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Reimagining Well Being Snacking with Brigette Wolf, Mondelēz International

Gooder Podcast with Brigette Wolf

Brigette Wolf is the Global Head of SnackFutures, Mondelēz International’s innovation and venture hub. She is a solutions-oriented, forward-thinking disruptor in the snacking space committed to reorienting the way food and beverage brands talk about snacking by making it a more holistic and wellness-oriented experience. She is on – a – mission.

Brigette and I discuss how she successfully led the development of this new SnackFutures division inside of Mondelēz, bringing global resources, teams, thinking and a new way of talking about healthy food inside the world of snacking.

In this episode, we learn:

  • Why Mondelēz took the plunge into better-for-you with SnackFutures, and what they’re up to.
  • How great teamwork and great culture have aided the success SnackFutures.
  • About the impact of SnackFutures sustainability initiatives.
  • What’s driving innovation in mainstream better-for-you snacking.
  • How serving consumers and employees adds value to the business.
  • What’s driving big CPG to better embrace healthy snacking, healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.
  • About the impact that Gen Z has on plant-based snacking.
  • Why we need to make healthy living affordable to all consumers.
Gooder Podcast

Reimagining Well Being Snacking with Brigette Wolf, Mondelēz International

About Brigette Wolf:

Brigette Wolf is the Global Head of SnackFutures, Mondelēz International’s innovation and venture hub.

Since its creation in 2018, Brigette has led the creation of a cross-functional ecosystem of partners around the world, launched SnackFutures’ first market hub in Australia and created five completely new brands that are currently being piloted in the US and Europe.

Brigette has played a key role in advancing the company’s innovation agenda since its inception in 2012 serving as the senior director of Global Platform Innovation for Gum, Candy and Biscuits – leading the development and launch of Trident Vibes as well as brand manager for Belvita. Brigette’s history with the company also goes back to Kraft Foods with roles including the Global Innovation Manager for Oreo and working across several of the pizza and meal brands.

Prior to being part of the food industry, Brigette worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston.

Brigette received her undergraduate degrees from The University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School and her MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brigetterwolf/

Show Resources:

Mondelēze – Mondelez International, Inc., often stylized as Mondelēz, is an American multinational confectionery, food, holding and beverage and snack food company consisting of former Kraft Foods Inc brands. Owners of some of the most iconic brands in the world, including Oreo, Tang Tobelerone, Halls, Mirla, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Cadbury and more.SnackFutures – SnackFutures is Mondelēz International’s new innovation hub that is dedicated to unlocking emerging snacking opportunities around the world. SnackFutures will capitalize on new trends and mobilize entrepreneurial talent and technologies to build and grow small brands with large-scale potential, and leverage other growth opportunities across snacking.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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Brand Slam Episode 3 – featuring Red Plate Foods

Brand Slam Episode 3: Learning Where to Invest Marketing Funds as a Start-Up Food Brand

Learn the category audit techniques these leading brands have leveraged to average triple-digit growth.

In this episode you will meet Red Plate Foods founder, Becca Williams.  As a true advocate for the allergen-avoidant community, Becca and her husband started Red Plate Foods to create a plethora of bakery-fresh desserts, and food-service favorite foods for an audience looking to avoid the top 8 most common food allergies.

Brand Slam was created by Retail Voodoo to help CPG entrepreneurs in food, beverage and wellness reduce their struggle with brand growth in the face of Covid-19. Using the auditing process models created by Retail Voodoo to develop Brand Ecosystems, (which we’ve used for some of the world’s most beloved brand and feature in the book Beloved & Dominant Brands,) we benchmark Red Plate Foods and provide strategies to help Becca gain brand traction and learn where to start on her plan for growth and brand traction.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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FoodNavigator-USA Summit 2020: Food for Kids: David Lemley Keynote: How To Build A Brand Kids and Parents Will Love

School closures – and tentative re-openings – have compounded stress levels for families, while COVID-19-induced economic anxiety is also straining household budgets. So how can food and beverage brands come up with enticing – but affordable – recipes, products and culinary solutions to make life easier for parents when long-established routines have been upended?

What does the ‘new normal’ look like for families and has this crisis given a boost to direct to consumer brands targeting babies, toddlers, and young children? Will the recent growth in interest in kids’ multivitamins continue, or is it risky to assume that buying patterns in 2020 provides a useful indicator of where consumers are heading in 2021?

Find out the answers at FoodNavigator-USA’s third Food for Kids summit – which is transitioning from our usual face-to-face event to an interactive broadcast series.

