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Food and Beverage Brands: Enlist Your Retail Reps as Powerful Allies

Recently, a client of ours had a category review meeting with a certain retailer to pitch a group of new products. The retail buyers picked the client’s concept apart and demanded a whole bunch of changes. Our client’s team was dejected but persistent. They set a follow-up meeting, and we helped them refine their presentations to just three slides that powerfully and simply explained the new offering and why it would rock. They walked out with a signed purchase order. No packaging or ingredient changes required.

You’ve probably been in these category reviews with your retail partners. And dreaded them.

We hear you. Many brands come to us and say that the feedback they get during category reviews with multiple retailers is overwhelming and contradictory. This retailer input may wield an outsized impact on your brand and packaging design. Your team feels like a ping pong ball getting whacked around by buyers with competing interests and conflicting directives.

Understand Your Retail Buyer’s Business

Why does this happen? To answer that question, let’s step into the retail buyer’s world.

The category manager within the retail company is under immense pressure to get her category to perform well and make as much margin through as much velocity as possible. Her job keys on finding stuff that will move quickly and drive profit. And the people she reports to—the retailer’s chain of command—are merciless and swift in making changes should she be less than successful. In other words, it’s not just your butt on the line in these review meetings; it’s hers.

And while your sales team thinks your brand is the center of the universe, it’s one of many the category manager deals with. (If you dread these review meetings, know that she has them with other brands, nearly every week.) So she’s constantly hearing similar pitches from other brands. And she has to make smart decisions about which products to carry, and where, and how. She’s not looking for another product that will cannibalize existing strong performers. It’s not like there’s an empty slot anywhere; she needs for you to bring something to the retailer that will increase sales or replace a flat/declining brand.

Category managers are busy people. Make it easy for them—period, end of story.

Make the Retail Buyer Your Friend, Not Your Nemesis

Here’s another thing to understand about these retail managers: Most of them are passionate about the category, too. They use products like yours. They want you to succeed—partly because that means they’ll succeed, but also because they’re fans of your brand and others like it.

So your sales and marketing teams’ focus should be on wooing these channel partners. Around here, we talk all the time about showing consumers the love—and yes, that is essential. You must constantly seek to widen the circle of adoring fans that your brand connects with. That’s how growth happens.

But growth can’t happen if you can’t get onto retail shelves. (Also onto Amazon results pages, but that’s a different animal.)

A few points of advice on enlisting retailers in your brand’s success:

1) Your sales team and their pitch have to be underpinned by a real brand story and mission. If there’s no there there, your products will get discontinued. Why? A powerful purpose attracts consumers like moths to the flame, which translates into velocity and margin for the retailer.

2) Bonus points if you can convince the buyer to love you just as much as your fans do. Buyers aren’t lacking data; they lack brands that they can believe in, brands that have done their homework and crafted a meaningful story about their purpose and products and how they fit with the consumer’s life.

3) Without a mission, you open the door to nitpicking. If you don’t have a brand position, all they have to push back on is your packaging or logo or flavor profile. That’s when you get all the conflicting feedback that makes you nuts.

4) Retail buyers can be key collaborators in your brand strategy process. And when you turn their input into products, they’ll be the first to place an order. Don’t just go in and say, here’s our thing, what do you think? Make a short, succinct case for the brand’s impact and the product’s likelihood of success. If they believe that you have something to offer that will displace something else and boost their section, then they’ll want to like you more.

5) Finally, strong retail relationships can boost your business in other ways. Managers are category experts: They see sales figures, they know what’s moving, they have access to their company’s deep consumer insights. And they’re meeting with other brands, so they know what your competitors have in the pipeline. If you want to get inside the ropes and lean on that knowledge, you to have a relationship with them. It’s not in a retail manager’s best interest to share what’s going on in your category or adjacent ones, so you have to have a great connection in order to tap into that insight.

Relationships with these retail managers are essential, and nurturing them requires that your reps are regularly meeting with them in person. Use your brand positioning and supporting data to help them see the opportunity for them. Buyers want to know that it will be “easy” to increase sales and keep their superiors happy. Your job is to help them.

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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Massive Innovation is Coming to Food and Beverage. Is Your Brand Ready?

2021 will launch more innovation at one time than we’ve seen in a while. Here’s how to prepare your brand for the competition.

