy for today’s health-crazed consumer to get tricked into eating something packed with sugar when they think they are grabbing a healthy nutrition bar. The energy bar category is massive, making it difficult to stand out. For the latest installation of Hubba’s Featured Brands, I sat down with PROBAR to discuss just how they stand out in a crowded market and nurture retail relationships to rise above their competition.
Back in 2002, a fella named Art lived in Park City as a snowboarder, nutritionist and food coach. His clients would come to him with diet questions and were looking for something that didn’t taste like flavoured cardboard. Low and behold, Art began to make these nutrition bars in his kitchen and started offering them to his clients. Art felt like there was no ‘real food’ performance-based nutrition items available. The category was relatively tiny at the time and dominated by major players like Powerbar.
You couldn’t find a nutrition bar where you could actually recognize the ingredients. Art wanted to create something that could be embraced by the outdoor enthusiast.
Getting from the founder’s kitchen table to shelves in Whole Foods across the country
The first mom and pop store to stock PROBAR, before it was even PROBAR, was a natural health store called Fair Weather. At the time they made some of their own baked goods, so Art was just bringing in his bars in their raw form with no packaging and no name.
Serendipitously, Jeff Coleman who was a Park City resident and avid runner, stumbled across the bars and thought this was the exact food product he was looking for. He met Art and became an evangelist for this real food product. They teamed up and wanted to turn it into a business. Fast forward a few years, a Whole Foods Executive got his hands on a PROBAR and ended up being the driver to get the product onto store-shelves where PROBAR is to this day all over the country.
I chatted with Jesse from PROBAR who handles all aspects of the business including digital marketing, community building, sponsorships and retail partnerships. He spoke about how PROBAR’s team fosters their brand’s community and how they maintain a stand up relationship with their retailers across the board.
Nurturing your retailer relationship and rising above the rest
A hot topic as of late is how the brand and retail relationship is evolving and shifting. I asked Jesse how he equips his retailers for success and he said one of the main area he focuses on is getting the retail sales associates behind your product – He says if you do this, you’re a leg ahead of the competition.
Jesse says they make their product available to store employees or offer an extreme discount to employees. He said this helps your brand stay top of mind with the employee, they will have more product knowledge to share with shoppers and they are way more likely to recommend your product when someone asks about it. An easy way to remain stop of mind with retailers is sampling and demo-ing in-store with an internal sales rep.
The more you can get your product into people’s hands the better. Jesse said that no matter where you sample it usually leads to one day of awesome sales.
Being flexible and staying top of mind with your retailers
No matter how many online or brick and mortar stores you sell to – visibility matters. Jesse drilled down on the importance of ‘showing face’ to retailers and always being flexible to their requests and concerns. It’s important to have your company team members in-store to feel more connected to your brand, especially with new retail accounts to show them the love. You need to have your internal employees show face inside stores, doing drop-in visits or sampling product.
When it comes to being able to fulfill some of your retailer requests, Jesse mentioned that some retailers have specific requests around signage or POP, so being flexible and able to deliver those marketing assets is a huge plus. Or you can find a way to do an event with your retailer and become more involved with their community.
Jesse brought up an example of when one of their major retailers, REI, came to them saying they had some PROBAR SKUs that were selling exceptionally well and they wanted PROBAR to create more flavours for that SKU. Fulfilling that retailer request is a win. It keeps your retailers happy and shows you are willing to innovate and the retailer consumer demand brings more products to market which is a huge plus for the brand.
Keeping your product assets flowing and available for everyone
[tweet_this] Being flexible with creating marketing assets and signage for retailers strengthens your brand’s relationship. [/tweet_this]
PROBAR’s marketing team creates a ton of assets to deliver to the sales team to arm the retailers with the right content – but its so hard for marketing to keep up and make sure that branded content is accurate. Jesse says this is a constant battle and policing the digital and in-store content to make sure its cohesive and correct is very difficult.
PROBAR keeps themselves organized and able to quickly deliver assets whenever needed. In Hubba they store a variety of content from product images to sales content and company information.
Working with retailers on cross-promotional campaigns
Something that can be mutually beneficial for the brand and retailer is to run an online or in-store cross promotional campaign. Jesse told me about an in-store giveaway pop up campaign he recently did with Whole Foods. It ran in Utah and they partnered with a Utah company that makes local pickles. The in-store presentation helped to drive brand awareness and generate sales in-store.
PROBAR was able to help out this pickle company because they were relatively new to Whole Foods and there was power in numbers with these two brands teaming up. It was a great success for both PROBAR, the pickle company and Whole Foods. Look for opportunities for where it makes sense to collaborate with a non-competitive brand that could even be outside of your industry!
Huge thank you to Jesse for taking the time to lend his insights and chat to us about PROBAR’s brand story.
Looking for an easier way to share marketing assets with your retailers and have your brand stay top of mind?