Leveraging Social Media: An Inside Look at the Strategy to Keep Tanka Bar Competitive

Native American Natural Foods sells Tanka Bars and other products to more than 8,000 retail outlets, including major chains like Whole Foods, REI and Costco. Amazon is their leading retailer. Reservation convenience stores, local groceries and mom-and-pop shops also carry the healthy snacks.

Hence, their customer base is diverse. “It’s the hiker, backpacker, and the health-conscious consumer. It’s the grandma who wants to give her grandchildren healthier snacks, rather than potato chips,” Karlene Hunter, co-founder and CEO of Native American Natural Foods, told Native Business Magazine™.

Still, it’s difficult for a small, Native-owned business to stay competitive in a market dominated by large industry conglomerates.

Karlene Hunter

“General Mills, Hershey, etcetera—they have very deep marketing dollars,” said Hunter, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe.

When Hunter and her business partner Mark Tilsen founded Native American Natural Foods on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2007, they were advertising in newspapers. Today, social handles and online media are winning them consumer engagement.

“Social media can help break down that barrier, if you can get the right influencers,” Hunter said.

While the company revs up its social presence, a brand facelift is underway. Native American Natural Foods is updating its design and digital marketing to reach untapped markets.

Last year, the company turned to long-time supporters to crowdsource funding. The campaign, which closed last month, garnered $100,000 from people all over the world. That money will go toward enhancing the image of Native American Natural Foods’ products and social media marketing.

The company’s target debut for its new design is March 2019 at the Natural Products Expo West, hosted at the Anaheim Convention Center, March 6-8.

“It’s one of the biggest food shows in the United States. It’s a huge venue for new products and new product launches,” Hunter explained.

Meanwhile, social media influencers are seen touting and chewing on Tanka Bars in videos and photos posted to the brand’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

Among the Tanka Bar social media promoters are health-food advocates such as @onefitcoconut, @krissyskitchen, @kelizjones and @ketocounterculture.

“We’ve been reaching out to bloggers who have a wide following—people in the health arena, like Onnit, a major company in cross-training,” Hunter said.

Native American Natural Foods previously partnered with Onnit to create the Warrior Bar. The Buffalo meat bar—free of gluten, nitrites, antibiotics and added hormones—packs 14 grams of protein and just 140 calories and 4 grams of fat per 2-ounce serving.

Marcus Aubrey, Onnit founder, promotes Elk Bar, Onnit’s latest collaboration with Native American Natural Foods. The bar combines delicious elk meat with bison and bacon, and packs 21 grams of gourmet protein. (Instagram.com/TankaBar)

So, it’s the ideal power-food for a kick boxer and jiu jitsu blackbelt like Joe Rogan to promote. Rogan, an Onnit ambassador, regularly gives a shout-out to the Warrior Bar on his podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience, which receives more than 11 million downloads monthly.

“Onnit has given us Joe Rogan, who is one of their people with a humungous following,” Hunter said. “He’s included Warrior Bar in a lot of his broadcasts.”