LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles startup has launched a fresh spin on Lunchables, a brand spanning nearly four decades in the marketplace with sales last year of $1.8 billion, according to market researcher Circana.
Sunnie features a range of refrigerated snack packs that are debuting in select Target stores this month. Each contains grain-free crackers formulated with cassava flour, avocado oil, flaxseed, coconut sugar and sea salt. A pizza-inspired kit adds organic mozzarella cheese and a marinara sauce made with organic vegetables including zucchini, carrots and celery. Additional varieties include hummus and sunflower seed butter with strawberry chia jam.
Katy Tucker and Lisette Howard, longtime friends and mothers, partnered with a pediatric nutritionist to develop the concept three years ago after noting a gap in the children’s snacking segment for “fresh and clean” options, Ms. Howard said.
“We started talking about how we go to the grocery store and can find ourselves a fresh salad, we can find our babies fresh baby food … we can find our dogs fresh dog food … but when it came to our kids, it was center-aisle snacks or Lunchables meat and cheese trays,” she said.
Amid the pandemic, the pair experimented with several iterations, gathering feedback through online sales prior to landing on the current offering. An earlier version included a smoothie, raw vegetables and cookies sweetened with coconut sugar.
“The feedback from customers was, ‘Hey, I love what you’re doing, but my kids don’t eat the vegetable you put in here,’ or ‘My kids like this but don’t like that,’” Ms. Tucker said.
Sunnie’s “all of the nostalgia, none of the junk” approach taps into a growing movement of food and beverage entrepreneurs reimagining childhood staples for today’s shoppers. Startups in recent years have introduced new takes on Jell-O, Pop-Tarts, Uncrustables and Froot Loops, appealing to modern-day consumer preferences for wholesome nutrition and simple ingredients.
Meanwhile, the fresh snacking set has expanded to include a variety of perishable products positioned as premium and free from preservatives. Emerging brands such as Perfect Snacks, Honey Mama’s, Mid-Day Squares and Core Foods often are among the ready-to-eat selection in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
“We want to be a brand that stands for nutrition and convenience, but also says, ‘We got your back. You can trust us. We’re moms,’” Ms. Tucker said.
Sunnie is rolling out to nearly 200 Target stores in the Southern Pacific region. Additionally, the brand may be found at specialty grocers such as Erewhon, Gelson’s, Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres. The products also are available to purchase online at feelsunnie.com.
“We want to be where families are out and about,” Ms. Howard said. “We want to be on your flight. We want to be at Disneyland. We want to be at your favorite sports stadium. We want to be at the zoo. At coffee shops.”
The products are distributed to a handful of office buildings, having gained a following among busy adults, Ms. Tucker added. An early priority in product development “was everything had to taste great, and not just to a kid but to an adult,” Ms. Howard said.
“We want to create snacks that are liked by all,” Ms. Howard said. “We always joke that it’s not a quinoa wrap; it’s pizza. It’s sun butter and jam. Just really approachable flavor profiles that have a nostalgic feel."