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

Download this white paper to learn how to:

  • Understand where you are in the Brand Life Cycle.
  • Capitalize on the innovation boom in food and beverage.
  • Prioritize consumer-facing communication to increase brand relevance for your best-performing products.
  • Identify two types of innovation and decide what makes sense for your brand.

Get this exclusive report brought to you by Retail Voodoo, the branding firm who has helped Essentia, KIND, Russell Stover, Sahale Snacks, HighKey, and Starbucks build brand-driven strategies that create meaningful, sustained growth.

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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The WEInvested Podcast: Food, Beverage, Wellness, and Fitness Brand Development ft Diana Fry‪c‬

A sustainability thought-leader, marketing and networking tour-de-force, Diana is resourceful, insight-driven, and loaded with can-do energy. 15+ Years into her journey, she deeply understands the importance of gaining team alignment, distilling marketing research into actionable insights, and brand-driven copywriting to build and grow brands.

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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When Blue Ocean, the Joy of Food and Food Waste Collide featuring Perteet Spencer, AYO Foods

Gooder Podcast Featuring Perteet Spencer

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Perteet Spencer, the co-founder of AYO Foods. Using her spidy SPINS senses and her desire to create a brand that celebrates the ingredients, flavors, and culture of the West African diaspora, Perteet takes us on her journey of transition and joy. Along the way we learn how her Liberian upbringing and heritage inspires her new venture and how this cultural view naturally embraces a more inclusive food production system.

In this episode we learn:

  • A little background about her brand AYO Foods.
  • Why Perteet thinks North American consumers are ready for African flavors, textures, and ingredients.
  • What food trends shape AYO Foods innovation.
  • Why she thinks Chicago has become THE place to watch for food innovation.
  • How to use data as an indicator, and not simply validation, to uncover new innovation platforms and opportunities.
  • Pereet’s thoughts on how to shrink pre-production food waste through product and manufacturing innovation.
Gooder Podcast

When Blue Ocean, the Joy of Food and Food Waste Collide featuring Perteet Spencer, AYO Foods

About Pereet Spencer:

Perteet is thrilled to be able to bring all of her passions into her role as co-founder of AYO Foods. Seeking to build a more inclusive food system that reflected her experience growing up in a Liberian family, Perteet launched AYO with her husband Fred last summer with the vision of creating a platform brand that celebrated the ingredients, flavors, and culture of the West African diaspora.  

Prior launching AYO, Perteet held brand, sales, and consulting leadership roles at LEGO, General Mills, and SPINS.   

When she’s not actively working on AYO, you can usually find Perteet spending time in the kitchen with her two girls or advancing the issues of food equity through her involvement in the Food Recovery Network, a non-profit focused on eliminating food insecurity through food waste recovery.

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/perteet-spencer-18b3146/ 

Email: perteet@ayo-foods.com

Website: https://ayo-foods.com/  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pmcspence/?hl=en 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/perteets?lang=en 

Show Resources:

Moonboi Project – In Kpelle, “Moonboi” means prosperity. At AYO Foods, we believe that we have a personal responsibility to enrich the communities that inspired our products. 

General Mills, Inc. – is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. It is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.

SPINS – transforms trillions of retailer data into performance solutions to accelerate growth, and deepen loyalty with shoppers.

Food Recovery Network – a nonprofit focused on eliminating food insecurity through food waste recovery.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. – is an American multinational supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Texas, which sells products free from hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. A USDA Certified Organic grocer in the United States, the chain is popularly known for its organic selections.

Girl Power Africa – an organization that was founded a few years back, really in service of women who were victims of civil war and are trying to get back on their feet in Liberia. 

Imperfect Foods – Shop affordable groceries and exclusive items that went from unwanted to wish for. Reducing food and retail product waste, one household at a time.

PepsiCo – is an American multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation headquartered in Harrison, New York, in the hamlet of Purchase. PepsiCo has interests in the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of grain-based snack foods, beverages, and other products.

Betty Crocker – is a brand and fictional character used in advertising campaigns for food and recipes. The character was originally created by the Washburn-Crosby Company in 1921 following a contest in the Saturday Evening Post.

Lego – is a Danish toy production company based in Billund. It is best known for the manufacture of Lego-brand toys, consisting mostly of interlocking plastic bricks. The Lego Group has also built several amusement parks around the world, each known as Legoland, and operates numerous retail stores.

