While better-for-you snacks may be increasingly popular with consumers and most retail outlets, the number of BFY options in convenience stores is relatively low. Solely, a brand focusing on “good-for-you” fruit jerky, whole-fruit gummies, and other healthy products, is aiming to change that. Last year, the producer reportedly added more than 50,000 points of distribution, with about 20% of those in the c-store space.
To learn more about the products and the company’s strategy, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery spoke with Michel Algazi, chief revenue officer, Solely.
Jenni Spinner: Could you please share a little bit about Solely: who you are, how you got started, and what sets you apart from other companies in this particular snack space?
Michel Algazi: Solely is an innovative, people-driven clean food company that is rethinking every step of how food is developed, grown, sourced, processed, and sold. We are on a mission to revolutionize how families consume produce and make simple, clean food accessible to all. Each SKU from our dried fruit, fruit jerky, whole-fruit gummies, and vegetable and fruit pastas is made with the fewest possible ingredients that are clearly listed on the front of the packaging to ensure consumer transparency.
Our planet-forward philosophy is not only reducing food waste by using perfect and “imperfect” produce but results in a higher quality of life for our Certified Organic network of farmers. The whole line is USDA Organic, OU Kosher-certified, non-GMO Project Verified, naturally gluten-free, and vegan.
JS: Then, please share how the brand has grown in recent years, in particular how you managed to add more than 50,000 distribution points last year.
MA: We feel that Solely has done incredibly well over the last few years because our brand ticks all of the boxes that grab buyers' attention these days. We make healthy, organic products with minimal ingredients that are priced for massive consumption, not for niche consumption. We also have a vertically integrated structure and complete control over our entire supply chain, so we’re rarely out of stock. Our goal has always been to maintain strong relations with our retail buyer community—we use platforms like ECRM and RangeMe where we’ve met tons of strategic regional retailers across all channels, and we are super responsive to all buyer inquiries.
Ultimately, our existing and prospective retail partners value our line’s value proposition and our unique product/market fit. Retailers are looking to adapt to a changing marketplace and to evolving consumer desires. They see the Solely brand as a destination driver for their stores and are enthusiastic about collaborating with us in launching and growing the Solely business in their stores.
JS: Please share a rundown of your product offerings.
Fruit Jerky: This product is most geared toward our c-store shoppers. It’s made from whole organic fruit, picked at its peak, and then crafted into deliciously portable strips. The Mango and Banana flavors are made with one whole piece of fruit and the Pineapple has ½ of a whole pineapple! SKUs also include drizzled cacao and spicy with chili and salt.
Whole Fruit Gummies: These are fun to eat and filled with nothing but whole organic fruit with a touch of Vitamin C. They’re the only gummies that come straight from a tree. Flavors include Mango and Guava, Mango and Orange, Mango, and Mango Passionfruit.
Dried Fruit: Our dried fruit is an addictively simple, healthy snack. A dusting of chili adds some kick to our Spicy flavors and a drizzle of cacao helps satisfy the strongest chocolate cravings to our dried fruit—all without added sugars.
Spaghetti Squash: Our veggie pasta combines the convenience of traditional pasta with the true taste of fresh spaghetti squash. It’s a pantry staple that’s always ready to add to your favorite recipes. It’s low-carb, gluten-free, keto-friendly, and ready in just 5 minutes.
Green Banana Fusilli Pasta: Our newest addition to our product lineup. We’ve transformed organic green bananas into delicious pasta without compromise while combining the convenience of traditional pasta. It’s minimally processed and ready in minutes, and eating pasta made from green bananas adds fruit, nutrients, and loads of fiber to your diet.
JS: Could you please share your perspective on the convenience retail space regarding snack options?
MA: In terms of the fruit snack options in most convenience retail spaces, we are far superior when it comes to taste and nutritional value. Many of the well-known fruit snack brands claim they are “made with real fruit,” but that actually means they contain fruit-based concentrates or juices where the nutrient profile is closer to candy than a healthy snack. Besides these high fructose concentrates, they have an extensive laundry list of 15-20 extra ingredients that are mostly sugar masquerading as ‘good-for-you’ due to their source (i.e. pectin, waxes, rice syrup, etc.).
All of our products have just 1-3 wholesome ingredients, with no added sugars, dyes, gums, pectins, etc. The convenience channel has seen an evolution of its traditional consumer profile to one where good-for-you nutrition is as important as convenience and portability. Solely uniquely checks the “good for you” box while offering great convenience for on-the-go nutrition. Furthermore, as the female consumer has acquired a larger share of total convenience channel purchases, our line’s benefits have become an important impulse driver for this important consumer group.
JS: Specifically, how have stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K evolved regarding BFY snack offerings?
MA: While most convenience stores still operate without BFY in-store sets, more and more retailers like 7-Eleven and Circle K are evolving towards carrying healthier options for consumers, as that is what’s trending in terms of consumer demands. Most operators like 7-Eleven and Circle K are quickly adapting to offer BFY options. With Solely, they have an unprecedented GFY (good for you) option without compromises created by hidden sugars and fruit concentrates.
JS: What do you have planned for the future?
MA: We plan to continue to break into more convenience retailers’ current and future plans based on our key attributes: we are impulse, we are grab-and-go, and we are not just better-for-you but good-for-you. We have a growing innovation pipeline that is especially targeted at the convenience channel with delicious, portable, and innovative good-for-you snacks that will delight consumers and retailers. The innovation includes single-portion, peggable single, two, and three-organic ingredient snacks.