Old Ingredients, New Age Name with Laura Shenkar

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On today’s show, Laura Shenkar, CEO & Founder of This PKN shares what the product is and how the company got its start. PKN is the most indulgent, nutritious, eco-friendly, plant-based milk on the market today. She goes on to discuss the different factors that can affect distribution at the State level, along with consumer preferences and diet restrictions. Throughout her career journey, she has experienced many magic moments and learned secrets to continually improve along the way. Everything she has learned has led her to becoming an excellent advisor to those with similar career paths and interests. Her expertise in building high-performing senior leadership teams, launching and expanding businesses, and adopting revolutionary business strategies is what makes her so business savvy.

Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/

Gooder Podcast

Old Ingredients, New Age Name with Laura Shenkar

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KEY TAKEAWAYS:

The origin story of the PKN brand
Factors that affect the food marketplace
Key moments that propelled Laura’s career forward
What’s next for the PKN brand

ABOUT THE GUEST:

Laura Shenkar
CEO & Founder, This PKN
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurashenkar
Links: https://thispkn.com

CHAPTERS:

00:00 | Introduction
04:29 | The Origin of PKN
10:45 | The Rise of Food Allergies & Sensitivities
15:53 | The Strategic Importance of Texas
21:23 | Embracing Startup Culture & Motivation
23:52 | The Moment That Everything Changed
30:36 | A Personal Crisis Sparked The Solution
32:56 | Selling a New Brand & Product
34:03 | Water is Now… Finally a Real Concern
35:57 | Expanding Across The United States
38:54 | Women with Innovative Approaches
39:55 | The Indigenous Cooking Trend
41:28 | Learn More About Laura Shenkar and This PKN

This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. A brand consultancy focused on building, growing, and revitalizing brands in the food, beverage, health, and wellness industries. If you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, please visit retail-voodoo.com/contact to set up a discovery call today.

Produced by Heartcast Media
www.heartcastmedia.com

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Transcript:

Diana: Hi. It’s Diana Fryc. I’m the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in food, beverage, and wellness. Oh, let me redo that. Sorry. Hi. It’s Diana Fryc. I’m the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage, and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights into the industry. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm. Our clients include Starbucks, kind, RCI, PepsiCo, hiking, and many, many other market leaders and readers, apparently, because that’s how my face is working today. Folks, sorry about that. We provide. We provide. And now I’m going to have to rerecord that. Oh, my gosh, Laura, I feel like I’m just tripping today. Okay. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind REIT, PepsiCo, Nike, and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services for brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness industries. So if your goal is to increase market share, drive growth or disrupt the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk. You can find out more at retail hyphen voodoo dot com. Well, before I get to introduce our guests today, I want to give a shout-out to Katrina Tolentino, executive director over at the Natural Network, who I interviewed a couple of weeks ago on the podcast. And you might remember her conversation about the Amazon minority-owned business. A program that they’ve put together. I think they’ve closed the door on that. But she made this really wonderful introduction to our guest today, Laura Shenkar, who is the CEO of PKN. Do you pronounce it PKN, Laura?

 

Laura: No, what we’re doing is we’re coming up with a 21st-century name for the oldest milk in the United States. Okay. And so they can the indigenous people, the Native Americans talk about PKN spelled PKN. So this is going back to the ancient wisdom of nutrition.

 

Diana: Excellent. Okay. So you’re officially the founder and CEO of. Are we calling it PKN? PKN?

 

Laura: We are. And the name of the company is Livestock Lifestyle.

 

Diana: That’s what I want the most. So PKN is the most indulgent, nutritious, eco-friendly, plant-based milk on the market today. Laura is a serial entrepreneur with expertise in launching and growing companies implementing disruptive business strategies and assembling high-performance senior leadership teams. Prior to founding PKN, Laura built Artemis Water Strategy into a consultancy focused on breakthrough water and natural resources technologies. At Artemus, Laura partnered with large corporations like Intel, IBM, Walmart, and the U.S. military. Leading edge farmers and farmland investors to identify and deploy strategies that address the critical issue of water scarcity and its impact on sustainable energy and the food supply. Hey, that’s a really great lead into what we’re going to talk about today. Well, welcome, Laura. How are you?