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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For Wellness & Better-for-you Brands, Gen X Spends the Most

Generation X: What a boring title for a group that ushered in the use of cell phones, home video games, microwaves, and cable TV. Gen X is that “old generation” now, creeping up into their 50’s, and uncool (clearly) to the younger generations. And in many marketers’ eyes, Gen X is even less relevant. In fact, most marketers do not even target this age group any longer. Our youth-obsessed culture is overlooking one of the most obvious targets.

Well, I’m here to say, we’re going to change that right now.

I’ll be honest, when I first started researching this article, I was pretty darn sure I was going to be searching for days to find data that supported Generation X’s spending muscle. How surprised I was when data point after data point surfaced, disproving my hypothesis. In fact, most research I found states that (at least for now) Generation X has the greatest spending power of all other generations – generating 31 percent of all U.S. income with only 25 percent of the population.

Generation X is a group of big spending tech fiends who were taught to break the rules.

Picture this: my friend’s basement in 1981, MTV comes on the air, blows our minds seeing artists transform music over the airways, and creates a visually-obsessed culture that legitimizes cable television as a new marketing platform.

The 1980s helped shape Generation X into people who are comfortable pushing boundaries, quick at adapting to innovation, and willing to spend their money to get the goods. Yes, Generation X spends more than any other generation. Home-based video games, MTV, cable TV, and microwaves brought a new definition of easy family living and entertainment, as well as access to lifestyles many had never seen before. Keeping up with the Joneses went up a level. We had a whole world of things we could buy.

What defines Gen X?

  • Education: More educated than any generation – 35 percent have college degrees versus 19 percent of Millennials.
  • Technology: While not digital native, innovation and technology became keys to their life (think cell phones, email, and personal computers).
  • Cultural revolution: More women going back to work meant women had power and money. We saw families on TV with moms that worked high-paying jobs as the new normal. Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show), Maggie Seaver (Growing Pains), and Angela Bower (Who’s the Boss) were different moms than we had seen before. Characters like an African American lawyer and a single mom advertising executive with a male nanny created a generation of people comfortable pushing boundaries and cultural norms.
  • Independence: An increase in single and working moms created a new, more independent youth.
  • Hope: As the first generation unrestricted by the cultural norms of the past, they believed they could have it all; and subsequently came crashing back to earth wondering about work-life balance and wellness.
  • Rebellion: Stuck between two large egocentric generations, Gen X revolted by creating grunge rock and popularizing dystopian novels like Shampoo Planet, by Douglas Copeland.
  • Materialism: A strong relationship with materialism meant Gen X was hit hardest by the Great Recession of 2008.
  • Career length: Despite the fact that Gen X currently holds a significant percentage of high-level jobs, the Great Recession, appetite for spending, and longer life expectancy means they need to remain in the work force longer to pay off mortgages, their children’s tuition, and save for retirement.
  • Age: America is a youth-obsessed culture and Gen X is no longer the youth.

What marketing trends does Gen X influence?

  • Better-for-you and wellness: While Millennials rank evenly with Generation X in their love of mission-driven brands, Gen X-ers spend significantly more on today’s do-gooder brands. Thus, making organic, ethically produced, and sustainable products a viable marketplace for everyone.
  • Email marketing: As the first group that opted out of print catalogues, email marketing became the norm.
  • Convenience: Online shopping’s confluence with social media: They are busier than heck – leading their companies, running kids around, and trying to stay healthy. Online shopping, social media, and on-demand services (such as streaming services like Netflix and meal-kit delivery systems like Blue Apron) are ever-popular with this generation.

How does all of this affect marketing to Gen X?

  • They are skeptical: They learned the hard way. These folks have been through two impeachments. They gave the world grunge music and modern marketing. They are today’s power brokers and executives. They don’t fool easy. They give trust to those who earn it. This is the generation who will research your brand in detail before committing to parting with their money. So, don’t try to win them over with glitz. Show them your true colors and they’ll respond. Gen X has a history of loyalty when it comes to authentic, transparent brands.
  • They are currently the parental generation: The youngest Gen X-er is just now entering into parenthood and the oldest have begun shipping their kids off to college. Almost every sale to a child is a sale to a Gen X-er too. If you’re targeting kids, you’re targeting their parents too.
  • They are premium focused: As professionals and parents with hard-earned money to burn, Gen X-ers put a premium on quality. They want to know that a brand is reliable, that a product is hardy, and that media is sophisticated.

