Busy shipping more than $1 million in gluten-free goods a month, a bakery in Swedesboro with national headquarters in Lyndhurst has turned to micro-influencer marketing to spread word of its new products and free sampling promotion.
According to Community Manager Alexandra Lazar, Schär’s goal of hitting one million social media impressions through collaborations with 50 influencers, most with around 5,000 followers, is well on its way due to a partnership with Perlu, an influencer platform based in Syracuse, N.Y.
Schär targets customers with Celiac disease, an immune disorder in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. Celiac affects approximately 1% of the population according to The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and because the diagnosis rate is only about 20% of those who experience it, Schär’s market is a niche one.
The gluten-free space is growing, though. According to Research and Markets, the national gluten-free food products market was valued at around $2.7 billion in 2018, and is projected to double by 2025.
“One of the biggest barriers to reaching gluten-free consumers, though, is price. We have our bakery in Swedesboro, but we import a lot of our ingredients and they’re all non-GMO. However, there’s also a lot of testing that has to go on within these gluten free facilities,” increasing the price beyond non-gluten-free products, Lazar explained.
Schär tests everything from packaging to the final product with the ELISA R5 assay to ensure that everything is below the 20 gluten parts per million threshold required by the Food and Drug Administration.
Being that we have this niche industry, people are really following them for advice on Celiac disease. It’s something you can only treat using a gluten-free diet [and] they look to them for answers, for product reviews.
To get folks past the price – a loaf of Artisan Baker white bread or a 4-pack of ciabatta rolls retail for $6 at ShopRite – Schär enlists micro-influencers that the gluten-free community looks to for guidance.
According to marketer HubSpot, micro-influencers are individuals with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers on social media that aren’t celebrities but are typically well-known in their area of interest and have high rates of engagement from their social media audiences.
“Being that we have this niche industry, people are really following them for advice on Celiac disease. It’s something you can only treat using a gluten-free diet [and] they look to them for answers, for product reviews,” Lazar said.
Schär recently improved the recipe for its hotdog and hamburger buns and is kicking off a nationwide sampling campaign for a few of the products, which are already popular in the European market, where they originated. Schär will send 20,000 free boxes of products to folks who request them online through the holiday season in an effort to create a buzz about the products and overcome resistance arising from cost.
To amplify the recipe reformulation and sampling program launch, Perlu identified the appropriate influencers and hired them to create two Schär posts each. The sampling campaign will include Schär’s gluten-free bagels, one flavor of Schär’s new gluten-free table crackers, and some of the brand’s cookies; and on social media will be pushed out with the hashtag #scharsgreatesthits alongside curated Spotify playlists based on analytics that indicate what their customers are listening to.
The brand, which was brought to and reformulated for the U.S. market with the help of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, has grown double digits since 2016 and by almost 20% this year alone.
With the help of its micro-influencer partners, Lazar sees Schär as poised for more growth.
“With the biggest influencers, sometimes the message gets diluted and the trust isn’t there. A lot of [micro-influencers] are so regional. In Michigan, we have an influencer with just 2,000 followers, but you can correlate her influence with people searching for us online. They really do have an impact,” she said.