Cheeky Friends: Delicious Organic Products with Fruits and Vegetables

Interview with Caspar Hoffmann, Managing Director of erdbär GmbH

erdbär Product Overview
The different products with fruits and vegetables offer a real snack alternative when no fresh food is available

Only the best for our offspring: That is the claim of all parents. Especially around the topic of nutrition for babies and toddlers, consumer awareness of quality has continuously increased in recent years. On the go, this can sometimes be a challenge. Here, erdbär GmbH from Berlin offers a varied product family around Karl Carrot and Edda Strawberry organic products with lots of fruit and vegetables, which are not only practical for on the go, but can also relieve parents in everyday family life at home.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Hoffmann, what are the most important product groups for erdbär today?

Caspar Hoffmann: One pillar of our business is fruit chips, especially our strawberry fruit chips. They contain 100% fruits. The freeze-drying process removes moisture from the product, but the fruit flavor is preserved. We were the first on the market with freeze-dried products. In addition, our squeeze pouches are well-established. Snacks, such as flavored puffed corn or pretzel snacks, are a rapidly growing area for us. We see potential here for the coming years. We have also been offering jars for a few years.

Wirtschaftsforum: How does such convenience food fit with the increasing demand for healthy eating?

Caspar Hoffmann, Managing Director of erdbär GmbH
Caspar Hoffmann, Managing Director of erdbär GmbH

Caspar Hoffmann: One thing is very important to us: we do not want to replace fresh fruits or vegetables. We simply want to be available as a snack alternative when fresh food is not available, for example, while on the go – this is where too often people resort to chocolate bars and sweets.

Wirtschaftsforum: Your market is highly competitive and there are big established players you are up against. What makes erdbär stand out?

Caspar Hoffmann: We are often one step ahead of the market. When our founders Alex and Natascha Neumann entered the market in 2011 with their concept of convenient children's snacks made from fruits and vegetables for on-the-go, there was no such snack offering on the supermarket or drugstore shelves. The market was dominated by sponge biscuits and cookies at that time. We were essentially one of the first food start-ups, of which there are many in the market today. Our freeze-dried products were a real innovation. Moreover, we were the first provider to equip fruits and vegetables with character, with eyes, arms, and legs. We gave the products names like Karl Carrot or Edda Strawberry. With this, we created a brand world that highlights fruits and vegetables as friends for children. That is why we chose the name 'Freche Freunde'. With our solutions, we want to make it as easy as possible for parents to playfully introduce their children to fruits and vegetables, whether as complementary food, in the daily kindergarten routine, or even during school years. Although there are very well-made store brands in the market, the brands are the innovation drivers. Here, with our uncompromising commitment to taste and our motto ‘An early friendship with fruits and vegetables’, we have advanced to become the number 2 in the market over the past few years.


Wirtschaftsforum: How did the market initially react to your concept of these novel snacks?

Caspar Hoffmann: We started with small steps. On the one hand, we were cautious, on the other hand, we were interesting for retailers because we were unique. Today, the trade is open to the topic. erdbär was definitely a driver of this market segment. We started with distribution through organic markets, then got listed with DM, which was an important step for further growth. Last year we celebrated our ten-year partnership with DM. For five years we have been part of Hero AG, a Swiss food group owned by a German family. This has opened up new prospects for further growth for us in the past years.

Wirtschaftsforum: The last three years have been marked by crises. How have these affected your business?

Caspar Hoffmann: During the Corona period, consumers developed different shopping behaviors. We saw a strong trend towards one-stop shopping, probably to expose themselves to as low a risk of infection as possible. Actually, the drugstore was always our strongest channel. In this period, we were particularly strong in food retail. However, this has now balanced out again. Stirred by the war in Ukraine, the disrupted supply chains, high energy, material, and transport costs were issues that burdened the market. Currently, we are noticing a normalization, but we will not return to the old price level. Overall, there is currently a trend towards private labels.

Wirtschaftsforum: What innovations will there be in 2024?

Caspar Hoffmann: We want to get back on our growth path and bring calmness to the business. The last years were heated by the problems just described. We introduce ten to twenty new products each year and this year will see new products as well. Since we notice that consumers are increasingly demanding variety on the shelves, we will also start with seasonal products, among others. With our squeezies, we have made a segmentation that divides the entire portfolio into three simple categories that correspond to the most common consumption preferences: 'Lots of Fruit' as a fruity treat, 'Fruit and Vegetables' for getting to know and trying out vegetables, and 'Fruit and Grain' for when a bit more is desired. With this, we want to offer more guidance to our customers. Furthermore, we remain true to our innovative claim.