Generation X is a true hybrid when it comes to marketing. As a brand owner, you are playing the long game. Simply put, ignoring this generation puts your bottom line at risk for the foreseeable future.

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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Creating Space for Women in the Male-Dominated Energy Drink Industry featuring Vivi Mullen, GO BIG

Gooder Podcast featuring Vivi Mullen

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Vivi Mullen, the co-founder and Co-CEO of GO BIG, a natural energy and wellness shot. In this episode we talk about how Vivi’s career as a female executive in male-dominated corporate cultures stoked and shaped her ambition to make a difference in the lives of women. Join us as we discuss how Vivi has staked a claim in the energy drink industry and used her self-described outsider title to prove there is more than one way to do things. 

In this episode we learn:

  • A little background about her company GO BIG and why it exists especially outside of the idea of the business.
  • The intricacies of the energy drink industry from a personal perspective as well as who the major players in this industry are.
  • That gender inclusivity and branding are an integral part of understanding how the energy drink industry markets their products. 
  • The way culture affects how she does her business now, how she builds relationships today, and her leadership.
  • Vivi’s advice to women who focus on what others say and lowers their self-esteem leading to wasted mental space. How to refocus self-esteem draining inputs and stop spending time in wasted mental space.
  • What Vivi is doing through her leadership and brand to be a champion for women and women of color.
Gooder Podcast

Creating Space for Women in the Male-Dominated Energy Drink Industry featuring Vivi Mullen, GO BIG

About Vivi Mullen:

Vivi Mullen is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of GO BIG, and the only female CEO in the energy drink industry. Born and raised in Brazil, Mullen’s career as a female executive in the largely male-dominated corporate culture, both stoked, and shaped her ambition to make a difference. Mullen started GO BIG as a brand based on the values of empowerment and inclusivity and holds to her commitment to showcase women and minorities in an industry that would prefer to leave them out.

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivi-araripe-mullen-555a0623/ 

Website: https://gobigenergy.com/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vivimullen/?hl=en 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vivi.araripe 

Show Resources:

Red Bull is an energy drink sold by Red Bull GmbH, an Austrian company created in 1987. Red Bull has the highest market share of any energy drink in the world, with 7.5 billion cans sold in a year.

Monster Energy is an energy drink that was introduced by Hansen Natural Company in April of 2002. Monster Energy has a 35% share of the energy drink market, the second highest share after Red Bull.

Rockstar is an energy drink created in 2001, which, as of 2009, had 14% of the US energy drink market. Rockstar is based in Las Vegas. As of January 2013, Rockstar Energy Drink was available in more than 20 flavors and in more than 30 countries.

Bang is an American brand of energy drinks. It is made by Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a corporation located in Florida.

5-hour Energy is an American-made “energy shot” manufactured by Living Essentials LLC. The company was founded by CEO Manoj Bhargava and launched in 2004.

Guarana is a Brazilian plant native to the Amazon basin. Also known as Paullinia cupana, it’s a climbing plant prized for its fruit. A mature guarana fruit is about the size of a coffee berry. It resembles the human eye, with a red shell encasing a black seed covered by a white aril.

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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Brand Slam Episode 5 – featuring Plant Works

Brand Slam 5 – Finding Your True Audience and Standing Out in a Crowded Category

Download now to watch this fun and informative webinar where we audit Plant Works’ brand ecosystem and identify gaps, highlight opportunities and help the team understand where to focus her marketing spend.

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 featured in the book Beloved & Dominant Brands,) we will benchmark Plant Works and provide strategies to help Anna, Trever and the rest of their team regain brand traction.

More About Plant Works: Being workout and protein fanatics, trying to maintain a better-for-you, more plant-centric diet, they made the switch from whey protein powders to plant protein powders. They soon grew tired of drinking terrible tasting shakes, made with low-quality proteins that lacked the right ratio of essential amino acids to help our bodies recover, so they decided to make their own. 18 months and many failed attempts later, they finally built a formula that met their goals. They combined a blend of high-quality plant proteins with super herbs, adaptogens, added BCAA’s and a few other natural ingredients to create a great tasting plant-based performance protein powder that helps the body recover, rebuild, and repeat.

