When the publicly-traded Simply Good Foods (parent company of Atkins Nutritionals) scouted SimplyProtein as a potential addition to its portfolio, the company wanted to make sure that it didn’t buy just another bar brand, said Linda Zink, its SVP of innovation.
“We wanted it to be meaningfully different to people,” she told us. “We believe [SimplyProtein] filled an unmet need in the US.”
SimplyProtein has been a successful brand in Canada, launched 12 years ago by a woman named Kathy Richards who was looking for snacks that had simple ingredients, clean ingredients, and short ingredient labels. “She couldn’t find one so she made her own,” Zink said.
Clean label products, industry short-hand for products with short ingredient decks and free-from ingredients not usually stocked in a kitchen pantry, abound in supermarkets, convenient stores, and more. Same goes for protein, which is being added to nearly everything from chips to frozen pizza. But the unmet need Zink referred to is in “a snack bar that has the right amount of protein, so not too much and not too little. Most people don’t want 30 g of protein per snack,” she added.
For SimplyProtein, the sweet spot is anywhere between 11 g (as in its baked bars) and 15 g (as in its savory crunchy bites) per snack, coming mainly from soy, pea, and nuts, depending on product.
At the Natural Products Expo West show, the brand unveiled its new line of baked bars, the first of SimplyProtein’s products developed in-house at Simply Good Foods exclusively for US distribution.
“We wanted to launch a line that had variety for people,” she said. “As you imagine, the bar space is very crowded. There’s a lot of fatigue—the same bars, the same flavors, the same texture. We wanted to offer a line that provided variety.”
The Simply Good Foods company was born when Conyers Park, a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, merged with Atkins Nutritionals in 2017. At the time, the new company was valued at approximately $856 million.
Aside from new product development within its existing brand, further acquisitions are an integral part of Simply Good Foods. Their focus is on becoming “a portfolio of brands that bring simple goodness, happiness, and positive experiences to consumers and their families,” according to the company’s website.
“Atkins has such a strong heritage in [low carb],” Zink said. “From an Atkins perspective, we really believe lower carb is the better way to eat. It’s healthier. You look at trends, people are definitely moving towards a lower carb diet.”
In this sense, its new sister brand SimplyProtein is a good fit. “SimplyProtein is also lower carb relative to a lot of its competition, but not all consumers care about that as much. They’re not focused on it. What they are focused on is a good macronutrient profile,” she added.
One serving (50 g bar) of SimplyProtein's Chocolate Chip Baked Bar
- 210 g calories
- 90 g fat calories
- 25 g total carbohydrate
- 13 g dietary fiber
- 3 g sugars
- 4 g glycerin
- 11 g protein
Ingredients: Soluble tapioca fiber, almonds, soy protein isolate, vegetable glycerin, oats, coconut oil, rice flour, sugar, contains less than 2% of unsweetened chocolate, tapioca starch, natural flavors, salt, cocoa butter, water, stevia leaf extract, soy lecithin
‘We wanted to be even bigger’
The two SimplyProteins, Canadian and US, exist quasi-independently. This is especially true when it comes to developing flavors.
“The main differences were sweetness levels. The US tends to have sweeter products, so our US products have a slightly sweeter profile, but we didn’t want these products to be overly sweet,” Zink explained.
Other examples include a stronger lemon flavor and stronger chocolate flavor in the US versions.
This was all based on consumer research that Simply Good Foods conducted.
“We did a lot of work with consumers to make sure that they liked the products, so we’re really excited to be launching in the US,” she said.
It’s not to say that the original Canadian products would be unpalatable to Americans. SimplyProtein is still building its US distribution, but several retailers have already been distributing the Canadian version for a while.
One example is the Texas grocer HEB. “The buyer is a huge fan of the Canadian brand,” Zink said. “It has a small but loyal base.”
But the devil is in the details, and the company believes that these minor flavor tweaks could make the brand an even bigger hit in the US.
“We think this could be a very, very big brand, so we don’t look at it as a bar brand. We see it as a platform for healthy snacking where other products could live underneath that with this philosophy.”