By Adam Burroughs
Crazy Richard’s is a staple in the nut butter aisle, which has become an increasingly competitive place to do business.
“It’s changed drastically in recent years,” says Kimmi Wernli, president and owner of Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter.
That has resulted in a need for innovation and new products, says Wernli, some of which have succeeded—and some of which have not.
One of Wernli’s first new product launches was a powdered peanut butter called Pure Peanut Powder, designed as an ingredient for protein shakes and sauces, among other things. The success of Pure Peanut Powder encouraged Crazy Richard’s to launch Pure Plus, another version of the peanut powder, but now enhanced with vitamins. That, however, didn’t work out as well.
“That product did not sell, and it cannibalized our Peanut Powder,” Wernli says. “We basically had two products that were competing with each other because they weren't different enough.”
She says the company did not do enough market research when launching Pure Plus to determine exactly who the target consumer was, where the product would go in the grocery store, how consumers would consume it, or on the best way to educate consumers about the product.
When initially launching the product, Crazy Richard’s assumed that its Pure Peanut Powder consumers would also like the enhanced vitamins, and that it would draw in consumers interested in fitness. However, the product didn't have enough additional vitamins, proteins, and additives to attract fitness-conscious consumers, and current consumers, who were interested in the clean ingredient profile, didn't want extra ingredients.
The product also confused the grocery store buyers responsible for the product mix on their shelves, as they weren’t sure where that product would go in the store. The team gave buyers too many options where it “could” go in the stores instead of outlining the best place.
“Those hurdles really led to the failure of the product,” Wernli says.
Ultimately, Pure Plus was discontinued, but it was an important test into that niche market.
Failure leads to growth
All the lessons she and the company learned with Pure Plus were put to the test with the creation of its newest product, Wholly Rollies™—frozen peanut-butter-based protein balls.
“When we were coming out with Wholly Rollies™, what we had learned with Pure Plus was top of mind,” Wernli says. “We needed to make sure we knew who this target consumer was and what they are looking for, where this is going to go on the grocery store shelves, what buyer we’re going to be speaking with, what is going to be the messaging, and how we’re going to support that messaging.”
She says when bringing an innovative product to market and pioneering a new category, it is necessary to spend time, effort, and money to educate consumers to understand the product.
To ensure a better chance of success with this new product, Crazy Richard’s took a different approach. While Pure Plus was created based almost exclusively on internal decisions, the company used an outside firm to conduct focus groups and hold taste testings for Wholly Rollies™. It also worked very closely with the National Peanut Board, which helped with product research and development, market research, the campaign to educate consumers, and promote the product.
“Having an outside company help us with the nutritional research and development—as well as with market research, what is trending and what ingredients would work for these products—elevated this to a whole other level,” Wernli says.
The company also met individually with frozen food buyers and asked for their opinions. That led to actionable input regarding the size of the product, the name, and what should be on the packaging.
“Those were things we didn't do before when we came out with the peanut butter powder Pure Plus. And that’s definitely paying off,” she says. “We can tell already as we are presenting this to more and more buyers. Now we have the research to back it and say that this is working. We can coach the grocery buyers on where this should live in the aisles and who is going to buy it—moms are already requesting it—and that’s valuable information to our customers.”
The product hit select stores in July, and signs so far point to success.
“We're so excited,” Wernli says. “It's just the beginning.”
Believing in innovation
Wernli says Huntington provided her company with a line of credit and an SBA loan that funded the creation of Wholly Rollies™.
“Without them, we would not have been able to launch the product,” she says. “We would not have had the funding necessary to do all of the things that we’ve needed to do to get this product rolling, no pun intended.”
She says she’s grateful for the support the entire Huntington team has provided.
“They want us to be successful,” Wernli says.
She says she feels that Huntington really understands the Crazy Richard’s vision.
“They loved our brand,” she says. “They wanted to help us, support us, and do everything they could to help us qualify to get the loan so we could get going as soon as possible. They've been great cheerleaders for us. We're so happy and grateful for our relationship with them.”
For more information, visit crazyrichards.com.