 

Laura: Very well. It’s good to be with you.

 

Diana: Yes. And where are you located? Where are you? Where are you today?

 

Laura: We’re in Austin, Texas.

 

Diana: Austin, Texas. Is it hot today?

 

Laura: It’s actually I guess it depends on this place. This is near winter. It’s only, what, 85 degrees? It has been 110.

 

Diana: Yo, yo, yo. That’s hot. Wow, wow, wow. At least for me, being in the northwest, anything over like, 83, I’m out, I’m complaining, I.

 

Laura: I’m happy.

 

Diana: But usually if there’s a margarita involved, I could probably be could probably relax in that heat a little bit more.

 

Laura: Since Austin is a center for innovation in that area. So. Yes.

 

Diana: Well, let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about key PKN and why it exists?

 

Laura: So we need some guru around that name? I guess so I come to find the company from two perspectives. One is consumer C and who loves to be who wants to be adventurous in food. And then from a business perspective, as you mentioned, I spent over a decade working with farmland investors, looking at technologies. And I think we all know that we need to be more efficient with natural resources. Yes, technology is out there. But we were asking farmers to make a very big bet without a surety from the market that it matters when you talk about saving water. And so what we’ve done with this plan is create an infrastructure, a brand that will enable consumers like me to vote for regenerative farming. And that makes sense for the really long term. So when you say sustainable, you need to look at food. It works with the environment, that works with the ecosystem that we have, that uses the rainfall that falls from the sky. When there isn’t rainfall, you were just joking about the massive heat waves. When they do have massive heat waves. How do we find plants that have already survived millions and already work with that infrastructure? We’re beginning to see how that fabric of the natural ecosystem is going to be absolutely essential. One of the reasons to be in Texas and this is not just indigenous to Texas, but yeah, the great sense of place here. There’s a great sense of pride. Yes. Yes. And if you think about what makes Portland really special, what makes the Pacific Northwest really special? There are plants and trees that smell in the sunset and the fall that really sort of tug at your heart. Yes, I can throw a few. May ask me to throw all the statistics at you in terms of water scarcity and all that? Yeah. But the reason to worry about things like PKNs and food that really matters is that this is the way we have an anchor toward the future.

 

Diana: I see.

 

Laura: And we all I think we all can relate to that sense of place, that sense of home.

 

Diana: So where does the idea come from? Where did PKN start?

 

Laura: So in 2016, I was working for a formal investor nature-based, which is part of the Nature Conservancy, and they had me doing probably, I think it was the dozens of projects that I was doing around advanced water technology, see. And we were looking at a specific stream, in this case, it was through San Saba, Texas, that goes to Lake Austin. And the stream was drying out because of overuse of the aquifer of the lake of the river. And so we looked at how we could encourage farmers to start transitioning to using drip irrigation and more sophisticated methods to reduce pesticides. And as I said, what you needed is you needed a driver. You need a positive influence to say, look, if you guys do this, this is the kind of business we can bring to an extraordinarily difficult business. So in all of these places in San Saba, which prides itself on being the world capital. Yeah. Of PKNs in that sense, the bravado you find in Texas, everywhere you go, you see PKNs growing naturally. They clearly belong here. And as I said, it makes Texas. Texas, it’s the Nat, it was something national. It’s the state tree for Texas. It’s also the state tree in Alabama and several other places. Oh, you’re.

 

Diana: Kidding. Okay.

 

Laura: Yeah, it belongs here in a true sense. It’s been here much longer than humans have. And so the idea is that we can rely on it. Now, the real reason for talking about this is that it tastes great. This is and I guess it is if you’re an American, you probably know what a PKN is. And I can talk to you about what that quality of soil, that quality of sunshine breeds and not. But you probably already know that. So what we did in creating this PKN is we just got out of our own way. This is a formulation that brings out the glory, that is PKNs. And I guess if I compare it to almond or pistachio or to walnut milk, the one thing I haven’t had to discuss with anybody is it just tastes great.

