CEO Brad Charron came to the brand in 2017 with the mission of reviving its core value proposition. Aloha was among the first to market in the plant based protein trend, and benefitted from that positioning. But the company seemed to lose its way with multiple SKUs.
When Charron came on board, he said his message was blunt: The company had too many SKUs, and they didn’t taste good enough. He pared the company back to the basics: two flavors of protein powder, based on a blend of pea, rice, hemp seed and pumpkin seed proteins, and two nutrition bars.
Now the company enters the new year with a revised strategy on the markets it serves and the first tweak on the basic formulation approach.
Finer texture; healthier fats
First to the formulations: The protein powders now contain MCT oil and are milled to a smoother texture.
Aloha bills MCT oil as being linked to energy, gut health, enhanced mood, and performance. It has become a more popular ingredient of late because of its connection to the latest trend in eating, the ‘keto’ diet.
“We're excited to reveal our updated protein powders, which now contain keto-friendly MCT oil, keeping to the core of what ALOHA does best – offer organic, affordable, accessible, plant-based food that never forces a consumer to sacrifice taste for nutritional benefit,” Charron said.
Medium chain triglycerides have been researched for many indications. Most recently, a Russian study found them to be a suitable source of energy for high intensity training.
Other companies are capitalizing on the MCT trend and responding to the demand it has created. On the finished products side, Coromega announced in October the launch of individual packets of protein with MCT oil. Also suppliers like Phytochem and Stepan have recently launched MCT ingredients.
Charron said the formulation tweaks are part of the ongoing restructuring of the brand.
“I wanted to do a couple of things when I came to Aloha,” he added. “I thought every SKU had to stand on its own two feet and be a great representation of the brand. In the case of the powders, one of the things I wanted to do was improve the texture.
“I read over every direct message we have received from consumers and the same thing came up over and over. They said they wished it wasn’t so chalky. So we have milled the product much more finely,” Charron said.
“And the second thing was we wanted to respond to the trend in terms of healthy fats, which is why we added the MCT oil, which is coconut derived,” he said.
Charron said some of these formulation decisions were made in response to feedback from potential retail partners.
“If you are not in touch with your consumers and your retailer partners all the time you are fooling yourself and you can make silly decisions,” he said.
Refining the retailing strategy
On the retailer side, the company has made a major shift by expanding its brick and mortar distribution. Aloha was built at first as primarily an online-only brand, and as many manufacturers in the market are moving increasingly in that direction as a sales outlet, Charron is charting an opposite course.
“Aloha at first was dot com and Target. Now we are much more well rounded,” he said.
“We’ve never done business with Harris Teeter before and now they have an end cap displaying our powders. Kroger is a new partner; Wegmans is a new relationship. And now we have our first partner in the natural channel with Sprouts, which we just announced a few weeks ago,” he said.