Going up against the largest CPG brands in the world can be daunting for even the most accomplished marketers. However, today’s business landscape allows brands of all sizes to reach out to shoppers in new and creative ways — driving brand engagement and ultimately sales. The rapid changes and tremendous growth in consumer packaged goods and the unlimited shelf space available with online shopping has created the perfect storm for unique or niche brands to break out in a big way in the $155 billion e-commerce market.
While there is more competition for shopper eyes than ever before, these smaller CPG brands are making the most of innovative techniques to stand out from the crowd and are part of the $18 billion market share that recently shifted from big brands to smaller ones between 2011 and 2015. Here are four brands with annual sales less than $1 billion who are making their mark in the industry.
Brand: Not Your Father’s / Not Your Mom’s
Nostalgia and excellent branding are behind the first big win from this purveyor of fine craft beers.
- Big Win: Not Your Father’s Root Beer was in the Top 10 Convenience Store Brands, along with such well-known brands as Red Bull, Rockstar(R) and Monster Energy(R) in 2016 and hits number three on the overall Top Food and Beverage Brands list with sales of $114.6 million.
- How They Did It: The inventive creators of this alcoholic beverage line utilized tongue-in-cheek humor and truly outstanding flavor to launch their brand to the top of the CPG charts. Plus, the flavors themselves imply personalization: Not Your Father’s Root Beer, Ginger Ale and Mountain Ale as well as Not Your Mom’s Apple Pie, Iced Tea or Strawberry Rhubarb.
- Key Takeaways: Don’t be afraid to be unique with product names as long as they evoke a feeling with your audience. Not Your Father’s/Mom’s was able to provide an adult beverage that quenched both the heart — and the palate.
Brand: The Pioneer Woman Collection
From a mere personal lifestyle blog to books and Food Network stardom, the Pioneer Woman brand has extended to offering cookware, tableware, and pantry storage products.
- Big Win: The Pioneer Woman Collection is riding at number six in the Top 10 Non-Food Brands for 2016 alongside brands like Flonase, Garnier, and Old Spice, with sales of $79.1 million.
- How They Did It: Storytelling! Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, managed to turn her life into her brand, and that blend of folksy humor and delicious recipes has catapulted this brand all the way to the top of shopper minds, and the sales charts.
- Key Takeaways: Creating a voice for your brand and being able to project to your audience across multiple platforms such as blogs, television, video and print offers endless opportunities for authentic interaction with your audience — which can give your smaller brand the boost it needs to effectively compete against more established ones.
Brand: Cobblestone Bread
Amongst the Nestles and Oscar Mayers of the CPG world, you’ll find relative newcomer Cobblestone Bread Co. — from the self-proclaimed “passionate group of food enthusiasts” who continue to drive this brand to success.
- Big Win: This product comes in at number nine in the Top 10 Pacesetters for Food and Beverages, with $60.2 million in sales.
- How They Did It: Consumers love sandwiches, and Cobblestone Bread markets itself as the premiere bread to create a flavorful on-the-go meal that is healthy and satisfying. A full digital suite of brand tools accompany each loaf, from online how-to videos to simple recipes and shopping lists on each bag.
- Key Takeaways: There is a strong trend towards simplicity and healthy living, albeit with a bit of indulgence thrown in on the side. Cobblestone got their win by creating their “Million Dollar Bread,” which is made with simple ingredients. Relationships with key food bloggers helped catapult the brand into households.
Direct-to-consumer brands such as Glossier are finding big wins in the CPG beauty industry — which is surprising, especially considering their big-budget competitors like L’Oreal and COVERGIRL.
- Big Win: Grabbing a significant percentage of market share in the highly-competitive CPG beauty industry.
- How They Did It: Listening to their customers first. Their small product line of items below $30 includes Instagram-ready product packaging (that people love to photograph and share on social media) and high profile partnerships with digital content creators.
- Key Takeaways: The days of a massive ad spend requirement to enter the CPG big leagues is no longer a given. Smaller start-up brands are able to leverage partnerships with social media superstars to drive not only online engagement, but offline sales and retail store interest.
The four brands outlined may be small, but they’re making big strides in the CPG market. Sometimes, even despite their size, they’re succeeding above and beyond the big name brands that have cornered consumer attention for so long. Each has taken a different approach to its niche, and that means that each has a lesson that can be learned to improve the way other CPG companies approach their own.