 

Diana: Really? Do they have an I’m curious about the mouthfeel? Does it have a fattiness to it at all?

 

Laura: So the percentage of oil in PKNs is higher than that of almonds, and obviously it’s very different than oats. So most oat milk adds vegetable oil to get more of that mouthfeel. We’re coming at this with, as I said, the treasure, with plenty of omega three rich oils. And so there is that creaminess, there’s a buttery-ness and interest. So I guess historically we’ve always had the phrase was crown-ify, we’ve always crown-ified our times with a lot of that. What you can also do is let them speak for themselves and not sort of overwhelm it with sugar. And they are naturally sweet and they’re very good for you. They’re heart-healthy.

 

Diana: That’s awesome. Okay, so a big part of your brand is related to food allergies and sensitivities. I want to talk about this for a moment because you are not brand right eating, but when we’re talking about food allergies and sensitivities, we’re talking about in regards to others whether it’s dairy or dairy substitutions. Let’s talk about why. Let’s talk about why PKN is a really important part of this conversation around food allergies and sensitivities.

 

Laura: When we talk about native plants then we should also talk about what sort of foods are naturally appropriate for humans. So beyond childhood with most humans, it is not appropriate for us to be drinking other animals. Milk. Cow’s milk? Mm-hmm. There’s a mutation that Northern Europeans have that is shared with a certain percentage of the world population that allows you to drink cow’s milk after that age. But as I said, that’s an exception. Mm-hmm. We go to the Asian population or the Hispanic population or to the black population, to a variety of different places all over the world. This isn’t the norm, and I guess it is. There have been amazing innovations in dairy products that have enabled us to survive and grow as a population, but basically, as our food becomes more refined, we’re realizing that dairy can be very difficult. So one of the drivers in this market. Mm-hmm. Is that we offer something that’s non-dairy? It’s also completely vegan. But the. The main issue with milk is that it’s not supposed to be something that most of us drink. So especially if you talk about Asian Hispanic populations, this is going to be much better for you to move the milk out of your diet, to put the cornmeal on your cereal. Mm-hmm. Cottonmouth in your coffee instead? Yeah.

 

Diana: Yeah. As a smoothie or in smoothies as well. I’m thinking of Emily Brown, who I interviewed a couple of years ago, and she. She and I talked about it. She started a food pantry for families that had allergies, so life-threatening allergies. And the idea came about when her daughter had I think she was about a year old, developed incredible food allergies, went into the end, was relying on public assistance for a short period of time because their family was in some sort of transition and they went into a food pantry. And everything that was donated was allergen filled. And as a mother of a black family herself being black, she started doing research and found out that many, many people of color have food allergies to what we consider staples of the American diet. And there’s a lot of education that needs to grow and be dispersed among those communities. And I think the more products that we develop like yours that can address the needs now, being a not brand, of course, would be valuable for those people that have no allergies, but people have dairy allergies, of which there are many insensitivities. It’s really great for a brand like PKN PKN to come out and start. Just providing more options. I think it’s wonderful.

 

Laura: Well, and I guess he is, we make an assumption when I grew up with my breakfast, I mean, I guess that’s probably one of the most bedrock things you have in your life is how you grow up with breakfast. Yes, I grew up with my cornflakes and dairy milk and that’s what I consider breakfast. It is that there are a whole bunch of assumptions around that which might not be healthy, especially as I get older. Yeah. And I guess it is that what I wanted to say is that it’s really the majority of people who are lactose intolerant.

 

Diana: Yeah, that’s what’s fascinating.