The series will bring five category-focused events, including:

  • The Consumer Panel
  • Kids and the Plant-Based Trend
  • Beverage Trends
  • Innovation in Action… Meet the Trailblazers
  • Meeting Children’s Nutritional Needs, from Foods to Supplements

Watch the On-Demand Event Now

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Your In-Store Sampling Program is on Hiatus. Now What?

It sounds like the plot of an up-by-the-bootstraps movie: The young entrepreneur creates a food product to address her kid’s nutritional needs; she hands out samples of her energy bar at her local farmers’ market and health foods store, and everyone tells her how great it is. Soon her business takes off, and as it does she’s always there at the market or the store, giving away samples and basking in the favorable comments.

In fact, many natural food and beverage brands share this kind of origin story. The passionate founder-owner takes the role of chief evangelist, bringing the product to the people. These niche brands rely heavily on product trial to drive purchase. Sampling is their primary (or even only) marketing activity.

Sample is a Solid Tactic Until…

For the past six months, we’ve been living a situation where product sampling isn’t possible, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Even Costco had abandoned its weekend sampling program that’s beloved by consumers. (It was returned in a limited capacity in June.) But it isn’t just the COVID-19 pandemic that’s put the kibosh on sampling; it simply isn’t effective or practical as a stand-alone marketing tactic.

If you’ve relied heavily on in-person product giveaways to generate sales, you’re immediately and acutely feeling the loss of this channel. If that’s what you’ve been hanging your hat on … COVID has blown a hole in the heart of your marketing plans.

Sampling is a challenging undertaking even in ordinary circumstances. It seems like an ideal opportunity to introduce new people to your product: They don’t have to pay for it; your brand ambassador gets to share a little sales pitch and hand over a taste and maybe a coupon. In that interaction, the consumer tells the brand rep how great the product is (perhaps she really thinks that, or perhaps she’s just being nice).

But sampling doesn’t create brand affinity; it’s merely a way to initiate trial. You can’t know whether it creates long term fans of the brand. There’s a danger, too, that the conversations that happen in-store create a false sense of success and an inaccurate portrait of your audience. It’s easy to hear positive feedback from consumers who are tasting your product for the first time and extrapolate that into widespread adoption. (Everyone tells us how great it is, so it must be great!) It also exposes the brand to a very narrow set of consumers—people who shop at that market or store or chain—and marketers risk defining the brand’s entire potential audience based on that tiny segment.

What’s more, it’s simply a demonstration of features and benefits. As we know, your brand is not your ingredients or flavor profile or “free-from” position; you have to have a reason for being other than, “We make a really good snack.” Your brand is a promise and the way in which your company keeps it.

Finally, scale presents another challenge. It’s time-intensive to “prep and schlep” those product giveaways, to hire demonstrators, to do those meet-and-greets. If your brand has growth plans, it has to evolve beyond sampling as a marketing avenue and taste as a brand strategy.

Introducing New Consumers to Your Product

If you’ve relied on sampling and now your marketing activities are frozen because you can’t get into stores, or if you’re thinking of adding some kind of sampling program to your 2021 marketing plans, know that there are ways to do it well.

Sampling can be a small-player tactic, but larger brands like our client KIND also use it. When the brand secured funding, the investment came with a caveat that it be used to give away product. That introduced the product to new consumers and helped KIND achieve Beloved & Dominant Brand status.

At this point, let’s differentiate between sampling and giving away product. Sampling means just a bite in a little cup in a store. Giving away means whole product, sealed in its original package, for the consumer to take away. Product giveaway has a longer marketing tail, because the prospect may pocket the product, take it home, engage with the packaging, and consume it later.

Giveaways can happen via various channels, such as a digital coupon for a freebie or a handout at an event or a product mailed to the home (direct mail – remember that?). We have a couple of clients launching new brands and products this year, that require a bit of product education for consumers to understand how the brand fits into their everyday lives. So they’re planning to tip-in a sample of the product into targeted magazines to get it into people’s hands.

It’s harder for perishable items to employ the above sampling/giveaway options. For these brands, we’re seeing an increased interest in partnering with brands like Instacart and participating retailers and even meal delivery apps to include targeted samples into delivery orders. While there have been a few trial iterations of these programs they’re are still a bit fledgling – and we continue to keep our eye on these.

Another tactic worth considering is approaching a key retail partner and getting into their promo calendar. Couponing may seem like quote-unquote a thing of the past, but it still has traction; both online and traditional retailers like Instacart and Kroger hyper-segment their communications and coupons to customers by demographic or shopping habit, so you’ll reach people who are likely to be interested in your product.

It’s worth noting that KIND has a solid brand strategy foundation upon which to layer product giveaways as a marketing approach. Without that, a brand is simply a commodity—and you can’t give away enough product to make consumers fall in love and part with actual dollars.

