Paleo snack brand Wild Zora has seen 20 times growth in its Amazon sales since revamping its retail and marketing strategies last October, according to the company.
Six months ago, the Loveland, Colo.-based, paleo meat and veggie bar brand was in 800 stores, up from just 80 the year prior. But cofounder Joshua Tabin told NOSH that although Wild Zora’s sales were higher than they had ever been in four years of operating, they weren’t making a profit or able to pay themselves.
First, Tabin and his wife — a fellow cofounder and the brand’s namesake, Zora– started by going back to the drawing board with their 2017 budget. Tabin said the company informed retailers that moving forward they would no longer pay the fees, such as slotting, required demo costs and free fills, that many retailers demand to launch in stores and stay on shelf.
Wild Zora currently works with UNFI, DPI and KeHe to distribute their product and has a broker. That said, Tabin encourages retailers to directly purchase product from the company, in addition to these other more traditional avenues. Along with the change in retail strategy, Wild Zora increased its budget for marketing, an area of the company Tabin said had been “on a slow burn.” Tabin in particular has decided to focus his attention on digital marketing methods such as SEO, Google AdWords, social media and email marketing.
The company immediately saw an increase in online sales and Tabin said the online side of business has now become the brand’s “bread and butter.”
“Even though it’s just over half of our business, it’s the vast majority of our profit,” he said.
The focus on online sales also affects the way the company rolls out new products. Tabin said the company’s newly launched flavors, apple pork and taco pork, are currently only available online, where more data about consumer preferences can be collected.
“By looking at this data online in real time, we can see they are already two of our top performers,” he said. “[New products] can now also be available to consumers very quickly, even though they are not yet in the distribution chain for grocery stores because they move slower based on their category reviews.”
To be clear, the duo is not writing off retail entirely. Wild Zora has not lost any brick-and-mortar retailers since making the switch and increased its presence on-shelf by 20 percent for roughly 1,000 retailers in total. However, Tabin noted they have seen a slowdown in new accounts.
“About 80 percent of the opportunities that came our way would go away as soon as they realized we were not going to play that game… If you don’t want to do that, go find another sucker,” Tabin said. “We’re not saying ‘no’ to retailers in total. We are just saying ‘no’ to business that doesn’t make financial sense.”
Tabin also added that once the company has a solid relationship with a retailer, he will consider spending marketing dollars on costs such as demos and coupons that benefit both parties.
But for now, there’s no denying e-commerce is the brand’s money maker– and its growth rate is one that’s “rarely seen,” according to One Click Retail CEO Spencer Millerberg. While Millerberg hasn’t worked with Wild Zora directly, the e-commerce data and market analysis company uses a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software to estimate weekly online sales figures at the SKU level on Amazon.
“A 2,000 percent growth as described [by] Zora’s is quite remarkable and rarely seen,” Millerberg told NOSH in an email. “However, the growth started with a quite small base.”
Other jerky brands with larger amount of sales and comparative year-over-year growth rates on Amazon include Vermont Smoke & Cure with 69 percent, Chef’s Cut with 62 percent, Jack Links with 49 percent and Epic with 29 percent.
Overall, Millerberg thinks Amazon is key to the “long tail” of distribution for the food industry as a whole. “E-commerce is the fastest growing channel for CPG and Amazon and is outpacing other e-commerce channels by 1.8 to one,” he said. “If items are harder to find, more rare, different flavor profile, etc. Amazon will do well in these areas.”
Tabin feels similarly, adding that he’s glad the company has evolved and thinks other brands should consider doing the same to survive in the changing retail landscape.
“I don’t think retail is going away or isn’t relevant,” Tabin said. “I just think it doesn’t make sense to do it in the old way. It only makes sense to do it while keeping myself alive and keeping my business profitable. Embracing e-commerce has allowed me to do that.”