Startup focus: Fruitfunk eyes opportunities in healthy snacking for children

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26 Feb 2018 --- The demand for healthy snacks for children is a market in itself and Dutch-based startup Fruitfunk saw that there was an increasing need for an alternative to sweets snacks. In 2014, the company decided to do something about it. As a fairly young startup, Fruitfunk were daring enough to develop a completely responsible products range, something which the company believes big confectionery players might be hesitant to do.

Fruitfunk snacks are made entirely from fruit. The moisture is removed from the fruit within a short time. The unique thing about the process is that it keeps the fibers, minerals and a large part of the vitamins from the fruit. More often than not, responsible snacks are aimed at adults, but Fruitfunk believes that by putting popular children's characters on their packaging, it can help make sweets and snacking fun for children. “With this, we hope that children will choose a responsible alternative themselves,” says the company.

Fruitfunk, a producer of responsible snacks for children, obtains financing to enter the European retail market. The Bosch investment fund (BIF) has joined the Brabant development company (BOM) to further accelerate the growth of Fruitfunk. With these fruit-based products, Fruitfunk wants to conquer the European market in the coming years.

Fruitfunk wants to make responsible sweets attractive to a broad target group. To achieve this, the company signed a partnership with Universal, Dreamworks and Nickelodeon. With this partnership, Fruitfunk produces fruit snacks and snacks under the brands of Minions, Paw Patrol, Trolls, Shimmer & Shine, Phonicons and Unicorn. In the Netherlands, Fruitfunk's products are now selling well at a number of supermarket chains. Their products are also available in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, UK, Dubai, Kuwait and Hong Kong. The company’s ambition is to become #1 supplier of healthy snacks for kids in Europe.
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Rob de Weert, Co-Founder of Fruitfunk

FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Rob de Weert, Co-Founder of Fruitfunk, about the opportunities in healthy snacking and the company outlook for the future.

FIF: As a startup, what have been some of the challenges you have faced?
Fruitfunk: Starting a new company and introducing a new brand to the market should not be taken lightly. It is difficult to introduce your products in the market as an unknown brand. It takes a while before you are taken seriously by suppliers and supermarkets. For them, it is a risk to work together with a new brand because it brings uncertainty regarding rotation from the shelves. Next, to that, we have no enormous marketing budgets to spend with the retailers, so we have to focus on health benefits and the corporate social responsibility retailers need to take in their assortments. We also had to convince consumers, because for them our product was new and brought questions. Consumers weren’t used to the look of the products. We do not use artificial colorings and flavorings in our products, so our products look different than regular candy.  We see that the mass-market is slowly moving into a healthier way of living. Still, there is a big challenge ahead of us to inform our customers (retailers) and consumers about what’s healthy and what’s not. We are a disruptive player in a pretty conservative market. The A-brands in our branch has a reason to stick to their current production processes. We do things differently, but that needs extra clarification.

FIF: What is happening regarding sugar reduction that you were able to see an opportunity within?
Fruitfunk: Consumers are more and more aware of what they put into their bodies. Good and healthy food is increasingly important for consumers. We see three generations of healthy snacking. The first generations are the conventional candy and sweets industry. Of course, they noticed this change in demand and created, as we call it, second-generation healthy snacks or sweets. No structural changes were made in recipes or production processes, only replacing the gelatin by pectin and using natural colorings. Still, the products in de second generation are improved to a small extent. The companies belonging to the third generation healthy snacking are companies who do things differently: a different way of producing and made from fruit only. We belong to the third generation.

We don’t add sugar to our products. Our snacks and sweets are made from fruit. In a short period, the fruit is heated, dehydrated and cooled. After cooling down the fruit is shaped to our wonderful fruit flakes for a perfect bite. Our unique production method keeps the original fruit fibers, minerals and vitamins. The dietary fibers ensure that the natural fructose will be absorbed by the human body at a slower rate. The result is that blood sugar levels remain stable. The dietary fibers also contribute to saturation.

FIF: What is currently happening in the snacking arena for children?
Fruitfunk: The majority of the healthy alternatives are focused on young adults. We believe that a healthier generation starts with our kids. A lot of parents are looking for a responsible snack for their children, but there is not a lot out there. Fruitfunk brings the wishes and desires together of both children and parents by developing responsible snack products with world’s most popular kid's licenses. It is scientifically proven that children respond very positive to licenses in combination with the taste of a product. We use the kid's characters as an ambassador for our responsible snacks!

FIF: Which products have you launched and what has the response been so far?
Fruitfunk: At the moment, our product range consists of 7 product concepts around healthy snacking. Our product fulfills in different shopping moments in the supermarket. You can find our products in the confectionery and snacking aisle, but we have also developed several impulse concepts for check-out placement. Our fruit candy is made from fruit. And we have two types of healthy snacks. We have fruit snacks, totally made from fruit and fruit bars which are made from dates, figs, raisins, fruit and vegetables.

Click to EnlargeBy using kids characters on our packaging, we make responsible snacks fun for children and we ensure children will choose our healthier alternative by themselves. Our product is not just about the fun packaging; the snacks also have to be tasty! We always test our products with our customers and choose the most popular flavors. We work hard to make sure our products are as health conscious and responsible as they are tasty and delicious. Retail, parents and children all react very positively to our snack solutions.

FIF: Regarding innovation, what are you offering that hasn’t been done before?
Fruitfunk: We believe that we are unique with our fun and healthy food concepts. Responsible snacks are often aimed at adults and – if you ask us – a bit boring. This had to change. With nice packaging, we make responsible snacking fun for children and we ensure children will choose our healthier alternative by themselves. We also keep innovating regarding products. We brought the very first responsible Advent Calendar on the market. Innovation is mainly in the simplicity. We try to use as few ingredients as possible and minimally processed. We offer a pure and natural product as possible with nutritional benefits. We see a great demand for responsible, fun and tasty snack products for children.

FIF: What about opportunities in vegetable snacking or a combination of both?
Fruitfunk: We already offer a combination of fruit and vegetables in our fruit bars. We think it is a good idea to add vegetables to fruit snacks in the future, but we can’t change this overnight. When the demand for healthy snacks remains growing and the mass-market will pick-up the category, the next step might be vegetable snacking. We already have the first concepts on the drawing table, but the launch of these kinds of snacks is depending on the developments in healthy snacking.

FIF: And what are your expectations for the business in the coming years?
Fruitfunk: We hope that healthy snacking will develop as a known and full grown category in the supermarket channel. We want Fruitfunk to have a leading and inspirational roll in it for retailer and end-consumer. We stand out in a traditional confectionery market!. We are convinced that through the transparent way of communicating with our brand we can become a category captain in the field of responsible snacking for children in Europe.

By Elizabeth Green

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