The ways consumers shop, find new products, and make purchasing decisions are probably going to be upended for some time. If your brand has relied on sampling and has to pivot, or if you’re seeking to increase trial, we can help you reach the right people with the right offering.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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White Paper: Navigating Brand Disruption

Covid Series: Vol 01

Why it’s time to develop a brand-driven strategy to future-proof your brand.

Learn why food, beverage, and wellness brands are rethinking their fragmented strategies that hinder their marketplace performance in the face of unexpected disruption.

Businesses who are relying on the four P’s of marketing are especially subject to disruptions in the age of Covid.

By switching to a brand-driven strategy, better-for-you brand owners are future-proofing their business and retooling for growth.

Download this white paper to learn how to:

  • Plan for distribution hiccups and eliminate lost opportunities.
  • Reduce ingredient dependence in favor of brand-driven benefits.
  • Outpace copycat competitors by delivering on brand purpose.
David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Positioning Your DTC Brand for Traditional Retail

Decades ago, technology rewrote the old business adage, “he who has the most gold wins,” to “he who owns the factory wins.” But huge capital and production capacity are no longer real barriers to entry. The new truth is this: She who has the idea — the brand — wins.

And nowhere is that concept playing out more disruptively than in the direct-to-consumer market (DTC). Brands can bypass traditional selling gatekeepers (wholesalers and retailers) and transact directly with consumers. The better-for-you space — food, beverage, nutrition, beauty, pet — is ripe for this disruption; in fact, we have three projects in the studio right now for DTC BFY clients. (How’s that for alphabet soup?)

An article in AdAge calls these brands “venture-funded, young, agile startups,” and they draw upon the marketing, innovation, and rapid-launch strategies common in tech. It’s tough to get a handle on how many DTC brands are out there, but their impact is significant: DTC advertising increased by 50% over the past year, according to a November 2019 Forbes article. All of these brands are young, less than a decade old; the buzziest ones include:

  • SmileDirectClub
  • UNTUCKit
  • Casper
  • BarkBox
  • ThirdLove
  • StitchFix
  • Glossier
  • Freshly
  • and, yes, Peloton

Why DTC Brands Are Rising

DTC is booming for two primary reasons. First, people are more willing to buy stuff online. We’re comfortable with the idea of purchasing an item that we haven’t seen, felt, tasted, or tried on. And we’re OK with spending a couple thousand dollars on a mattress; we’ve overcome any risk aversion to online shopping. Ecommerce suits busy modern life and appeal to time-starved people who have reasonable discretionary income.

Second, selling direct is so much more comfortable for marketers and investors because there’s a formula: Spend X doing Y generates Z results. There’s a bright line connecting online ad spending to sales conversion and revenue because it’s totally traceable. The path to entry is relatively smooth: Online sellers don’t have to commit to carrying huge inventory, pay slotting fees, convince retail buyers, and for a retail category review in order to start getting product in-store. You just need a commerce-enabled website of your own or an Amazon landing page.

Differences in Retail Channels

Consumer expectations and selling strategies vary by channel. So let’s look at some of those differences:

In the true DTC channel — i.e., your own website — you as the brand marketer fully control the customer experience. This is where your consumer education effort, which is the foundational platform of the Brand Ecosystem, is grounded. All your social media and digital marketing points to your website. Here’s where you talk about your brand’s WHY, the problems you solve in the consumer’s world and, finally, the features and benefits of your products. If she opts to buy from you here, you have ultimate control over how she progresses to the sale and how you communicate with her afterward.

In the e-commerce world — i.e., Amazon or Walmart.com — your brand is competing in the slogfest, one of hundreds or thousands of products a customer’s search might turn up. She’ll be more likely to choose you if she knows your brand and its reputation. Let’s face it: shopping on Amazon or a big-box retailer’s site is kind of a dismal experience — impersonal and overwhelming. But the consumer is essentially trading convenience and price for a lesser experience. The benefit of e-commerce is that your brand gets wider exposure to consumers who don’t already know you.

The physical retail environment retains the capability to surprise and delight the shopper. She’ll have higher expectations in-store, and brands have the opportunity to make a much bigger impact. Yes, she may still buy online, but that choice will be driven by how she interacts with your brand in the real world.

From Online to Brick & Mortar Retailing

We recently worked with a brand that sold exclusively DTC for six months before launching into a physical retail initiative. For this brand, like many others, DTC was the runway to brick and mortar retailing.  According to a MediaRadar report: “Of the top 20 DTC companies, 30% had their own stores, 25% sold products in other retailers, and another 15% used both their own stores and other retailers. Interestingly, many DTC firms have partnered with only one retailer on an exclusive basis.”