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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Never Give Up featuring Denise Woodard, Partake

Gooder Podcast featuring Denise Woodard

In this episode I had the privilege of chatting with Denise Woodard, CEO and Founder of Partake Foods: a brand of allergy-friendly snacks inspired by her daughter’s experience with food allergies.

Denise takes us on a journey of discovery as she tells us the story of tackling her daughters’ dietary restrictions while meeting her sweet tooth “demands”. With a little tough love from her daughter’s childcare provider “Your daughters’ diet is boring.”- Denise embarked on a journey of discovery and perseverance learning to bake, develop product, start-up and run a company and developing it into a beloved industry darling. Along the way we hear about the 86 investment rejections, road trips selling product out of her car, to becoming the first black woman to raise a million dollars in seed capital for a packaged food brand.

In this episode we learn:

  • The genesis and inspiration of Partake.
  • What is driving the demand for allergen-free foods.
  • How Denise plans to support the growing needs of the allergen-free consumer.
  • How food and beverage brands can improve their listening of consumer needs – beyond product development.
  • How Denise is supporting other BIOPIC women in the industry.
  • The ways Denise stayed inspired during the early days of fundraising and growing Partake.
  • The advice that Denise gives new food and beverage entrepreneurs.

“Successful people are just regular people who want to solve a problem and are very passionate about it.” – Denise Woodard

Gooder Podcast

Never Give Up featuring Denise Woodard, Partake

About Denise Woodard:

Denise Woodard is the Founder/CEO of Partake, a line of allergy-friendly snacks inspired by her daughter’s experience with food allergies. Since launching in July 2017, Partakes first product – delicious, nutritious, allergy-friendly cookies – can be found in over 2,500 retailers including Target, Sprouts, and Whole Foods Market. The company has been featured by People, Black Enterprise and Entrepreneur and, in June 2019 closed a seed round of funding led by JAY-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners.

Prior to launching Partake, Denise spent a decade in consumer-packaged-goods at various Fortune 100 companies. Most recently, she held the title of Director, National Sales in Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands division. Denise holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and an MBA from Arizona State University. She lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, Jeremy, and their 5-year-old daughter, Vivienne.

Guests Social Media Links:

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

Website:  https://partakefoods.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PartakeFoods/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/partakefoods/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/partakefoods

Show Resources:

Partake: Our products give delicious peace of mind to those with dietary restrictions… and “how is this so good?” enjoyment to everyone else.

Marcy Venture Partners: Co-Founded by Shawn Carter (JAY-Z), Jay Brown and Larry Marcus. The firm has a passion for building game-changing consumer businesses and mass-market brands that resonate with culture across products and services, media and technology. We combine unique access, instincts, deep networks, operating and venture capital expertise to be long term partners in growth.

Whole Foods Market : An American multinational supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Texas, which sells products free from hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. A USDA Certified Organic grocer in the United States, the chain is popularly known for its organic selections.

Honest Tea: A bottled organic tea company based in Bethesda, Maryland. It was founded in 1998 by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company. The name is a pun on the word “honesty”.

Food Equality Initiative: Improving the health and ending hunger in individuals diagnosed with food allergies and celiac disease through access, education and advocacy.

Frito-Lay: An American subsidiary of PepsiCo that manufactures, markets, and sells corn chips, potato ships and other snack foods.

Stacy’s Rise Project: Created to help bridge the funding gap for female founders, Stacy’s Rise Project™ has been connecting and empowering women business owners for years.

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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Bevnet’s Office Hours: Design Workshop – Current Trends in CPG Package Design with David Lemley

David Lemley had a chance to sit on this panel with Kate Ruffing and Kara Nielsen and share thoughts on how brands and design will be impacted by the events of 2020.

This Office Hours episode focuses on the ways that brand design has been influenced — for good or ill — by the tumultuous events of the past 8 months: COVID-19, social and societal turmoil, changes to retailing and D2C environments, and the growth and emergence of new branding conventions that have been derided as “Blands.” This is a great talk for companies that are thinking about the look of their packaging and labels, who are thinking about the overall positioning of the visual aspects of their products, or who want to match their innovations with their brand design.

Jeff Klineman, the Editor-in-Chief of BevNET, hosts the panel discussion, including trendologist Kara Nielsen, who is the director of food and beverage insights with WGSN, David Lemley, the president of branding firm Retail Voodoo, and Flashpoint Strategy Consulting founder Kate Ruffing. The Office Hours live audience had a front-row, interactive seat and asked questions on everything from nuts-and-bolts questions about design to a deep exploration of branding trends for food and beverage companies.

