As vegetable snacking and plant-based proteins hit the mainstream, snacking concept Graze is taking its seven-year business from online to the shops to prove that snacking can be healthy, tasty and, most importantly, varied. We take a closer look at the company and how it works with its suppliers as the firm launches its first retail line
Grazing: we all love to do it, most of us try to avoid it, and a lot of us do it all day long. The company Graze started out by focusing on this knowledge, with its target customer base being mainly office workers, but also homes and families.
Delivered to your chosen door, a Graze box comes with four different individually sealed boxes that weigh about 45g each and contain different snacks; ranging from dried fruit and nuts, olives or flapjacks to, my particular favourite at the time, healthy jaffa cakes in the form of orange-flavoured raisins, dark chocolate buttons and roasted hazelnuts.
You then head to the Graze website and, using an email the team sends you, indicate which pots you liked and thereby tailor what you’ll be sent next. At the same time, this has provided the company with the much-needed customer research that would shape and continues to influence the Graze business for years to come.
Fast-forward seven years, Graze is sending out more than 230,000 boxes a week to UK online subscribers. From this month [July] those boxes will also be available to buy in 850 Sainsbury's stores, 340 WHSmiths shops, and 560 Boots outlets.
What’s in the box?
Leaning majorly towards fruit and vegetable products, Graze has a keen natural policy. The boxes are portion controlled and there are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, but the company still manages to produce a tasty chilli jam or a chocolate dip with a suitable shelf life.
With that in mind, Graze is a natural choice for retailers at a time when snacking products are getting competitive. “The retailers approached us and said they needed more and better choice,” explains Eleanor Freeman, who has been head of products and new product development (NPD) at Graze for the last five years. She’s even had her taste buds insured.
“Retailers wanting our product gave us the incentive to develop this retail range. Retailers are trying to remove unhealthy snacking options from the tills, but they still need an attractive offer. There is something for everyone in our range, which is the unique thing with Graze. We tackle every trend and expand on the snacking market, by research and listening to our customer feedback, which we use every day.”
Graze has developed 12 lines for retailers, which include a Veggie Protein Power, Juicy Peach and Raspberry, Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart and Mini Strawberry and Banana. They are based on both customer feedback on Graze’s more than 130 lines available online as well as wider snacking occasion research.
Popular flavours and trends
“Veg snacking and plant-based proteins are definite trends and they’re important to our customers, so we are very keen to develop them further,” says Freeman, pointing out that the company’s online offer already includes items like Super Kale and Edamame (baked kale crisps and edamame beans) and Soy Roasted Seeds.
“We have looked to popular eating cultures, like Wagamama and street food, for inspiration, but we have also done a lot of research on New York eating trends. Our Veggie Protein Power pot comprises dried edamame beans, peppered cashew nuts and chilli roasted chickpeas. It offers 7g of natural protein, which is something a certain type of consumer is really looking for.
“Kale is huge, plus baked and seasoned cauliflower or broccoli are getting really popular as veg-based snacks. That will be our next step for retail, but, at the moment, the launch concentrates on 12 lines, which we boiled down from 1,000 options during a period of about eight months.”
Nutrition is still important
Graze is also keen to point out that some of its packs boast 5-a-day credentials and maintains that there is only ever a slight decrease in vitamins and nutritional content as a result of its drying and baking methods.
“Graze has always wanted to use natural products in our new retail line,” says Freeman, who was previously part of the NPD team at innocent before moving over to Graze. “Juicy Peach and Raspberry is an example of how unique our work is. It’s a mix of dehydrated pear, with peach drops and raspberry strings. Everything is naturally preserved and no sweetness is added. The pear is dried by dressing with lemon, then it’s dehydrated by our supplier in South Africa. It tastes like nothing else on the market.
“The strawberries we use for the Mini Strawberry and Banana are the Senga Sengana variety, which we source from Poland in their dried form. Even though we are dealing with dried products, quality is paramount, especially with fruit and veg.
“Our customer feedback tells us that getting their 5-a-day is very important. A lot of people rubbish the government’s campaign, but if our research is anything to go by it has really caught people’s attention. Even if they are not getting their full 5-a-day, they are aware of it and working towards it. The need to know how many of your 5-a-day portions are contained in packs comes up again and again.”
Working with suppliers
Always developing or eating something new, the Graze team tests and develops all of its boxes at its headquarters in Richmond, London. Many suppliers regularly send in new ingredients, eager to catch the company’s imagination.
The snack enthusiasts go as far down the supply chain as possible to determine both quality and freshness. The company has been working with the same nut roasting company for six years, and it has just appointed a Cornish vanilla fudge producer for its new Salted Fudge and Peanut Cookie offer.
“We are very hands on within the company,” points out Freeman. “We are always getting new ingredients in and that’s the good thing about having close relationships with your suppliers. Our retail line of Chocolate Pretzel Dippers is a deconstruction of a pretzel and it was a suggestion from a supplier. We are very open to suppliers with new concepts – if it works for us, we will take it forward.”
Expanding the range
Always eager to push the snacking market further, Graze has also launched a range of ‘broth’ options for its online customers, which consists of a paste in one compartment of the box and then dehydrated vegetables, like mushrooms, in the other. The line includes Japanese Miso, Vietnamese Pho and Thai Tom Yum. The feedback has already been very positive.
“It’s a different snack option and you can easily make it more substantial by adding chicken or fresh vegetables, when you make it up with boiling water,” says Freeman. “We hear all the time that we have introduced people to something new or that they have tried something they never would have if it were left up to them. Variety really is the spice of life.”