For example, Casper mattresses are available at select Target stores, and the brand has its own freestanding stores in the NYC metro area. Thinx, the women’s underwear brand, is available from Nordstrom. Harry’s razors and Quip toothbrushes sell at Target.

It makes sense that DTC brands are eyeing retail, because DTC — while it’s growing by double digits and represents billions of dollars in sales — still accounts for just a fraction of the overall market. A DTC brand may be killing it, but direct selling in most categories represents perhaps 6% to 14% of total market. So if this is you, you might be leaving tons of money on the table.

A few notes on making a successful transition from online selling to physical retail:

1) There has to be a reason for people to believe in your brand beyond your products’ features and benefits. Your brand is bigger than that: It’s the promises you make to your world and the ways in which you keep them. You’ll never compete in the retail environment — where you have little control — without a real WHY.

2) Your why has to appeal to the retailer, not just the consumer; in order to secure shelf space, you have to convince the retailer that your brand strategy and product offering are compelling enough to choose you.

3) Because you will have the least amount of control with a retailer, you can’t rely on the same kind of data you relied on for DTC and e-commerce.

4) Your packaging has to work at retail as well as online. It needs to make an emotional connection — quickly — to the consumer. She doesn’t see just the front of your box or bag in an online search; she’s seeing it in the swarm of similar items on the shelf. The consumer’s decision at retail happens in milliseconds; e-commerce is a more leisurely shopping experience, as someone might browse 20 options before choosing. Straddling both online and offline channels and getting it right will help you win.

If you’re eyeing a shift from direct selling to brick-and-mortar, or your brand is a DTC startup, we can help you make the most of your channels. Let’s talk.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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6 Signs Your Brand is Ready for Change (Plus 3 Questions to Ask Yourself)

Your company’s leadership is clamoring for growth. So your marketing team proposes an endless array of “fixes” — you tweak your social media strategy, try a new online advertising campaign, and chase after a new audience of potential customers.

Your team’s wheels are spinning and you’re trying a bunch of “cool new stuff,” but it’s not really driving the sales spike that executives are seeking. You’re not sure that it’s working yourself. No one can agree on what smart growth looks like, so your organization lacks a real strategy to get there.

Marketing teams are usually bullish on initiatives like outreach on Instagram and Facebook; these projects deliver an infusion of creative energy and a sense of checking off the to-do list. But without clarity and connection back to the core brand strategy, incremental projects like these are bound to deliver only incremental results. And without a solid strategy in place, you risk getting noticed for the wrong reasons, as when a social campaign tries to be clever and strays off-brand.

6 Brand Signals That It’s Time to Embrace Big Change

Is your brand ready for a change? A change that’s more impactful than being clever on Facebook? How do you know?

Here are six signs your brand is ready for a foundational change:

1) Your sales team is not in alignment on how to sell your brand in to retailers. On a small- to medium-sized sales team, everybody has hacked the sales toolkit to fit their individual preferences. One rep may be most interested in showing up with the lowest price, while another is personally vested in building relationships with retail buyers. When they try to cross-pollinate, they fight and as a result don’t collaborate unless they have to go to a sales meeting.

One of our favorite exercises when we consult with a brand that’s struggling to grow is to bring the sales team into brand strategy sessions with the C-suite. The sales team grumbles, “What does branding have to do with sales? Why are we here?” As we talk about the brand vision, the salespeople start to open up about what they’re hearing from the market, what the brand means, and how to clarify its expression. They want to help create the solution, and by the end of the meeting they won’t shut up.

2) Your leadership team is demanding new growth and new opportunities. You may try to fix what’s ailing the brand yourself, relying on your internal team’s overconfidence and institutional biases. Doing what you know feels safe and predictable. But if you’re aiming to generate big gains, you have to recognize that what got you here won’t get you to the next level. More of the same thinking won’t solve your business problem.

Real growth comes from building a brand strategy that changes the conversation your brand is having with your employees, your buyers, and your consumers. (Hint: It needs to be about them and how you fit in to their lives, not about how great you are.)

3) You are losing shelf space and/or feeling pressure to play on price. Velocity is important to retailers; they don’t make money if your products are just sitting there on shelf. And if they can drive more volume and make more money by developing a private-label knockoff of your product, they will.

If your brand doesn’t represent something meaningfully different than cheaper competitors, you’ll lose the pricing game. You have to create a brand that’s believable to the whole organization, including your retail partners.