Sign into BevNet to watch full episode 

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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Big Plans for Your Naturals Brand? Start With a Strategic One

Yes, 2020 has been a … well, we’re not sure what kind of year to call it.

While it’s still not business as usual, businesses still have to do many of the usual things, like planning for 2021. And if there’s one thing you should have on the to-do list for your natural food or beverage brand in the next year—before product launches or new channel strategies or investment opportunities—it should be brand strategy.

That’s because none of those initiatives stand any meaningful chance of long-term success without a strategic foundation supporting them.

Brands in 2020 are placing too much emphasis on commercialization and not enough on strategy.

Look, I recognize the importance of selling products or services and getting to market ASAP. But it’s risky business because it is less disciplined to chase an opportunity than it is to create opportunities based upon clearly defined strategic goals. By focusing on strategy-first, businesses can take the lead on branding and positioning, then translate those needs into new products, services, experiences, and personalization opportunities to grow both revenue and positive consumer-relationships.

Brand Strategy as a Smart Business Investment

If you’re going to spend dollars anywhere, brand strategy is where to spend them first. This is where your ROI will come from; every initiative that is strategic in nature will generate a return. Strategy anchors every decision your leadership team should make about the brand and every tactic your marketing team should deploy.

When you know the brand’s DNA, you can confidently make bold moves that might look risky to outsiders. You can stretch your product offering in just the right way that will a) make sense to current customers and b) attract newcomers into the tribe. You can renovate the brand’s identity or packaging so that it stands out in the category. You’ll be highly attractive to investors because you deeply understand who you are and have your act together.

The Process of Developing a Brand Strategy

Natural-brand companies that come to us for guidance have a shoot-first and aim-second mentality. They’re facing a challenge or crisis: Competitors are taking their lunch money, or retailers are shelving their products on the bottom row, or investors are sniffing around but shying away from a deal.

Perhaps you’re in a similar position.

In which case, allocating time to “do” strategy feels like you’re stuck in the starting blocks while the rest of the runners are halfway down the track.

Our work with naturals brands, though, is more like a cross-country race than a sprint. Without the right plan, you’ll come out of the gate too hot, burn out, lose your footing, or pull a hamstring. All are sure-fire ways to lose—or not finish—the race.

So what does this strategy work look like with our clients? It starts with our competitive audit. Not a category audit, mind you, which only looks at the other products in your immediate category. We look holistically at everything—necessities, experiences, luxuries, and other stuff—that competes with your brand for your core consumer’s dollar, time, and attention.

We look at all seven platforms in what we call the Brand Ecosystem to see where your brand wins or struggles.

Our brand strategy work looks externally to audiences, both those you have and those you hope to reach. Brands, especially those founded by visionary CEOs who pioneered a novel product, have a tendency to think that a consumer thinks about their brand 24/7. Most only think about them in the moment of need—at purchase, or when a product is needed to solve a problem (it’s raining; I need my Patagonia jacket). When brands forget that that moment of inflection with consumer happens on an infrequent basis, they over-inflate their importance to the universe. What’s more, leaders at naturals brands really believe in their products, and so they think that consumers automatically do, too.

It also turns the camera on the internal corporate culture. Your brand’s success is limited or unleashed by the people within your organization; we help companies align their people to their purpose.

It takes a fair, unbiased, honest perspective to bring actionable insights—instead of just guessing or making assumptions based on what you see in front of you. That’s what we bring to the table. We’ll help you discover what you don’t know.

A strategic brand foundation focused on body (the competitive environment), mind (your promise and the way that you keep it), and soul (your people) renders your business essentially future-proof. It makes decision-making easy.

A solid brand strategy is like a flight plan. Sure, you might eventually fly the plane from LA to New York, but without a navigational plan and waypoints, weather data, technical inputs, and the right fuel load, you have no idea where or how you’ll get there.

You run every other aspect of your business with a plan—finance, operations, sales. Why operate without a plan for the brand itself?

We can help you research, aggregate, analyze, and create a plan. It’s what we’re good at, and our clients see phenomenal growth when they dedicate the right time, investment, and people to building a strategic brand plan. Ready to go? 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.

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