The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic provided a shot in the arm to the e-commerce market, which already was growing before March 2020. That’s good news for newer and startup snack makers that may not have access to crowded retail shelves. They can put up their own direct-to-consumer (DTC) websites to get their products noticed.

“Our DTC site allows consumers to engage directly with our brand, learn more about our ‘Be better, do better’ mission and speak with us one on one,” said Stacey Benham, vice president marketing, Quinn Snacks, Boulder, Colo. “As a result, we also gain valuable insights to help us drive new innovation and understand what our consumers expect from our brand.”

Digital brands can ramp up more slowly and don’t need the volume needed to produce a snack that is going on retail shelves.

“E-commerce really has leveled the playing field in that initial startup phase,” said Ryan Quinn, who is a founder and managing partner of Bougie Bakes, Los Angeles, along with his wife, Meghan Quinn. “I don’t think e-commerce can completely replace everything in the food business, but I think it’s a great start that you can get that proof of concept with live sales and direct customer feedback.”

Selling online allows companies to gain quick feedback and understand how their products are doing and being received by customers, said Joe Ens, chief executive officer of HighKey, Orlando, Fla., which started as a digital brand and has moved to retail.

“The unique element that digital does create for a company like ours and others is you can very quickly iterate, you can innovate, you can kill ideas or explode ideas depending on how quickly they succeed, and you’ll know within days or weeks, not months or years,” he said.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Centennial Report: The Future of Snacking, click here.