4) Consumer preferences have changed. Diet trends, health and wellness preferences, sustainability concerns, etc., have swept a whole new group of products into your space, and you haven’t kept up. You may be tempted to quickly develop a new product to hit the latest trend, infusing your energy bar with chia, for example. But understand that your brand must stand for more than an ingredient or nutritional attribute.

Our client Russell Stover risked becoming obsolete as consumers started to value artisan-made, fair-trade, dark chocolate. This beloved brand didn’t recognize that these attributes aren’t just trends but actually long-term attitudinal changes. We reframed their brand position to focus on a little-known aspect: Russell Stover chocolates are all handmade and always have been. We helped them re-establish their connection with consumers.

If you’re playing in a category that’s seeing radical shifts due to rapidly changing consumer tastes, resist the urge to tweak your product formulation and instead pursue strategic innovation that’s founded on your core brand principles.

5) You were first to market with something lovely and unique. But now there are many competing products and brands. Consumers who love you don’t buy you with as much frequency.
Look at a subset of the snack category: puffs. Frito-Lay owned the puff segment, and then a few small better-for-you brands entered the market with paleo and vegan and alternative grain varieties. Seeing this explosion of BFY puffs, Frito-Lay jumped on the opportunity with Simply Cheetos. So now there are a ton of BFY brands plus a behemoth brand in the category.

You have to stand for something and taste amazing and compete on the shelf against a well-funded major player. Otherwise you’ll go from being a category of one to being in someone’s consideration set to … not being different in any meaningful way.


6) Your team has been s-l-o-w to respond to modern life and now your brand looks and sounds geriatric.
Perhaps your sales, marketing, and executive teams include people who’ve been with the company for a decade-plus and who say to themselves, “We check all the boxes, why aren’t consumers listening?”

At the same time, you’re dealing with retail buyers who have mandates of their own, and even though you’ve been on the shelf for 10 years, your brand is now at risk of being discontinued because you’re not keeping up. Armed with tons of data, today’s retail managers have brands on a short leash. It’s time to change or face obsolescence.

3 Questions to Ask if Change is Inevitable

If one or more of the above change-indicator lights are flashing for your brand, here are three questions to ask yourself to inform the next steps:

What is your assessment of the internal team?

Are they ready to do what’s necessary to evolve the brand, or are you going to have to make staffing changes?

How bad is it?

When do you need to have a solution in place? Six months? A year? Can you wait for results? With the right help, you can rush to get a brand relaunched in six to eight months, but it takes up to two years to see traction.

Have you budgeted for this?

Understand that you’ll need to allocate funding to develop the new brand plan and then to execute it. We generally advise clients to expect a multiplier of at least 1X and up to 6X in the first year to roll out the rebrand, particularly when the initiative expands beyond marketing and into product development or operations.

Renovating an existing brand — so that it retains loyalists and attracts new fans — takes more than a clever social media campaign. Are the signs pointing you toward significant change for your brand? Let us guide you to growth.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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Investing in Food & Beverage? Here’s What to Look For

As of Q2 2018, food and beverage startups had raised $9.5 billion in venture capital investment, representing more than 2,000 deals over the previous five years. And we don’t expect that to slow down any time soon.

Because they stand for something beyond selling product, better-for-you (BFY) food and beverage brands rally an army of loyal believers willing to try every SKU and stick with the brand when competitors enter the space. That passion — of the audience and of the visionary who founded the company — makes BFY food and beverage brands appealing to investors, both within the food industry and beyond it, including investors typically focused on the tech sector.

As they strategically innovate new products and expand into new channels, BFY brands often hit a point where they need a cash infusion to fuel their growth. The challenge for investors is to identify brands on the rise and get in just at the right time.

How to Know When a Food Brand is Ready for Purchase

Unless you have a contact within the company, you might not know that a BFY brand is seeking investment or ready to sell. As we’ve worked with F&B brands and counseled investors in the category, we’ve come to recognize the key signals a brand gives off that tell the world it’s ripe for acquisition or investment.

Most tellingly, the brand may have had some traction in a channel and that channel is tapped out. Perhaps it’s a vegan snack bar that’s selling like gangbusters through outdoor retailers like REI, but that channel is not big enough to create a viable outlet for the brand to grow or to make it a household name.

Some ready-for-purchase brands have languished for years with flat or minimal growth. The company has added capacity but not generated increased organic sales, so it is seeing more sales but slim profit margins. That scenario usually points to problems in sales or operations, which require outside investment and expertise to fix.

A significant competitor that’s disrupting a category previously led by an early-to-market brand might signal that the once-dominant brand is ready for acquisition. The world is changing around them: This is the brand that’s been marginally interesting for awhile but has leaders who have been asleep at the wheel and awakened too late to the competition.

