I was born into the snack business, so I guess you can say I have 33 years of experience in the industry. Not to mention, I was born with the name Cretors, since I am the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Cretors, the inventor of the popcorn machine. However, my career in snacks officially began when I joined Cornfields Inc. in 2006 to help my mom manage my father’s (Henry Cretors) business after he passed away.
As a leading, healthy-foods private label company, we recently invested some of our own capital toward launching two retail brands, GH Cretors popped corn and Hi I’m Skinny Sticks. Both brands have launched with an absolute bang, with GH Cretors becoming nationally available in less than three months. The following is my advice for launching a brand and making your way in the snack industry. Everyone has their own recipe for success, but this is what worked for us.
The first step is the product itself. You can have all the “attributes” in the world, but if it doesn’t taste great, you won’t keep your customers.
The second is a strong, clear brand image and voice. Packaging is the only tool that we have to catch our customer’s attention. In fact, we only have a few seconds to grab them as they walk down a very crowded aisle. It’s not easy to tell a story in three seconds visually. Have a purpose and a story for your brand. This not only engages your direct consumer, but it provides excitement for the buyers at retail. This was at the forefront of our minds when designing the bags for GH Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny.
Third, is that the brand must be supported at the retail level. We have found that having strong sampling programs is our strongest marketing tool. Sampling gets your product in the hands and mouths of snackers, and it hooks them. Once we have them hooked, we know they’ll be back for another bag or two.
At Cornfields Inc., we also have the advantage of controlling our own destiny because of our existing private label business. Unlike some other brand builders, we own our own manufacturing. This allows us not only to control costs but to be very nimble. We can react quickly to industry trends -- a task that large multi-nationals are often challenged with. It also helps that we have a passion for the products and brands we are going to market with. This is reflected in the attention to detail we have put toward every element of our products and their packaging.
Though it’s not a top three, an undeniable element of success in the snack business is a little bit of luck. Sometimes the stars are aligned and all of the pieces fall in to place, just like a perfect bag of popcorn.
Claire Cretors serves as president of Cornfields Inc., a leading, healthy-foods private label company and creator of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny retail brands. After joining the company in 2006, Claire became executive vice president in 2007 and president in January 2012.