The Bear necessities of brand creation

How refreshing to read about a new brand that is NOT touting social media as the key to growth. Instead, Bear has built a £16 million healthy snacks business based on a good product, distinctive branding and distribution. Co-founder Hayley Gait-Golding told the story of Bear in The Times here (subscription needed).

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1. BE the consumer and solve your own problem 

The idea for a healthy snack brand did not come from market research, as Hayley explains: “We’re not choosing what we do on market research. We choose new products on where a problem is." The idea for Bear was inspired by her work as a personal trainer. She felt her work had a limited impact, especially when it came to kids. 

2. Invest in a better product

Bear fruit snacks are made in a different way to most other similar products. Ripe fruit is quickly picked and then baked at low temperature, with no addition ingredients such as sulphur dioxide. Getting the product made this way took a lot of work, with cold-calling of many farmers proving futile. She finally found a farmer in South Africa ready to collaborate.

3. Create a distinctive brand

I have admired Bear's branding for a while. Its simple and has good standout. There are some nice little touches, like the fig leaf hiding the bear's private parts. This cues naturalness, and also the idea that the product is naked. 

4. Drive distribution

Hilary and the team have done a good job at driving distribution. The snacks are stocked by the big supermarkets in the UK, but also thousands of independents. This wide distribution helps increase reach and so drive penetration. With the distinctive branding creating stand-out on shelf the brand has not had to invest heavily in advertising.

5. Keep it simple

My favourite quote from the article is this one: “We don’t bother with digital, we don’t have apps. The world’s confusing enough.” How refreshing to see a brand sticking to doing brilliant basics, and not trying to "have a conversation" with us or "build a relationship".

6. Inspiration comes from funny places

The name for Bear was not created by Hayley sitting in a room trying to brainstorm ideas. Rather, the name came to her reading a piece of research about bears foraging in cities and as a result getting fat on a diet of leftover pizza and kebabs! 

7. 110% commitment

Perhaps the most important lesson from Hayley's story is the need for any entrepreneur to be totally committed. She and her husband sold their house and moved in with her parents to raise money to start the company.

The one thing I was less sure about in the article is the decision to stretch into breakfast cereals:

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– Size of prize: this is a big market. But Bear has build its brand on natural fruit and so I'm not convinced that the brand has enough added value here

– Ability to win: fruit snacks is a small market, but one with no major brands competing in it. This means investment levels didn't need to be high for Bear. In contrast, the cereal market is highly competitive. 

In conclusion, Bear is a nice example of how you can build a brand with a distinctive product and brand identity, and no need for social media.