Applesauce pouches were unheard of in the United States in 2008, and today 444 million pouches are sold every year. GoGo squeeZ – the American subsidiary of the French company Pom’Potes – is the leader on the American market, and its nutritious, portable snacks are a recipe for success.
The fruit processing company Materne launched a line of drinkable fruit sauces called Pom’Potes in France in 1998. The brand’s angle was to offer children healthy snacks. The natural fruits with no added sugar won over parents, the small size and colorful design was a hit with the kids, and pupils all over the country began singing the company’s catchy slogans.
Materne joined the MOM group (Materne Mont Blanc) in 2006, and the brand set aside its production of preserves and other fruit-based products to focus fully on healthy snacks. Materne then turned to the international market to diversify and grow its French activity. “Our priority targets were countries where fruit pouches were seen in the same way as in France”, says Michel Larroche, CEO of the MOM group. “We started with the United States, Canada and Mexico.”
“We were complete novices at the start”, says Michel Larroche with a smile, sitting in his New York office looking over the MetLife Building. Materne lacked any real knowledge of the American market, and so based its marketing strategy on its experience in France. “We were able to show U.S. distribution companies how fruit pouches had positioned themselves in France, and how our product could enjoy the same performance in America.” Superstore chains such as Whole Foods and Harris Teeter were drawn to the idea, and gave GoGo squeeZ a chance to prove itself.
The first batches produced in Boué, in the Aisne département, arrived in the United States in April 2008. The brand got off to a slow start, selling the pouches individually at first, then in packs of four, in a selection of test superstores on the East Coast. The U.S. launch of GoGo squeeZ coincided with the start of heated debates on health. Consumers began making increasingly careful decisions about what they purchased, ate and drank, Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move” campaign and soda, candy and fast food became “the new tobacco”.
The ingredients used to make a pouch of GoGo squeeZ are minimal for a reason, and only include apples and concentrated apple juice. In an effort to satisfy the growing demands of the American public, GoGo squeeZ pouches are 100% natural, contain no GMOs, gluten, dairy products, nuts or allergens, and are kosher certified. The brand also offers a range of organic pouches. “We immediately positioned ourselves as an approachable, portable product that made children want to eat fruit. We wanted to reach the status of major consumer goods in America.”
“A rapidly expanding market”
The magazine Women’s Health listed the GoGo squeeZ pouch in its 2010 selection of “125 Best Packaged Foods for Women” in its “Fruits and Veggies” category. Walmart announced its commitment to reducing sugar, salt and fat in their products the following year, and signed a distribution agreement with GoGo squeeZ. The pouches are now sold in all 50 states in the U.S.A., and are available in superstores, fast-food chains, cafeterias, company canteens and theme parks. GoGo squeeZ currently holds a 60% share of the drinkable fruit sauce market in the United States.
Materne moved part of its operations to America to manage the growing demand, and opened its first factory in Traverse City, Michigan, in 2009. A second followed in Nampa, Idaho, in 2014. Thanks to the similar climate offering very cold winters and very dry summers, and an excellent irrigation from Lake Michigan and the Rocky Mountains respectively, both sites enjoy ideal conditions for organic agriculture and provide between 90% and 95% of the apples used by Materne in the United States.
The recipe for Materne’s fruit sauces changes in line with the seasons and takes into account the apple varieties available in the United States in order to offer a consistent taste. In the same way wine-makers combine different grape types, GoGo squeeZ selects four or five sorts of apples from around ten different varieties, and “works the proportions” to achieve a “balance between the sourness of a Granny Smith and the sweetness of a Fuji”. Transforming an entire apple into a 90g pouch of applesauce takes around one hour.
Materne employs almost 340 people between New York, Michigan and Idaho – 10% of whom are French. The brand promotes a multicultural image, combining “the critical, analytical spirit of the French” with “the unfailing optimism and entrepreneurial spirit of the Americans”. The management teams divide their time between the sites in France and America.
As well as its production activity, GoGo squeeZ finances charities such as Action for Healthy Kids, which rolls out campaigns in schools to promote nutrition awareness, food education and physical activity
With annual U.S. sales of 444 million pouches, GoGo squeeZ is the leading brand in a market that could potentially grow to 3.7 billion pouches per year in America alone. In the meantime, Materne is looking to expand its product offer to appeal to more adults, who currently make up 20% of the brand’s consumer base, and create more “consumer opportunities” for children. A line of drinkable yogurts, “YogurtZ”, was launched in June 2016, for example. As he enjoys one of the brand’s iconic applesauce pouches, Michel Larroche ponders the next step. “What can GoGo squeeZ bring to the breakfast table?”
Article published in the March 2016 issue of France-Amérique.