It requires a big foot to wear the shoe of being a ‘pioneer’ in plant-based nutrition these days. Aloha CEO Brad Charron acknowledged that it’s a crowded field.
“There is no shortage these days of companies that want to be in the plant-based movement,” Charron told NutraIngredients-USA. “In the case of Aloha, the brand was founded as an e commerce business and we have only been about plant based nutrition from the beginning.”
Fundamentals were solid
Charron said the company, which is based in Littleton, CO, was always focused on the fundamentals of nutrition.
“We were always focused on a superior nutrition platform,” Charron said, who took the reins last year. He came on with the remit to refocus the now four-year old brand which had already gone through one round of rebranding and reformulation prior to his arrival.
“We were early, we were often, but maybe we weren’t always the best,” Charron admitted.
“I don’t think the brand was off in terms of its mission. I just didn’t think the food tasted good enough, and I thought there were just too damn many SKUs,” he said.
Cutting back to the basics
Charron said he has ‘curated’ the brand back to just four flavors of two basic products, a protein powder and a protein bar. It’s better, he said, to get a few things right rather than try to cover a lot of bases with products that don’t deliver on the brand’s promise of taste, nutrition, and ingredient quality.
“It was very important for me to get that right,” Charron said. “Last year we redesigned our supply chain in order to be able to go for broke.”
“When this brand launched it was something of a darling among health and wellness consumers. I have been at Aloha a little under a year now and in that time I think we have done a good job of ensuring the platform that Aloha was built on is on a solid footing. It seems like you wake every morning and there is a new plant based company or a big CPG company that is trying to get into plant based nutrition,” he said.
Charron said the revamp included a reformulation of the protein powder to include MCT oil, which not only provides a nutrition boost of its own but also helped solve some texture issues. The company bases the products on a mix of proteins, including hemp, pumpkin and pea.
And he said the company has made a decision to stay with natural, nutritive sweeteners and to eschew stevia. Many consumers have come to associate that ingredient with irremediable off flavors, he said.
“Our products are sweetened with coconut sugar. As a company we have been anti stevia. Our customers have been happy that we don’t have stevia and have committed to not have it in the future,” he said.
Broadening distribution while keeping customer focus
Aloha as a brand was built originally to sell direct to consumers. While that’s still a big part of the company’s DNA, the plan is to broaden the distribution footprint. The refocus on basic blocking and tackling is already bearing fruit, Charron said.
“Our business has quintupled on Amazon and we will be in 13,000 stores by the end of the year,” Charron said. But he said the brand will always be wedded to the quick two way communication that e commerce makes possible.
“We direct message with customers every day. You can’t do that with a big company. You are too busy with the minutiae of running a big enterprise. That means we can get real time feedback,” he said.
Charron said that also comes with a commitment on the part of the company staff. Honest engagement has to be part of that equation if those communications are to mean anything.
“If I would say anything about our customers, I would say that they are smart. They read labels, they know what MCT oil is, they have an opinion about stevia. There are only 10 people at our company, and with a startup, there is no place to hide,” he said.
Expo East appearance
Aloha will be highlighting its new look and new formulations at the upcoming Natural Products Expo East trade show in Baltimore this coming week. The company’s booth number is 555.