No longer will you feel guilty about indulging in delicious baked goods. An ER nurse for over eight years and a nutritional consultant, Cristie Besu took her passion for nutritional health and combined it with her (and her clients’) sweet tooth to create healthier alternatives to some of America’s favorite treats that wouldn’t compromise health goals. In 2014, after a year of baking and testing recipes, Besu swapped her scrubs for an apron to launch Eat Me Guilt Free. Within the fitness community, Eat Me Guilt Free was a hit and grew exponentially into new communities through social media. Read on to learn how Besu leveraged Instagram and other social media platforms to grow her base of followers, increase sales, and boost brand awareness which ultimately led to a connection with Vitamin Shoppe on RangeMe.
Healthy never tasted so good
Besu started Eat Me Guilt Free with an improved alternative to a classic comfort food favorite: the brownie. Each Eat Me Guilt Free brownie is low in carbs (about 5 grams) and high in protein (about 20 grams of protein per snack). Since launching the brownie, Besu has expanded her brownie line into 11 different flavors including chocolate, galaxy, birthday cake, tuxedo, peanut butter bliss, red velvet, and even released a vegan chocolate chip cookie. Besu regularly launches new flavors to keep her customers happy and interested.
Building a community on social media
Social media has a huge impact on how brands are able to build a following in today’s world, and Eat Me Guilt Free cracked the code, owing a big part of its success to the Eat Me Guilt Free social media strategy. By having an aesthetically pleasing product (aka delicious-looking desserts) and a knack for building a community, Besu was able to grow her Instagram following exponentially to 140,000 followers and achieve $1 million in direct-to-consumer sales in her first year. Since then the brand has grown significantly with national retailers and a booming e-commerce operation that has only grown during the pandemic.
“I believe Eat Me Guilt Free was able to grow organic, real followers on our social media channels by showing how we have been able to grow our business,” Besu says. “We make sure our customers feel like they’re part of our journey by showing there is a real person behind the brand and capturing all of our behind-the-scenes moments. We’ve built a community, a cult-like following, and we’re proud to have such a strong connection with our customers.”
Besu also shared that if you’re looking to grow your follower base–and let’s face it who isn’t–it is important to keep your customers engaged and curious. Tease them with upcoming flavors or make them guess what product is launching next. If you’re looking for influencers, try to find ones that genuinely love your product as much as you do. There are several ways to spark ongoing interest with your brand, you just have to find what resonates best with your customers.
A golden ticket for retail success
Eat Me Guilt Free’s direct-to-consumer model was successful and the company quickly reached the stage where Besu was ready to take her products to retailers. Besu knew her product was popular among the fitness community so the logical first step was to expand into retailers where her customers are already shopping such as GNC, Complete Nutrition, Smoothie King, and other health- and fitness-related independent retailers.
After success with these retailers, Besu was ready to scale Eat Me Guilt Free further and that’s when she discovered RangeMe. “Eat Me Guilt Free was ready to grow and we saw RangeMe as an opportunity to help us get visibility with retailers across the country,” says Besu. “Once we upgraded to Premium and got RangeMe Verified™, a buyer at Vitamin Shoppe reached out and soon after we received the message, we were launching Eat Me Guilt Free in Vitamin Shoppe stores across the U.S.”
What’s contributed significantly to the success of Eat Me Guilt Free at Vitamin Shoppe has a lot to do with the company’s strong social media presence. “We are able to incorporate our social media into our sales strategy because we give retailers an additional marketing channel and we leveraged our social channels for our launch with Vitamin Shoppe,” says Besu.
The buyers at Vitamin Shoppe were impressed with Eat Me Guilt Frees social media and for the launch of Eat Me Guilt Free in their stores, they hid a “golden ticket” (prizes) on a limited number of their brownies. Besu and her team shared this news on their social media channels which helped create buzz and excitement to get customers into Vitamin Shoppe stores to purchase their products and find the prizes.
Up next for EMGF
For many business owners, learning how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the new normal has been difficult. Besu has made adjustments to how she can continue growing Eat Me Guilt Free during this time by targeting retailers that are on delivery platforms, such as Instacart, and leveraging their social media channels even more so, given consumers are spending more time on their phones and other electronic devices.
As for new products, Eat Me Guilt Free recently released two new additions to their carb-friendly, functional, protein-packed better for you snack line: Bread and Tortillas. Besu and her team continue to leverage RangeMe to get visibility from retailers, build a strong community on social media, and continue making new better-for-you treats