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Functional health central to Laird Superfood’s strategy

ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Laird Superfoods, Sisters, Ore., is seeking to meet the needs of consumers who want more from the food and beverages they consume than basic nutrition. The company has turned everyday staples like creamers, coffee, drink mixes, baking mixes, bars and bagged snacks into delivery vehicles for such functional benefits as energy, improved cognition, relaxation and inflammation relief.

Named president and chief executive officer in January 2022, Jason Vieth has been charged with getting the company to profitability, building the brand and bringing Laird Superfoods products to more consumers. Delivering the right products to the right consumers means taking insights generated by Laird’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) business and building on those insights to offer the “hero” stock-keeping units to retailers.

Jason Vieth, chief executive officer. “We have two different businesses, really, within our company,” Mr. Vieth said in an interview with Food Business News during the Natural Products Expo West tradeshow held in Anaheim earlier this year. “We have the DTC business of which, I would say includes Amazon, and then we have a whole retail business where we are selling to grocery stores.”

Achieving profitability has been a struggle for the company. In fiscal 2021, ended Dec. 31, Laird Superfood recorded a loss of $23.9 million, more than fiscal 2020, when the company lost $14.5 million.

Sales in fiscal 2021 were $36.8 million, up from $25.8 million the year prior.

Mr. Vieth said his vision for Laird Superfoods is to create brands and products that allow consumers to continually get health and wellness benefits throughout the day. The coffee and creamers meet such a need in the morning while drink mixes, beverages, baking mixes and snacks deliver health benefits throughout the rest of the day.

Coffee creamers are Laird’s most popular item, making up 59% of sales in fiscal 2021, and Mr. Vieth said Laird’s offerings fall into the “super-premium” category.

“I think about creamers, like many other categories, in a good, better, best sort of way,” he said. “And on the shelf today you have your half-and-half, which is dairy, and you get the better with organic dairy.

“Within the non-dairy creamer segment you have International Delight and Coffee Mate that are playing in a good space. You have that next tier which is So Delicious and Califia, which are free from what a lot of the other creamers have and that is your better space.

“But you really don’t have creamers adding something back for health the way we do. So, we have the energy from the MCT oils, we are adding in the functional mushrooms for cognition and then we have those for inflammation. You end up with a product that is not just less bad for you, but good for you.”

Mr. Vieth estimates Laird’s retail penetration is 50% in the natural channel, going to retailers like Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market, and approximately 15% distribution in the conventional retail channel.

He describes the company’s consumer base as broad, people between the ages of 25 and 65, who are looking to add health and wellness occasions in their life.

“These people are active, athletic — whatever that means to them,” he said. “You know, that was a fairly small group of people 20 years ago, but we all see ourselves as athletes today and we are all looking for healthier foods.”

As far as what’s next in product development, Mr. Vieth said he is looking at innovating behind the current categories the company is competing in, but also looking at the functional benefit of beauty from within.

“We have some beauty from within initiatives we are looking at right now,” he said. “They are exciting and should be coming to market over the course of the next year.

“But beyond that, what we are really doing is making sure we have the right products in the right sizes and are where the consumer is.”