 

Laura: Yeah, I think you can probably drink dairy, so. I do. But I guess you guys are the mutations. It’s the rest of us. Who are the majority here? Yeah, I think there’s going to be a transition. Um, and I guess from an environmental perspective, from a logistical perspective, the cons are the only nut that’s largely grown outside of California. So if I look at almonds, they’re using 10% of the water right now. Wow. California, that doesn’t count the pistachios and the ones which largely grow in California. This is a tree that belongs in America that uses this water from the sky to survive.

 

Diana: Interesting.

 

Laura: So there are a lot of reasons that make sense for the future.

 

Diana: It’s so interesting to in just that moment, like I think a lot, you know, we forget as Americans we went in this probably true in other countries as well as you adopt a crop or you adopt a way of life from someplace else and you assume that it is part of your long term culture. Because of the fact that we are growing pistachios and almonds and hazel, I think hazelnuts are native to the northwest.

 

Laura: Mm-hmm.

 

Diana: Yeah, but so we’re talking about PKNs and then we’re talking about Texas. You know, when I think of PKNs, I think of Georgia. You guys are in Texas. You Utah. You alluded to this a little bit about the great state of Texas. So let’s talk about why. Why is Texas such an important part of your business strategy?

 

Laura: So, as I said, I guess it is that it’s not just about PKNs, it’s about food that makes sense for the long term. So what’s going to be efficient? What’s going to serve as an anchor for the ecosystem so that it will serve as part of a food production environment? CHICKASHA That isn’t vulnerable to a lot of foreign pests and fungi, fungi, and that kind of thing. So how does this make sense? So you’re conscious of that, but how do you create something that has magic? And this is what people at retail voodoo do. How do you create that magic around a CPG brand so that it’s more than just a logical choice? Mm-hmm. So that it creates some magic. And as I said when I talked about PKNs, you think about Thanksgiving and the corn. Yeah, right. Yeah. They’re not treats. So things that go off in your head. And so I guess it is that the goal of the brand is to go beyond the facts and figures and really tap into these emotions and talk to people about why it’s worth making an effort, paying a premium, and taking a chance on a new product to support something. And I think, I guess it is that this is the magic of CPG. How do you create a new behavior when people like me grow up having my corn to walk in the morning? How do you get me to position something that just makes more sense? And you want the enthusiasm and the magic to come out as well?

 

Diana: Yeah, well, and I think there’s a little bit of a secondary in here as well. We talked about the fact that. Earlier. Actually, we’ve spoken a couple of times preparing for this call. How? Who you have on staff and how they look at the market opportunity and marketing is important and in this particular instance being in Texas allows you to do I think you feel like it’s going to allow you to do some things that competitively, not maybe from a marketing perspective, but from a business perspective, it’s going to be really valuable, particularly to those audiences that you’re wanting to address. You want to talk about that a little bit.

 

Laura: So there are a lot of reasons not to be in a startup. And I think today in particular, I’m experiencing a lot of them there in the morning. You need to reinvent the universe and you just look at how you do things. Yes, as ever. And an organization of ten people where I guess there are organizations of thousands of people that we can write. So there’s a long list of why not to do this. The reason to do a startup is that you get to start from scratch. You get to be agile enough so that you can really look at things as they have changed. I was talking about the cereals that I grew up with. The United States is a different place than when I was growing up. Yeah. So the reality has changed and we have the luxury of building things from the ground up. We can advance distribution and advanced manufacturing. We can look at how we get more PKNs and more efficient PKNs by upcycling from the stores and saving a lot of what would go for hog feed. So we look at all these things and what you want is also to look at the market in that same manner. Now all consumers aren’t created equal when it comes to milk. Some of us really can’t drink milk. Right? Want to be able to let the brand appeal to those people to get them to move first? Now, General, you want people who are sort of active, who want to make active choices in their life to be healthy. There’s no question about that. Now, who we’re excited about, great tastes. Yeah, I’m definitely veering on the side of a sort of edgier taste. Yeah. But we also want to address the sort of populations that understand the need for milk and non-dairy alternatives. Yeah, more than most. So yes, I guess it is that we have that agility and I’m personally and for the company, we’re taking a bet that that, that that one of those places is going to be Texas where people will say, I’ll take a chance there.