All of these challenges lead to an inability among the brand’s leadership team to make decisions with confidence. They’ll take small moves, change pricing, stumble into a new channel but not get traction — bumbling along because they’re reluctant.

Manage the Owner, Manage the Brand

Investors find these BFY darlings (or former darlings) that have so much more market cap possibility. What’s holding them back besides a need for capital? Systems, distribution, and innovation, certainly — but usually the psychology of the owner is a major obstacle investors should address carefully.

We like to say that approaching a founder/owner is kind of like approaching a skittish horse: You have to walk slowly, whisper the right things, and maintain a gentle hand. Taking time to understand the psychology of the founder will produce an opportunity to show your investment team as sensitive experts.

People generally start BFY brands because they or a family member has a particular dietary goal or need and they decide to develop a unique product to meet it. Maybe the founder is a gluten-intolerant outdoor enthusiast in search of a gluten-free energy bar to fuel his all-day hikes. He’s not a business person. And so he launches and runs the brand on pure instinct and emotion. His life is intertwined in the company, and he makes choices based on that deep personal connection.

When this owner comes to realize that his company needs investment in order to continue, fear creeps in. He worries about whether he can trust that investors are looking out for the brand’s best interests, whether they “get” the brand’s ethos, whether they’ll preserve the family of employees he’s surrounded himself with.

There are plenty of horror stories circulating in the industry, and owners worry that even considering a deal will reflect poorly on them. Will my brand’s tribe of loyalists think I’m selling out for the money? Will the investors think I’m in the way and push me out? Will my company turn into something I don’t recognize anymore?

As you’re doing due diligence, spend meaningful time with the founder/owner to understand what drives her and what she fears. Dig into the brand story to determine how intertwined it is with the founder’s personal narrative.

Investors: Become a Steward of the Brand

Because of their passionate founders, employees, and consumers, BFY brands need sensitive leadership from funders. A successful investor in a BFY brand either becomes a brand shepherd or brings one to the table to help the internal team adapt and feel safe during the changes.

We often function as that shepherd interfacing between the investment team and the brand team. Commonly, we’re the first stop after a VC firm has purchased a BFY brand. They introduce us to the management team and require that these leaders work with us. That initial meeting can be tough, but we’re adept at building trust, and brand teams eventually come to love working with us.

Alternately, we serve as a resource for investors evaluating brands before purchase. We quickly conduct a SWOT analysis to identify the market opportunity, organizational psychology, brand performance, and other key performance indicators that can inform the purchase decision.

It’s a Seller’s Market

BFY food and beverage is the new tech: It’s a sexy market. Consumers are flocking to these brands, trends open up new product potential all the time, and social media is full of talk about food and health. Right now, we’re seeing food expos overrun with investors seeking brands to acquire; there’s more capital available than there are brands up for sale, which means it’s a seller’s market.

And that matters, because founder/owners seeking capital or acquisition are likely facing multiple suitors. How you interact with that founder can be the difference between “yes” and “no.”

Investors, especially VCs from the tech world, need to understand that BFY brands aren’t based on specs and features but on personas and passion. If you’re going to buy in, you need to understand the ideology that extends beyond just making money. Before you’ve got a deal on the table, or even once you’ve made a move, we can help. We’ve worked with enough BFY food and beverage brands to understand the unique animals that they are.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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Food & Beverage Companies Add Value with Strategic Brand Extensions

Your brand is one of your company’s most valuable assets. You know that. As with any asset, sustaining your brand’s longevity requires action; dormancy is not an option.

For many companies, brand extension presents an exciting opportunity to strengthen, grow, and preserve a brand. By leveraging a brand’s existing equity to create new product lines, brand extension can open the door to new sales and marketplace possibilities your business may have never thought possible. And while brand extension is certainly an investment, it’s one that’s well worth the risk when the right strategies are in place.

We’ve seen it time and time again: Well-implemented brand extensions can create tremendous value for a company. Devoid of strategy, however, a brand extension can be disastrous.

Successful Brand Extension Relies on Strategy Over Opportunity

Simply put, a viable brand extension needs to align with the fundamental way the market understands your brand. New product development shouldn’t happen in a vacuum; there has to be a strategy behind it.

Unsuccessful brand extensions tend to latch on blindly to the trend du jour, resulting in product lines that exist only to give the customer what your company thinks they want. Divorced from your brand’s purpose and promise, a brand extension will fade as quickly as the latest fad it follows.

The Wrong Way to Extend Your Brand

We know from experience how easy it is for a company to fall into brand extension that’s more opportunistic than strategic (think: Pumpkin Spice Latte).

