“We wanted to have a really strong brand; the packaging in the past didn’t really have a brand feel,” says founder and CEO Chelsie Hodge. “When you’re on the shelf in the frozen category, you’re behind a glass door and that glass door is most often foggy, so we wanted to make sure our packaging had some vibrancy.”
And in March, Blender Bites announced that it had hired Steve Pear, former CEO of the fruit juice, smoothie and food bar brand Odwalla, as its new chief operating officer. Pear oversaw Odwalla when it was a division of the Coca-Cola Company.
The company also recently signed a partnership deal with U.S. actress and entrepreneur Julianne Hough, a dancer and judge with the hit reality show Dancing With the Stars, that sees her become a brand partner, shareholder and strategic advisor. She will also help Hodge develop a sport line of products that could debut in the fall.
All of this activity comes ahead of a U.S. launch in California and the Northeast that is slated for July, a move expected to result in what the company describes as “exponentially higher” sales revenue.
The bi-coastal rollout reflects consumer desire for healthy food and drink products in those regions, says Hodge. The brand’s sustainability story – it uses a pre-portioned format without inner plastic packaging – is also expected to resonate with consumers in those regions, she says.
The company has been in discussions with several of the country’s leading retailers over the past six months as it looks to establish a U.S. foothold, says Hodge. “It’s a huge hyper-growth year for us,” she says.
Its U.S. debut comes as the functional beverage category continues to grow in popularity. “Quite frankly, every retailer in Canada and the U.S. is adding a functional smoothie category on shelf, and Blender Bites is very much becoming a leader in that,” says Hodge.
She is also optimistic about making headway in the frappé category that has traditionally been dominated by Starbucks and its signature sugar-laden treats – which have seen a significant fall-off as consumers grow increasingly mindful of what they’re eating and drinking. “People love Frappuccinos, but they don’t love all the sugar and the calories and the carbs,” says Hodge. “It’s really revolutionary and retailers are going crazy for it.”