SOQUEL, CALIF. — When a retail buyer requested Cherryvale Farms release its chocolate brownie mix in a single-serve format, the company jumped at the opportunity to reach its core customer-base: young moms and families.
“One thing I realized as a new mom in early 2017, was just how hard it can be to get five minutes alone in the kitchen, so I was inspired to make that buyer’s request a reality,” said Lindsey Rosenberg, chief executive officer and co-founder of Cherryvale Farms.
After six months of R.&D., Instant Indulgence instant mug cake mixes were ready for consumers. Available in three flavors — birthday cake, rich chocolate brownie and salted caramel chocolate — the microwavable mug cakes have a suggested retail price of $2.49 per pouch or $14.99 for a display carton of six pouches.
In an exclusive interview with Baking & Snack, Ms. Rosenberg discusses how the company formulated the plant-based line and offers advice to other brands looking to do the same.
Baking & Snack: What steps did formulators take to develop this plant-based cake mix?
|Lindsey Rosenberg, c.e.o. and co-founder, Cherryvale Farms|
Ms. Rosenberg: Creating the Instant Indulgence line was a collaboration between me, my business partner (and father) Michael Rosenberg and our head of R.&D. Samantha Apter, who previously worked as a professional chef.
We started with the recipe for our chocolate brownie mix — one of our best sellers — and adapted the formula to allow consumers to “just add water.” We used our proprietary plant-based egg replacer to make it egg- and dairy-free. Next, we adjusted the flavorings to mimic the authentic flavor profile of brownies in full-sized form. We felt it was really important that the flavor profiles match the “real thing,” so our customers feel like they’re getting an indulgent, decadent treat, not a pint-sized substitute.
As we sourced ingredients, we pushed our vendors to maintain our plant-based standard of quality and, luckily, there are now so many more options in vegan, it wasn’t a huge challenge.
How did you decide on the flavors?
Ms. Rosenberg: Doing the brownie flavor was a no-brainer. It sells great for us as a baking mix and chocolate is such a powerful flavor on the shelf. We looked at trends for desserts — both on the packaged foods side and in bakeries — to determine the other flavors: salted caramel chocolate and birthday cake. Salted caramel chocolate felt like a perfect complement to the brownie flavor for those that want a more sophisticated take on chocolate. The birthday cake flavor was inspired by Instagram. On social media over the past year, we’ve seen so many exciting new food products based around birthday cake and sprinkles. It felt right to put that fun experience into an instant treat. Plus, the sprinkle colors are great, and it’s a win for those that prefer vanilla flavor over chocolate.
We’ll also soon be launching a “Vote Your Flavor” campaign where fans can vote on the next flavors of Instant Indulgence.
We believe this line has the potential to support up to 15 stock-keeping units (s.k.u.s), which is really exciting from an R.&D. point of view. We think empowering fans to decide the next flavor will build brand loyalty and create some fun new flavor profiles.
We’re so inspired by novelty treats that we’re seeing in different segments of the grocery store, even the bar category, which seems to get more exciting every year. We’ll soon be launching another new product line in that realm, too.
What advice would you give companies looking to produce a plant-based product?
Ms. Rosenberg: I would say start with flavor first. I’ve tried so many plant-based products that don’t taste very good, or not as good as they could. It takes a lot of time and effort, and no one should expect to get it right on the first go. Instant Indulgence took six months of development, and we had the advantage of already having a great brownie mix as our base to build from. I think any plant-based product that is trying to replicate a non-plant-based version needs to make sure that flavor stacks up to the original. American consumers have very specific ideas about what birthday cake or brownies should taste like, so it was our challenge to deliver that authentic flavor, but without the dairy and eggs they’re traditionally made with.
Did Cherryvale encounter any challenges while formulating this product? How did it overcome them?
Ms. Rosenberg: Yes, absolutely. For us, the packaging was the greatest hurdle because we haven’t worked with film before. We worked closely with our plant manager and printer to ensure the film would look its best once formed and filled to create our final packaging. We adjusted the die line several times in order to maximize the appearance of the photography on the package, which we feel is crucial to convey to our customers what’s inside. Getting the red of our logo just right also took a few tries on film, as we learned during some test runs. A solid partnership with our printer — and several visits to the plant during press time — ensured that the packaging turned out beautifully.
How is Cherryvale Farms supporting this introduction?
Ms. Rosenberg: We launched the product online Jan. 25, 2018, promoting it on our web site, via our social channels and customer newsletters. In February, the product will be available on Amazon and in select retailers beginning in March. To support the launch, we’re offering great discounts on our web site to encourage trial while also seeding the market through social media influencers and several events throughout California, our home state.
But our big marketing push will be later this month in February. We’re launching our “Get a Birthday Cake on your Birthday!” promotion where fans can visit a page on www.cherryvalefarms.com and enter their name and birth date. Over the next year, we’ll be sending out thousands of these free birthday packages to those that sign up. The birthday package includes a packet of our Birthday Cake in a Minute mug cake mix, a birthday card, a birthday candle and confetti. We think people are going to really love it.
Was this product introduced to a test market? If yes, what kind of response did you receive?
Ms. Rosenberg: We did not introduce the product to a test market. Rather, we’re soliciting feedback from fans over the next few months as we assess consumer opinion on flavor, form and packaging. Then, we’ll go back and adjust our recipes if we think we can make improvements.
How are Instant Indulgences being marketed?
Ms. Rosenberg: As far as marketing goes, we’ll continue to focus on our young families, and expand to reach office workers and students looking for super easy, on-the-go treats that can be made in the microwave. Highlighting the convenience and clean ingredients will be crucial to customer understanding, as mug cake mixes are still novel for the category.
In the end, what’s going to make a consumer purchase these cakes?
Ms. Rosenberg: Instant Indulgence is truly that: indulgent. Besides visiting a bakery or cafe counter, there aren’t many options for a warm dessert during a normal workday or quiet evening at home. We think the experience of “baking” your own warm dessert is pretty special because a warm treat is so comforting. We are retailing these at six pouches per carton, so it’s appealing to customers that they can grab one for a low entry point of $2.49 and give it a try.