Piggybacking on the success of popular brands and products is certainly an appealing brand extension tactic, but it’s not sustainable. If your brand extension exists simply to follow the demands of the latest market trend, its eventual failure is all but inevitable.

We’ve already speculated about the trajectory of Diet Coke’s recent brand extension, which was predicated on the popularity surge of sparkling and seltzer water. It’s too early to chalk this up as a brand extension failure, but we have doubts that Diet Coke went into it with the right strategy in mind.

Diet Coke’s new campaign is clearly targeting millennials, who are buying premium water products by the caseload. What Diet Coke failed to pay attention to is why someone would choose to drink a LaCroix or flavored Perrier over a soda in the first place.

The real reason Diet Coke has been losing traction over the last few years is not their flavors or their packaging. It’s their ingredients. Bottling the same old formula in a slim, sexy can is like putting lipstick on a pig. It may look more appealing, but the underlying issue is still there. This is a classic brand extension misstep — creating a product without considering what the actual market needs or wants.

Diet Coke wasn’t misguided in targeting millennials or even jumping on the LaCroix bandwagon. They just missed the mark when it came to brand strategy.

In our opinion, a Diet Coke brand extension that combined the look and feel of the new flavor cans with the ingredients and messaging of Coca-Cola Life (the no-sugar, no-aspartame version of Coke) would have been much more on target.

The Right Way to Extend Your Brand

A successful brand extension has to speak to what is already true about your brand and what the marketplace needs in light of that truth.

If you’re in the health food market, or maybe a vegan or vegetarian yourself, it’s likely you recognize the Hilary’s Eat Well brand — or at the very least recognize their most popular product. For the longest time, Hilary’s brand name was synonymous with just one product (albeit a damn good one), their “World’s Best” Veggie Burger.

In order to capitalize on the success of this veggie burger, Hilary’s took their own stab at brand extension by releasing a line of veggie burger products with different flavor profiles. This flavor diversification approach was, by and large, a success, but Hilary’s wasn’t really gaining additional traction in the marketplace. Most of the customers buying these new veggie burger flavors were already avid loyalists to the brand’s original veggie burgers.

When Hilary’s started working with Retail Voodoo, our team helped them realize they would only be able to grow so much in their current niche (veggie burgers) without finding other places in the store where vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians would essentially give them permission to show up. In other words, they needed to figure out what was appealing about their brand apart from the draw of their already established and successful veggie burger product.

Ultimately, we helped position them as culinary vegetarian and free-from common allergens — two things that were already true about their brand — because we knew those concepts would resonate with both existing and potential customers. Once that brand promise was established, it was easy for them to find where they could and should go in the grocery store. That strategy has made all the difference for their brand.

A Brand Strategy Firm Can Guide You Through the Brand Extension Process

For well-established brands looking to create new revenue opportunities, brand extension can be a great marketing tactic — but it can be risky to go it alone.

If you’re curious about brand extension or not sure if your current brand extension strategy is on the right track, speaking with a brand strategy firm like Retail Voodoo is a great place to start.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Food Trends & Innovation: Branding Will Decide the Winners at Expo West

Trends. Are you tired of following the whiplash of what’s next in food? No? Me neither. My favorite trade show of the year, Expo West (or better known as the Natural Foods Expo), is just around the corner. This show touts itself on being “the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event,” and it is frankly THE trade show for food, beverage, health, and wellness right now. I love seeing our clients and partners, but I’m mostly excited about innovation – real innovation, not just flavor profiles. I’m talking about revolutionary thinking about food, nutrition, and extensions that align with brand positioning.

Plant-Based Protein

We can probably call this a mega-trend at this point. The continued desire to eat more plant-based foods is part earth sustainability, part health, and part animal-welfare related. The bigger guys are doing it well (I’m looking at you, Tofurky, Field Roast, and Amy’s – you guys are killing it with line extension right now), but we see a lot of up-and-comers continuing to move into this space too, like our friends at Hilary’s. Specifically, Beyond Meat has caught my attention. Yes, it’s super kitschy that the burger “bleeds,” but the strategic merchandising next to ground meat in the meat department is freaking brilliant. I’d like to shake the hand of the salesperson that convinced Kroger to do that. There’s your zag. This trend is going to be around for a while, and we are excited to see how it grows beyond soy-based products and outside some of the basic products.

