It has been an unexpected and exciting last two years for ZotesSunflower Co., as the seeds steadily climbed to its current numberone spot in the category touting convenient packaging andunique flavors.
While other seeds in the category are packaged in bags anddisplayed on peg boards, Zotes was originally launched in 5-ounceplastic bottles with secure flip-top lids. The popularity of the bottlesbegan to grow as customers realized they provided an alternative toplastic bags that were prone to spills.
Maverik Stores, based out of North Salt Lake, Utah, recently addedZotes to its seed category during this past summer’s set updates. Alocal broker brought the product to the attention of Paula Fluckiger,category manager for 184-store chain, and she was immediatelydrawn to Zotes.
“The products are not mainstream, and I’m counting onthat uniqueness to give the category another dimension for us,”said Fluckiger.
Maverik will prepare to roll out a new promotion this fall to introduceZotes Energy Seeds. Fluckiger has high hopes that the event willreally kick sales into gear.
The launch of Zotes was specifically targeted at the c-store industry,with a core demographic of 14- to 28-year old males in mind.The company participates in many grass roots marketing eventsgeared towards that age group, working with professional athletesand popular musicians.
Since Maverik began carrying the seeds, Fluckiger has noted thatmany of the Zotes consumers appear to be road warriors who needa reliable snack during their travels, along with commuters who stopin before and after work.
The originality of Zotes’ marketing techniques is somethingthat Fluckiger feels sets the seeds apart from other playersin the category.
“We constantly hear comments about the range of flavors, theease of use the Zotes bottle provides while driving and the innovationof the marketing,” said Fluckiger. “I was personally intrigued bytheir marketing and company attitude.”
Bottled or Bagged
During Fluckiger’s initial meeting with Zotes, both partiesweighed the popularity and “peg-ability” of traditional bags versusthe distinctiveness of the bottles.
“We determined that the same customer appears to like bothoptions,” said Fluckiger. “Many people use the bags to refill the bottles,which fit nicely into their car or truck cup-holder.”
After more market testing, Jason Fry, Zotes’ founder andCEO, decided to launch the top four flavors in a 5-ounce bagoption. This move allowed Zotes to claim space on the pegalongside other seeds, as well as remain a top seller on the shelves.According to Fry, retailers can find alternative locations for Zotes otherthan just the seed section, since many of the flavors can be easilymerchandised with alcohol or other salty snacks.
Zotes bottle packaging allows it to be a versatile product that canbe merchandised in different sections of the c-store. Because of thedifferent flavor choices, many retailers choose to put certain flavors inmultiple locations throughout the store.
For example, Maverik has a 2-foot nut section located near thebeer vault where the most popular salty snacks are displayed in plainsite. Fluckiger made sure that Zotes’ 6-count, gravity-feed bottle dispenserwas clearly visible to customers making their way out of thebeer vault.
Zotes bottles typically retail between $1.79 and $1.99, andthe bags sell between 99 cents and $1.39. The bottles run about15 to 20% higher than competitors, with the added costs restingin the packaging.
The top four selling flavors are Dill Pickle, Saltand Pepper, Hot Wings and Beer Baked. Newflavors are chosen after much input from consumerswho toss out ideas and thoughts onthat they think would taste good.
The addition of new flavorsis helping Zotesretain its uniquestanding in theseed category as amarket innovator.
“The packaging isbright and the flavorsare edgymaking theseeds fun to have in our set,”said Fluckiger. “Zotes doesn’tlet the market lead and thenfollow along like a lemming.”