Like many natural and organic brands, Whole Foods represented the ideal launching pad for Mamma Chia, which debuted its line of chia-infused beverages on the grocer shelves nearly three years ago. For Whole Foods, often at the forefront of emerging ingredient trends, chia and chia-added products were — and remain — important and high-demand offerings. As such, Mamma Chia drinks grew substantially within the retailer, and Whole Foods continues to be a key driver of sales for the company.
However, it was Mamma Chia’s foray into mainstream retail that has since reaped massive rewards for the brand, according to founder and CEO Janie Hoffman. Both the company’s beverages and its Chia Squeeze “Vitality Snack,” which the company launched last year, have gradually gained placement in wide range of grocery, club and mass retailers and are sold across the country in thousands of well-known outlets including Kroger, Target, Costco and Safeway.
In a recent interview, Hoffman explained that sales of Mamma Chia drinks have “doubled, if not tripled, with going into mainstream,” in large part due to rapidly growing awareness of chia — and its nutritional content — among mainstream consumers, and noted that the rapid and positive trajectory of the brand has given it the ability to innovate and take a leadership position in the world of chia.
“There’s no doubt about it: it’s mainstream,” Hoffman said, referring to chia. “You have not only your hardcore, organic folks like myself, you have moms that want to make sure that chia is getting into their kids’ diets and runners and athletes, but then you have all those other folks that are an aging part of our population that are being told by their doctors to [consume] more Omega-3s, more fiber, more protein. Now, because there is this mainstream acceptance, that the brand is known, now is the time for us to continue to build and to move forward.”
And while Hoffman said that sales of its squeeze snack have grown to the point where they are approximately equal to those of Mamma Chia beverages, that doesn’t mean that the company has any plans to scale back on its drinks business. After much clamoring from its consumers for a larger package, Mamma Chia recently launched a new 32 oz. PET bottle to a few local markets and plans for a wider release later this year.
Rapid growth, however, can come with its share of missed opportunities. Hoffman explained that in recent months, production challenges forced the company to turn away “literally millions of dollars’ worth of sales. Hoffman said that the company hopes never to be in a position like that again, a likely reason for a planned round of funding, which will take place later this year.
For much more Mamma Chia’s mainstream strategy and growth plans as well as how the company has evolved from an organizational standpoint, watch this video interview with Hoffman and BevNET CEO John Craven, which was filmed at Mamma Chia headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.