With their distinctive rainbow packaging and emphasis on “ingredients you can see and pronounce,” Kind bars are one of the snack world’s biggest recent success stories. But the company had a problem: Research found that young men weren’t buying as many bars as their female counterparts. Some men were turned off by the sweet flavors; the pretty, colorful packaging; and what they perceived as a dainty size and shape.
That’s why Kind is now introducing a product line called Strong & Kind that’s aimed at a brawnier bar consumer. The new flavors mix sweet and savory—Honey Smoked BBQ, Honey Mustard, Roasted Jalapeno, Hickory Smoked, and Thai Sweet Chili—and the bars are wider than previous flavors. The packaging also features slightly darker colors and copy that's supposed to appeal to young men (“We respect the barbecue. Do you?”). The result is a sort of anti-Luna Bar (that sweet protein concoction launched in 1999 by Clif as “whole nutrition for women”) that can be sold alongside other protein bars, candy bars, or in nut aisles.
It might sound a bit silly, but there’s a serious purpose behind the strategy. Kind founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky says the bars’ marketing was inspired by a conversation he had with Peter and Jennifer Buffett (Warren’s son and daughter-in-law) about the state of masculinity in America. “Jennifer was talking about how young men think they have to be macho,” says Lubetzky. “She felt we needed to help kids understand that it takes courage to be kind.” That’s why he ultimately dubbed the new line Strong & Kind, which he hopes will send a message that decency and masculinity aren’t at odds.
To spread the word about Strong & Kind, the company has tapped NBA star Kevin Durant, whose charity for at-risk-youth fits in nicely with Kind’s pro-social focus. Durant is helping create and promote a campaign to get one million people to take a “Strong & Kind pledge,” with tenets such as: “I pledge to look out for those who can’t look out for themselves” and “I pledge to have the courage to be kind when others may not.” In return, Kind has donated $1 million to Durant's foundation, which will develop educational programs around the Strong & Kind pledge themes. “We don’t want to become a celebrity-laden brand, but we just felt like he would be so right for this,” says Katie Nahoum, the senior brand manager who shepherded the launch. “Kevin comes from a tough background, and he’s become a great role model for kids in similar situations.”
Kind also has to convince people to actually try the new savory flavors, which could sound a bit strange to anyone accustomed to the company’s typical fruit, nut, and chocolate-filled offerings. Will people pick up a roasted jalapeno almond protein bar instead of, say, dark chocolate mocha almond? “I took a minute with it myself,” says Nahoum. “I was like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’” Lubetzky knew it wouldn’t be easy to nail the new bars, given the category’s traditional pull toward granola and candy bar flavors. “The reason we had a unique opportunity to do this is that our basic ingredients are nuts and grains, and people are more used to savory flavors with nuts,” he says. “But it was still a multi-year effort to get it right.” And once you actually taste the new combinations, Strong & Kind’s distinctive and well-balanced flavors suddenly make a lot more sense. “It’s something you always wanted but never realized you did,” says Nahoum. “We looked at the current offerings in flavored nuts and knew we could do better.”
Of course, women have been known to enjoy the occasional flavored nut themselves, and Kind hopes its core female audience will also snap up Strong bars, even if the marketing focus is elsewhere. “My team’s so into these, and we’re all women,” Nahoum says. “The Honey Mustard is great with a pale ale.”