During the COVID-19 pandemic, an expensive dinner out or a night at the movies have been put on hold for many people. Instead, families who are looking for a treat turn to their pantries, seeking simpler comforts and affordable ways to indulge.
That’s where Hostess Brands’ iconic snacks — like Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Ho Hos — come into play. A recent financial statement cited Hostess-brand sweet treats as a big contributor to the company’s 18.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth in Q3.
Vice President of Growth and Innovation Tina Lambert, who joined the company last month, says providing “familiar and comforting” snacks has been one consumer trend her team has closely followed. Four other trends Lambert identified included “untethered snacks” you can share, as well as all-day breakfast items.
Five Trends in Snacking
- Familiar. These snacks are already loved by customers, and give them an affordable sense of comfort during tough times, Lambert says.
- Untethered. “You need snacks you can eat while you’re watching TV or working on your computer,” Lambert says. “Increasingly, we find that snacks need to be single-serve, poppable, [and] portable…”
- Shareable. According to Lambert, her team is looking at snacks that can be shared physically with family members, as well as snack experiences that can be shared through social media.
- “Snacks you can feel good about.” This category includes snacks that are natural or healthier. According to Lambert, recently acquired Voortman Bakery — which provides low-sugar cookies and baked goods — is an example of a “feel good” option.
- Breakfast all day. Customers who love breakfast are looking for ways to have their favorite items at any time, not just in the morning.
Lambert has spent more than 20 years in consumer packaged goods innovation and marketing, working with iconic brands like Pop-Tarts, Pringles, and Tyson frozen food. She is now bringing that experience to the newly created position of Vice President of Growth and Innovation at Hostess, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. According to Lambert, this role sits at the intersection for innovation, consumer insights, and marketing, in order to “bring great ideas to market.”
Lambert says that Hostess’ innovations focus on generating “incremental profitable growth,” with innovation vitality as a primary metric.
“Vitality measures the percent of our total company revenue that comes from innovations that have launched in the last three years,” she explains. “That forces my team to ensure that they’re looking at things that are sticky, and not just…a fad in the market.” The goal is to have 15 to 20 percent of total revenue generated by those new products, she says.
In addition to creating the new VP position, Hostess also opened its Lenexa, Kan. Innovation Lab in June of 2020. “We can have about 20 of our researchers, product testers, and bakers spend time creating new products,” Lambert says. “The Innovation Lab helps bring us both speed, and a way to get closer to our consumers.”
Kansas-based researchers are currently working in the facility in compliance with CDC regulations, Lambert says. She and other innovators who are based at Hostess’ Chicago office, home to its sales and marketing functions, will visit the facility frequently post-pandemic.
Lambert cites expanding iconic brands with new flavors, limited time offers, and licensing partnerships as 2021 areas of focus for her team.
“Sweets make people smile, they get people excited, they bring people together,” Lambert says. “After the last six years working on meat [at Tyson Foods], it feels good to be back home in sweet snacks.”