 

Diana: TRAVIS Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about the marketplace. You know, I know it’s really important for you. We talked a little bit about it. And I just had an interview with Allie Bonner over at our house, and we talked about this a little bit too, and having those people on staff. Having employees that represent. Your market. Or not, but be aware that you don’t have insider intel and are actively curious and collecting the information and data. In the startup phase, you can be a little bit more agile in that way. But we also have a situation in the marketplace where a majority of people have deep CPG experience. Kind of like what all marketing looks like. How do we do you? I know that this is an objective of yours from a business standpoint and making sure that we get the information out to the people that would benefit from this product. That’s the most. Talk a little bit about why that’s important to you.

 

Laura: Well, as I said, I guess it is. I would start by saying if I’m going to sell the idea of working for PKN or for a startup, I’m going to start with full disclosure. There are certainly days and weeks when it is harder than if you worked at a factory. So I guess it is definitely so. But the idea is that to achieve your true potential, you really want to be open to all these things you want to be charged with, with having to have to move the mark. And you’re talking about if you’re talking about populations who’ve been underserved by the for products market, these are people who naturally, I guess as a woman, I can say this, these are people who naturally know they need to do more than just what’s written down on the job description. We need to do more than what the manufacturer requires. I’ve got to double-check everything. And this is if you have the right strategy and I think this is one of those times we have a huge white space that no one has addressed. There is no cotton mill on the dairy shelf. Mm-hmm. How did that happen? That’s amazing. So I guess it is every once in a while you find these huge opportunities. But you’ve got to be willing to bring on people who can say, all right, what has been done. Not always. Yeah.

 

Diana: Absolutely. Yeah.

 

Laura: Where does this help in that? There are now a huge majority of people, especially in Texas, that is going to be, I guess, less likely to see any actual studies that say that the majority is lactose intolerant. Yeah, but we are. As we become less and less white, we’re getting more and more people who are lactose intolerant. So this becomes an easier and easier value proposition. Yeah.

 

Diana: Wonderful. Now, let’s go back in time a little bit. I’m always curious as to, you know, I’m I always do this when you people are already used to me doing this where I’ve got three thoughts that want to come out simultaneously. Okay. I love it when people go back and are able to go back in time and identify and at a point in their history where there was like, you know if I didn’t have this experience or this person in my career path, the idea of the of what I’m doing right now wouldn’t exist. Do you have a time that you can share with us that you’re like, yeah, this was a really big instrumental influence on where I am today?

 

Laura: Well, that’s interesting. So I guess it is. There’s a perspective on startups and things that are contrarian in terms of business. That’s one kind of thing. But then the other thing in terms of the actual products. Yeah. I guess you’re talking more about the individuals.

 

Diana: Yeah, I think, you know, you’re learning. Could have been somewhere in tech and how that kind of. Counterculture or the ability to find innovation, to find whitespace, to be able to step out of the fray and pull out something magical. I wonder where that might have happened. That kind of seeded this way of thinking for you moving forward. May have been there all along. I don’t know. But I’m curious.

 

