Trevor Stauffer

Nonni’s Biscotti owns its Market, but will it stay in first place?

Before Nonni’s came out with its first gourmet cookies in 1988, few Americans had a clue what a biscotti was. But the company presented its simple, crunchy cookies as a classier, healthier alternative to traditional American cookies, and biscotti soon became a national trend.

What Nonni’s did wasn’t as simple as it seems. To begin with, true biscotti are not so much a traditional Italian cookie as they are an entire category of baked goods from across the ancient Roman empire. They originated as travel food for Caesar’s legions, and variations can be found, under slightly different names, from Spain to Greece. But Nonni’s took the generic cookie of southern Europe and reinvented it into an instantly recognizable, singular product.

While slew of imitators have come and gone over the years, Nonni’s has remained by far America’s most popular biscotti, with a market share of around 70%. Much like Chobani, another market inventor, the original product has not changed. Nonni’s has stayed up to date by refreshing packaging, adding new flavors, and being one of the first in the industry to roll out “thin” cookies.

But looking into the future, the trends that enabled Nonni’s fantastic growth may be the same trends that usher in its decline. Americans are increasingly drawn to purchase healthier snacks: cookie sales in the US are on the decline. There is also a trend towards buying smaller or foreign brands. Stores from TJMaxx to Wegmans commonly stock specialty imported food, and ready availability of imported artisan biscotti (and similar sweets) is not an ideal situation for Nonni’s.

There are some positives. In 2017, Nonni’s was Food Processing’s R&D team of the year. This award was given for Nonni’s extensive use of research and testing to develop new recipes and products. Nonni’s R&D team also consults with artisan bakers to anticipate industry trends. For a smaller brand, its research program is ahead of the game.

Nonni’s still dominates its sector. But the overall industry is stagnating, and imported competition that may hold more appeal to younger buyers is on the rise. While Nonni’s remains the only nationally available biscotti manufacturer, the environment today is quite different from when Nonni’s was founded. The company will need to find ways to reiterate its product if it is to maintain its market share going forward. Nonni’s has brought out offerings like biscotti bites and trendy seasonal flavors, but these sort of products seem to compare more with the traditional American cookie and snack market than the refined European biscotti market that Nonni’s worked so hard to create.

A recommitment to authenticity will have to be at the heart of Nonni’s strategy if it hopes to keep growing. That might start with better education about the quality and simplicity of its ingredients—they really are top-notch. When compared with other popular cookie options, Nonni’s biscotti have less calories, less sugar, less fat, and are all natural to boot.

What better place to share this great brand story than on social media? But Nonni’s has an abysmal social media presence: a gourmet food manufacturer with less than 2,000 followers on Instagram. How is that even possible for a popular, national brand? The company has a great story to tell, a tasty product to highlight, yet it is missing a huge opportunity by not taking advantage of Instagram, one of the top hubs for food lovers around the world.

But it gets worse. It’s easy to imagine just how mouth-watering a video of Nonni’s crispy biscotti, straight out of the oven, could be. Loyal fans might be interested to look behind-the-scenes or see sneak-peaks at upcoming flavors. But the company’s YouTube channel has only three videos and ten subscribers. Yikes.

While products like “Biscotti bites” will surely sell, they may not reflect the company’s legacy as a premium, romantic choice. Biscotti bites seem one step closer to Chips Ahoy! Minis. Nonni’s already has a great, authentic product, as past sales have shown. The company just needs to find ways to make its brand fresh again.

When we talk about market invention, we’re prone to focus on inventing new markets with new products through new channels and updated positioning. For Nonni’s, a market inventor who has slowly begun to re-associate with the old market, this strategy seems like the best choice. Nonni’s doesn’t need to re-reinvent the biscotti: the brand just needs to stick to what made it stand out in the first place.

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