Sugar-Free or Low-Sugar Beverages

I’m not talking Stevia or some other sweetening substitute. I mean removing sweet flavors from the palate completely. The continued sugar backlash is creating quite the demand for alternative beverages (AKA not soda or traditional juices). Add the sugar tax and you’ve got a beverage consumption shift happening that is going to bring us whiplash. I anticipate 2018 to be just the beginning. I find it interesting that many traditional beverages like water (yeah – the clear stuff) and tea are rising in popularity. I suppose that’s to be expected, everything old is new again. Add sparkling beverages like DRY and drinkable soups and broths and you’ve got a full-on rebellion happening. Coke and Pepsi are certainly watching and taking note – as is evidenced by Diet Coke’s recent rebrand, but I don’t know that they are moving fast enough. My bet is there will be several portfolio acquisitions in their future to offset decreasing traditional soda sales. If you’re a brand considering a purchase, now might be a good time to clean up your books.

Ethnic Flavors

Consumers’ demand for something interesting and new is extending away from earlier trends of Mexican, Chinese, and Thai. An infusion of Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and African flavors are showing up on the shelves. As these are new flavors to the traditional American palate, it’s easy to position these as healthier options to the traditional Americanized version of our current “ethnic” options. While Korean and Vietnamese have been in my rotation for a while, I’m excited about the influx of “legit” Middle Eastern flavors becoming more accessible.

Biohacking

As consumers become more comfortable with the idea of using science to maximize the benefits of food, we are now seeing biohacking cross over into more conventional diets. From the more conventional Whole 30 to intermittent fasting, eating well has become a lifestyle. While Bulletproof and Soylent are my current brands to watch, I have a feeling Expo West will produce more food and snack options for those that have become comfortable with hacking their food for performance purposes.

Root to Stem

Eating the leaves of beets or the roots of cilantro doesn’t sound very exciting to me. However, if you are a foodie or a person interested in your environmental footprint, this might be for you. The flavors and nutrition from fruit and vegetable parts we have traditionally thrown away are becoming vogue. This trend is so new that I’m not sure I’m going to see any Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) on the floor just yet, but it is picking up speed in restaurants and homes of the more adventurous chefs. What I do expect to see are the beginnings of these conversations in the fresh produce sections of the show. How it will manifest for the average consumer (outside of maybe food delivery services and the produce section) is yet to be discovered. I’ll be curious to see how this trend might manifest in the next 12 months.

Meal Delivery

In the beginning, there was Schwans. Yeah – they’re still around, but being first to the market doesn’t make you the winner. Newer and hipper brands like Martha & Marley Spoon (sorry – Martha is my queen) will continue to grow. This category is getting incredibly crowded, and the winners won’t be the ones that have the best recipes, cheapest meals, or fastest delivery – it will be about the brand. Other than Martha (who is already a titan in the foodie world), the others will need to figure out their brand in order to stay in the game.

Instacart, Amazon, and even Kroger and Walmart will likely disrupt this category. They already have strong existing brand equity, supplier partnerships to support this area, and a robust operational infrastructure. They can deliver exactly what Sunbasket and others are doing with little heartache to their business. In the case of Instacart, the Uber of grocery shopping, they have a lot of flexibility because they are not limited to one retailer. The consumer that stays with them will be the one that wants to shop but is fickle about their commitment to a single retailer or brand and doesn’t mind paying for the convenience of having someone else do the shopping. (I love that my shopper texts me during their shopping trip to help me navigate inventory!) The newer brands will need to figure it out quickly and buckle up. It’s going to get bumpy through this transition. These brands will likely not have a booth at Expo because they sell direct to consumer, but they are on-trend and competing for those grocery and CPG dollars. They’ll probably be walking the floor looking for ideas or partner vendors.

Cannabis and Hemp Infusion

OK, OK, cool your jets. I am actually not sure this is a mainstream trend yet. However, with the growing number of states legalizing marijuana and the number of people that are warming up to the idea of it not being “the Devil’s drug,” cannabis and hemp seem like the next frontier for CPG. There is still a lot of research and development going into learning the health benefits of this product outside of recreational use. But one thing is for sure: It’s not going away, as evidenced by the financial investment into the high brand and packaging that is hitting the market. It will be interesting to watch how (and if) the recreational and functional (I’ll call it) parts of the product break apart for the different product shoppers. I fully anticipate Expo to be the place for this trend to break out into the CPG world.

As you can see, some trends may not be ready for CPG primetime, but it’s fun to watch the genesis transform. Sometimes you need to hit the floor and see the brands live before you really know if they’ve got legs. I’ll be sure to follow up after the show to reveal what mattered on the floor – not just what stood out.

By the way – if you are interested in seeing our work at Expo this year, here are the brands you should visit: Wedderspoon, Essentia Water, Second Nature, DRY Sparkling, Hilary’s Eat Well, Sahale Snacks, Living Intentions, Teton Waters, Alden’s Ice Cream, Atlantic Naturals, and Derma E. And if you want to meet up to chat, book a time today!

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

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