How SmartSweets launched Sweet Chews during the COVID-19 pandemic
The brand launched the low-sugar, plant-based fruit chews April 7.
Launched in 2016, SmartSweets is on mission to “kick sugar” by offering low-sugar, plant-based remixes of classic candies.
In April, the brand introduced Sweet Chews, its first innovation outside of the gummy category. While fans had been asking for a fruit chew product, the timing wasn’t ideal, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tara Bosch, founder and CEO of SmartSweets, talks about launching a new product during a global health crisis, the sugar-reduction movement and what’s in store for the brand.
CI: How did you get involved with candy making?
TB: I started SmartSweets after my love affair with candy turned into an unhealthy relationship with food. I experienced the negative effects sugar has on our health and tried to eat less of it, but that only led me to crave candy even more. So, during the summer of 2015, I dropped out of college, spent over three months testing more than 200 recipes in my kitchen with a gummy bear mould I bought from Amazon and created the first candy everyone could feel good about.
CI: Why is it important to offer low-sugar options? Why is it important to offer plant-based options?
TB: Our product innovation lies at the heart of advancing our mission to kick sugar and being a leader in the global sugar-reduction movement. We’re re-engineering candy from the ground up, taking what is traditionally 99.9 percent sugar, and showing there's a better way through innovation of the candy people know and love — without the sugar. Our pinky promise to the consumer is to be free from sugar alcohols, added sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Low-sugar or not, taste is king. Our consumers — who we call our tribe — our kick-sugar community of over 563,000 is our north star when it comes to product development. Our community was asking for plant-based, and so we made sure we delivered.
CI: What was the goal behind developing and launching Sweet Chews?
TB: At SmartSweets, we’re obsessed with quality, taste, innovation and listening to our tribe about what they’re looking for. With the engagement of our social, kick-sugar community, we have real-time conversations about what favorite candies they want us to recreate for them, and that’s why we started ideating on what is now known as our Sweet Chews.
We’re especially excited about the Sweet Chews because this is our first innovation outside of the gummy category and the first ever low-sugar and plant-based chew on the market. The individually wrapped candies come in a bag with a variety of three delicious flavors including Mango, Strawberry, and Watermelon. Compared to other traditional chews, these are a radically better choice with 10 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar per bag which is 84 percent less sugar than the traditional chew.
CI: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the way SmartSweets approached the launch of Sweet Chews? Was there an increased or different approach to marketing?
TB: The launch of Sweet Chews was originally set for Expo West at the beginning of March. However, due to the cancelation of the show and the current situation with COVID-19, we decided to push the launch back to April 7. We pivoted our launch marketing plan from being adventure-themed, which supported on-the-go snacking with the individually wrapped chews, to an opportunity to create a daily dose of sweetness in our community’s day by bringing them a moment of excitement with a new innovation they have been asking for.
CI: Are there any other products SmartSweets has coming down the pike?
TB: As we continue to pace as the No. 1 fastest-growing brand in the non-chocolate category, the possibilities are limitless. We will keep elevating the #KickSugar movement, being consumer obsessed and reinventing the candy aisle. We have two more gummy-based innovations and another platform extension innovation coming up this summer and fall, so keep an eye out for those.