Laura: I think I have a wonderful answer to your question because I’m going to talk about something which today everyone thinks is completely obvious. And it wasn’t. So in 20 years, we’re going to say popcorn, milk, and they’re going to say, Oh, my God, that’s so boring. Of course, that was so obvious. Duh. Well, I worked on a startup when I was in my twenties that was focused on providing UPC data so that large retailers could start using barcodes. Mm-hmm. And it was a startup just like you can be from absolute zero. And this was a completely new idea. And today you look at this and you say, well, it’s obvious in a single place you need a database of all of the different right-level codes. And you say, that’s not innovative. Well, you needed to have a startup to do that. And I had a boss who is the VP of Sales who was charged with trying to convince the industry to jump into this. And it was very, very hard work. His name is John Thompson, and he’s retired at this point, but he was eventually on the board at Best Buy. And what he brought to this was a great sense of optimism and also a sense of humor. On a given day, things don’t always work out perfectly. So he would talk about sales calls where he realized 10 minutes into the call that no one was going to be listening. So he just packed up his things before there were virtual calls where he just said, now I’m getting on the plane back home. And he would talk about what it was like to really have a changing moment where you’d find an individual in one of these operations, who understood the reality and was willing to take the personal risk of losing an organization. And so I guess my experience in sustainability was not from sustainability and environmental issues as much as from my experience at the company. Quick response service is a key for us because John was really charged with switching the mindset of the retail industry to start thinking about these unified databases. And as I said today, you look at that, you say, of course, that’s obviously what we’re doing in terms of new manufacturing processes that reduce waste, that extend shelf lives, that provide for distributed manufacturing so that you can reduce the greenhouse gas footprint for the logistics. Now, these things will look completely obvious in five years and ten years. And McConville will also be obvious, I think. But making it, get it done! isn’t something that just happens. It’s about individuals. So if we go back to your recruiting comment, you need to find people who understand that the future is going to look very different. Yeah.

 

Diana: That’s so. It’s so interesting. I have one of those moments myself, but I didn’t work for somebody. It is so funny. I was working. For those of us that have been around for a little while, I worked when there was a big tech boom back from 99 to 2001. And I worked for a company that was working on a technology that was a Web crawler. We now call it cookie placement, right? It was. And I remember talking with one of the engineers and as is always with some of these real tech-forward companies, the engineers always think marketing is cute, but not really very smart. And I remember coming up to one of the lead engineers and I said, I’ve got this idea. And he goes, All right, lay it on me. And I said, Do you think some people think his brains are going to explode, that this was even a reality? But I said, What do you think about photography being stored somewhere on the Internet? Because at the time you could only store it on your device or your computer. And I and I go like I’m thinking like a small fee every single month and people could because I’m seeing people’s computers filling up. And this guy said nobody would ever pay for that, ever pay for that. And so my learning is a little bit different than yours, where you learn from him how to do that. It was only years afterward that I was like, Dammit, I could have made $1,000,000,000, whatever that number is, I could have been involved in that. So I think sometimes trusting your gut, but then also being able to have that leader like those people who are willing to be open to anything, not just their own ideas, are, I think, willing.

 

Laura: To say it’s a serious risk. So John Thompson had four kids. It moved his whole family to California for this startup. He was putting a lot on the line. Yeah. And when you talk about farmers and regenerative agriculture, don’t be confused that those are hugely entrepreneurial that you’re asking in terms of food production. You’re asking these two people to take huge risks when you ask them to start using advanced irrigation methods and that kind of thing. So this is very much an interpersonal thing that requires, as I said, the kind of magic that we see with new CPG brands. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

 

Diana: Well, along that same vein, then, I’m curious if you’ve ever had a moment. I always like this, what? Where did the wheels come off the bus or did you ever have that moment where something went wrong and it was instrumental to your success today? Do you have one of those stories that you can share with us?

 

Laura: Instrumental to our success today.

 

Diana: Well, maybe not to PKN, but to you and what you’re doing today. Like, of course, PKN is part of it, but you are the bigger picture.

 

Laura: Well, I guess I think one of the most important things that surround the founding story with PKN is that it became very frustrating to recommend different strategies and different technologies over and over and over again. In Iowa, in Fresno, California, and then in Texas, over and over again, dozens, dozens of projects over a decade and just not having anyone do anything about it. So in terms of wheels off the bus, you look at the water technology industry and you just wonder how you’re going to get this deployed. Mm-hmm. And I. Even as we’re running out of water, it really, as I said, represents an enormous risk. We’re asking a group of people to take it without necessarily compensating them. So I guess the idea is that it was a real personal crisis for me and on the banks of the San Saba River and look at what was going on. They were growing alfalfa, which uses a tremendous amount of water. And how do you move the dial here? And it’s, you know, decades of different solutions and things not working out. And as I said, you need to start seeing how you can move things forward. We yeah, I guess it is that we want to embrace this with optimism and with gusto. But yeah, I guess it is a good idea from 2016 to 2020. I just talked to as many people as I could about who would do this. Yeah, because it seemed like such a great business opportunity. Yeah. And the reason for starting a company was that that opportunity kept growing. Yeah, it was. It was being left alone. Hmm.

