Ever feel unhealthy after indulging in your favorite candies and snacks? Tara Bosch had a sweet tooth, but didn’t want to give up candy—just the negative health effects that came with it. She embarked on a mission to lower the amount of sugar in her favorite gummies and treats from her childhood. After dropping out of university, she launched SmartSweets in 2016, recreating classic recipes in her own kitchen.
Finding the right manufacturing partners
Tara created the original recipes for SmartSweets herself, so finding a facility she could trust to make her products was a long and intricate process.
Taking the sugar out of a product that’s typically made with a lot of it was a tricky process. The manufacturers struggled with the formulations. “It was something so foreign to them that most of their machinery wasn’t built to run our recipes,” Tara says.
Tara was confident in the potential her business had, and she didn’t give up looking for a larger space to produce her candies. “I got mostly no’s, but that one yes stemmed from me getting someone to see the vision and see what the opportunity would be for them if they took a chance on us now,” Tara says.
When it comes to locating and partnering with the company that’s best for your business, you want someone that’s willing to see the long-term benefits of working with your brand. “It’s important to find a partner that really understands and gets behind the vision,” says Tara. And although her minimums were lower than most, one manufacturer did get behind her vision.
Developing and maintaining long lasting relationships with national retailers
Today, the bright and bold packages of SmartSweets can be found at retailers like Whole Foods, Target, CVS, and many more. “We’re in about 150,000 retailers,” Tara says.
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From day one, Tara wanted SmartSweets to be carried in larger national retailers—and she didn’t want to wait long to initiate those partnerships. “I believed in the power of social media and knew we could really push our community into the doors nationwide, so I felt safe making that leap early on,” Tara says.
The brand has a combined reach of almost one million followers across social media platforms, where they engage their audience to vote on new products or share input for which stores to launch into next.
SmartSweets leverages its social media channels to drive traffic to stores and deliver high value to its retail partnerships.
As the brand scaled, Tara realized that maintaining face-to-face relationships with retailers couldn’t fall on her alone. “Make sure you have someone from the team that can connect and take time to have authentic conversations,” Tara says.
SmartSweets’ marketing and PR strategies
With recent features in Megan Trainer’s music video “Made You Look,” and Kourtney Kardashian’s Poosh Holiday Gift Basket, SmartSweets has become the “it” candy. Even brand partnerships like these are approached with authenticity. “We never reach out with a cold call, we wait to see who’s already enjoying the product, because it always comes back to having an authentic connection [with the brand],” Tara says.
Besides celebrity partnerships, SmartSweets is leaning into community building, as well as store execution, wrapping checkout registers in its branded logo and making its packaging bold enough to stand out amongst all the rest. “The fundamentals behind our marketing is really continuing to build our friendbase, which is what we call our customers, connecting with them, and making sure they really feel seen and heard, whether that’s through our newsletter, our social channels, or any avenue or touch point we can connect with them,” Tara says.
SmartSweets’ approach to authenticity and customer experience has paid off. Tara and her team have surpassed the $100 million mark in total revenue, and are continuing to develop new and innovative candies that customers love.
Tune in to the full Shopify Masters episode and hear Tara share how she disrupted the candy industry, came up with creative marketing strategies, and scaled SmartSweets to a $100 million business.