The LA-based bakery firm has a range of high-protein, all-natural baked goods, including cookies, brownies and cereal bars that it sells into more than 20 countries across large retailers, health food stores and gyms, among other channels. The company has secured distribution for next year in US mass drugstore Rite Aid and also natural and organic retail specialist Sprouts Farmers Market.
Don Croutch, president of Lenny & Larry’s, said its vegan ‘Complete Cookie’ line had proved most popular over the past year – a trend indicative of future opportunities in the market.
“From all indications, our cookies are either the number one or two sellers in almost every location that we’re in,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Growth, he said, had been tremendous and improvements to the packaging earlier in the year had lengthened the cookie’s shelf life and enabled better international distribution.
Cookies to soar, bars to sink…
Croutch said cookies provided an alternative, more appealing way to consume protein compared to health bars.
“People always like to eat cookies and then when consumers see the cookie is also all-natural, non-GMO, high in protein and fiber, its appeal is even stronger. It’s not just like eating a cookie that has a lot of sugar and calories,” he said.
The bar category, he said, had leveled off a bit. “People always thought you had to eat a bar to get some protein but granola bars, for example, don’t have much protein and they’re usually pretty dry – that market has dried up a bit. Then along came protein bars, but the problem is most don’t taste that great and most aren’t natural.”
Asked if cookies, typically associated with indulgence, were really the right product to tout protein, he said: “Well, I think there’s just a little re-education.”
Protein for the masses
The Lenny & Larry’s high-protein Complete Cookies retailed in a number of large US retailers, including Kroger and Whole Foods and Croutch said the product certainly had a strong future in mass market.
“With the supermarkets here in the US, it’s interesting because you have the Whole Foods of the world that were always into healthy, all-natural stuff, but then you have Ralphs in LA that used to have one aisle of healthy products and now has two aisles. It seems like the market is taking an aisle, another aisle and putting healthy, high-protein, all-natural products in those aisles and the segment is growing leaps and bounds.”
The company’s presence in convenience stores like 7-Eleven was also extremely strong, he said. “You wouldn’t think that the convenient store buyer is looking for something healthy – they’re just running to get a snack. But now, they’re starting to say ‘wow, all-natural and high in protein, why don’t I grab this as it’s healthier for me’.”
The drive to eat healthier was a global phenomenon, he said, that could even be seen among fast-food titans like McDonald’s that now offered healthier options alongside regular products.
However, Croutch said there remained untapped opportunities for Lenny & Larry’s in mass drug stores. “Drugstore mass is huge – the Walgreens type. We’re going to be going into this [market] next year in Rite Aid - they’ve branched out to have food items and they’re offering now some healthy snacks.”
NPD beyond soy
Beyond upping distribution in the US and aiming to quadruple international business in the next year or two, Lenny & Larry’s would also invest in NPD, Croutch said.
The Complete Cookie line was currently made using soy protein – something the company would stick to, he said, but it would start research on alternative plant-based protein sources for new product development.
Lenny & Larry’s brownies, for example, were made using whey protein and its muffins a protein blend that included egg whites, but Croutch said the future of high-protein lied in plant-based ingredients.
“I think people are trying to get a little bit away from milk products… There are some vegan or plant-based products on the market that are doing quite well. There is this market out there that is looking far beyond soy.”
Lenny & Larry’s, he said, also had plans to develop a range of ‘Complete’ branded baked goods such as brownies and breakfast bars to capitalize on the tremendous success of its Complete Cookie.