 

Diana: What sort of milestones are you or is there a moment that right now that you’re particularly proud of? It could be with PKN or it could be some other moment.

 

Laura: Oh, that’s a good question. So I guess it is that there will be moments coming up that I guess I can’t talk about. We’re going to be rolling out at a much larger scale. So I hope to have it.

 

Diana: That will be awesome.

 

Laura: It will. But I was at Foxtrot Market’s newest market on the. Yeah, it was just this Saturday. Oh, my gosh. At Wrigley Field, we were talking about whether it is not true that Chicago always has the most beautiful weather. It is true. But this, though, was a glorious, perfect day. Wow. Perfect late summer day for baseball. And we were doing an in-store demo to talk to people about the product with this. You know, this was one of the great ballparks of the United States with the sound of the fans in the background and everything. It was just wonderful, it was a wonderful moment. And you get people in that sort of receptive summer glory, and that’s when you really want to talk to them about, you know, the new brand. And so it was wonderful.

 

Diana: That’s awesome. What advice do you find yourself giving other folks that are following in your footsteps or wanting to do something similar?

 

Laura: I guess it is that I feel like the timing is just extraordinarily good for these kinds of transitions and in terms of people caring about them. I mean, I guess I feel like I’ve been worried about water for a really, really long time. And I’ve been alone in the room. You know, basically, the only person who was worried about these things truly wringing my heart out and I am so excited about in particular Gen Z and how I don’t need to have that discussion anymore.

 

Diana: Isn’t that miraculous?

 

Laura: It’s just hallelujah right there. Wonderful. Yeah. Yeah. No, and I guess it is that. Yes, it’s really important, but it’s just glorious as well. There is so much more that we can do from an innovative standpoint. And I guess, as I said, I just glory in the readiness, the rightness, or of the US market. We’re behind Europe, and we’re behind Asia in many ways in terms of resources, but there is just so much magic that’s about to be happening. So yeah, I would encourage people to really look, I guess look beyond sort of imitating. I would look beyond imitating milk and wheat and that thing and get to what is new. What are the new spices that will be used? What are the new non-sugar nutritious nutritional things that will bring in food? Maybe our plate will look very different than it does today.

 

Diana: So it’s quite possible and maybe realistic. Oh, my goodness. And what can you share about what’s next for PKN or for you a little glimpse into the future?

 

Laura: So I think, you know, we’ve got some big plans in terms of product introductions coming down the line. And we’re going to have some exciting news about opening up in various places in the United States. But specifically, we’re opening up in California. Even though the puns don’t use a drop of California water, that seems to be exactly what the Californians want to hear. So we’re opening up with Unify in both northern and southern California as well.

 

Diana: Great.

 

Laura: Yeah, I know. It’s exciting. Good eggs at Bristol Farms at Nugget and Foxtrot is opening up more stores here in Texas, including two in Austin. Yes, they say in December. So, yeah, we’ll be ramping up sales. And as I said, I hope we’ll be learning more and perhaps breaking through and doing marketing in a different way. And so I see that you say social media, you say advertising. How do you change that game? So we’ll have to figure out how to succeed. We’re going to figure it out. I think it’s going to be a lot of trial and error. I’d like to say that it’s genius, but I think it’s going to be more trial and error. And I think it is that as you get into more stores, you get more data. Mm-hmm. I guess what I’m looking forward to is what is the answer to that. So I think generally that these people will not be drinking milk. Yeah. How? Yeah. Yeah. That’s going to be a thing. Yes.

