Perhaps no one could have predicted the success of baked cheese as a snacking item, not even the makers behind the explosively popular Whisps brand. But after sitting down with Ilana Fischer, CEO, I got a better sense as to why this company in particular was able to effectively bend the market to its will.
“Whisps launched in 2015 from an incredibly artisanal cheese perspective,” Ilana expressed. “We were selling to specialty cheese suppliers; the look and feel of the original brand was much more artisanal. When we first launched, there wasn’t a cheese crisp product on the market, and so buyers were uncertain where it belonged, so we had to argue for a space. After we entered stores, though, Whisps performed really well—even without a firm marketing standpoint! It was based entirely off of word of mouth.”
However, once its success was positioned to skyrocket, Ilana and the team knew that it needed to take the brand to the next level to see true success.
“Our rebranded packaging gave Whisps the snacking feel that it needed to really take off,” Ilana remarked. “And the sales reflected that: They more than doubled after rebranding."
It’s hard to imagine a time when baked cheese crisps weren’t an absolute hit—the category has blown up to such a degree that it’s erased our industry’s memory of the pre-baked cheese era.
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“Snacks have moved from center store into the deli, highlighting that consumers are after crave-able, strong, cheesy flavor without the paragraph of ingredients attached to it,” Ilana shared. “Whisps delivers that something crave-able that also satisfies and delivers on flavor. We didn’t want shoppers to have to compromise.”
With a rebrand at its back and the sales number to back that decision up, I had to ask Ilana how this success has continued even in the COVID-19 era.
“We’ve doubled down on e-commerce business for retailers like Target and Kroger, showing how Whisps continues to be merchandised well online. We also introduced a new 6 oz, club-sized bag. Since shoppers are shopping less frequently, we wanted to present them with an option that allows them to buy in bulk, Whisps style,” she explained.
All in all, Whisps has carried the cheese crisp category to a new level due to its better-for-you snacking claims and innovative new flavors—Tangy Ranch and Nacho—and its commitment to injecting fun into the snacking sector.
Keep reading Deli Market News as we continue to plumb the depths of category innovation!