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How Kind is balancing growth and innovation amid supply-chain woes

“Frankly, if you’re not launching some products that fail, you’re almost certainly not trying enough,” said its North America CEO.
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Kind Snacks

· less than 3 min read

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From an acquisition by Mars (for a reported $5 billion), to cross-category innovation, to new leadership, Kind Snacks has been kind of busy over the past few years.

In October, Russell Stokes took the helm as the fruit-and-nut-bar brand’s North America CEO after serving as its chief growth officer and previously, Mars’s chief strategy officer. His first months on the job saw some ups and downs: Stokes told Retail Brew he spent Thanksgiving on the phone with his supply-chain team “scrambling” for oats after a “weaker than expected” crop in Canada left the company missing a third of its typical volume.

  • The company raised prices by 5% across its portfolio last year due to inflation, Stokes said.
  • Kind’s US sales grew 15% to $1.5 billion last year, and it’s aiming to boost its household penetration—which sits at 12%–15%, according to Stokes—both through innovations and its core bar and granola biz.

Stokes said these constraints haven’t affected its thinking around long-term category expansion, but has “forced us to be really thoughtful” about speed, from concept to execution, and its ability to manufacture a product at scale.

Across the aisle

Just before the pandemic, Kind unveiled its largest-ever product expansion—including its first move into the frozen and refrigerated sections—and last year, introduced cereal and ice cream. Its plant-based ice-cream bars have been a notable success, seeing “incredible repeat rates,” Stokes noted.

However, not all innovations have been a hit. Stokes said the company is discontinuing its frozen pint and cereal lines this year, citing struggles finding a “compelling” price point amid these competitive categories.

“Frankly, if you’re not launching some products that fail, you’re almost certainly not trying enough,” he said.

Core strength: Kind also isn’t lowering the bar on what it knows best—bars and granola, spending “slightly more than half” the time focusing on their growth versus new innovations, Stokes noted.

  • According to the company, its bar biz growth outpaced the total category by 30% last year, while granola grew twice as fast.

“It’s nice to be in a position where we think that there’s quite a lot of growth really close to the core of the business today, versus having to put all that to one side and say we’ve tapped out all the growth,” Stokes said.—EC

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