 

Diana: I love solving those riddles. Those are my favorite projects to bring into the studio. How do you change behavior, you know, behavior change for the industry, but behavior change for the consumer and how do you bring them along at the same time?

 

Laura: So I know that you guys have been watching very closely in terms of what matters in social media to drive those kinds of behavioral changes. Yeah, that’s I guess that’s the kind of thing that we’re really trying to listen to. Yeah. Because with the budgets that the large companies are spending on social media, there’s no way we can.

 

Diana: That’s what they want you to think.

 

Laura: Well, so I guess that what we’re having to do is go, I guess you’d say sort of, you know, marginal or small scale. And where there’s really rich learning, there’s a new playbook. Exactly. Exactly. Wow. Laura.

 

Diana: I’ve enjoyed all our conversations. This one has been fun to have as well. Yeah. Our time, as always, is almost up, but I always have a couple of questions. Well, I always ask a couple of questions before I wrap up. The first one is, are there any other women leaders or rising stars out there in our industry or not that you would like to elevate or simply give a shout-out to for the work that they’re doing?

 

Laura: Well, so you already mentioned Katrina Tolentino. Yes. It’s just assumed the role is leading the natural network here in the United States. Yes. She’s got some very innovative approaches to bringing out that message. So, yes, I’d also like to shout out to Emily Stuber from United Brands. She, as I said, in terms of the marketing piece, really has some innovative approaches. Also, Maria Thalheimer, who’s the chief operating officer at Iconic Protein. There are, as I said, an up-and-coming group of women who understand that we need to sort of knock your head against the norms.

 

Diana: Yeah. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing those names. What brands or trends do you have your eye on and why? And it could be in our industry or not, just maybe something that you’re curious about and you’re following.

 

Laura: Well, there’s one that I’ve been watching for a long time which may or may not be a thing, but I’m sure it will be. So this whole idea of indigenous cooking. Oh, yeah. Flavors. So we know that we need to cut down on sugar, and we’re getting bored with, you know, whatever’s left on our plate. Yeah. Interesting to see how you could bring in Mesquite as a sweetener, for example.

 

Diana: Oh, interesting.

 

Laura: Yeah. So a whole new palate. I want this for our signature drinks for Expo, and I’ve been convinced that it’s just too edgy. Yeah, well, I’m still waiting for that to happen. I don’t know what it is.

 

Diana: Too edgy, but.

 

Laura: I. Yeah, I guess it is. I really looking forward to expanding on that. We also see a lot of excitement around eastern African spice. Yes. Then I guess more on trend for our brand is this sort of central Mexican, both the spices, but also, as I said, that the challenge to me is the more earthy.

 

Diana: Yeah.

 

Laura: The citrus. The cinnamon with more of this sort of nishi. Yeah. If I were trying to find the people who want to be surprised and perhaps puzzled a little bit as they try our products.

 

Diana: I love it. I love it. Oh, my goodness. Okay. Well, we’ve been talking with Laura Schenck, our founder, and CEO of BCN. Laura, where can people learn more about you and your company?

 

Laura: You can find us on this PKN as I speak. And that’s the name of the company is Livestock. And we’re available today at Fox Trot as well as several premium brochures. And you’ll be seeing us at Bristol Farms at Good Eggs at Nugget and quite a few others very soon. And also we’ll be at Expo East in. Yes.

 

Diana: Excellent. I love it. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I’m happy to just get another opportunity to connect. And I look forward to seeing what you are up to next. And I look forward to seeing you at Expo. That’ll be fun.

 

Laura: All right. Yeah. And I just want to also shout out to you all. You guys are continuing to push the leading edge and use data in creative ways to drive those behavioral changes. And I think it’s exciting. So it’s I guess it’s rewarding unto itself, but I think it’s very, very important. So I wanted to thank you very much.

 

Diana: Oh, so generous. Thank you. I want to lastly thank our listeners for your time today. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time on the Gooder podcast.

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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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