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The Retail Perch: Interview with Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo

This week on The Retail Perch, Gary and Shekar interview Diana Fryc, partner, and chief sales and marketing officer of Retail Voodoo. Diana and her team are dedicated to building, growing, and developing wellness brands and naturals. She shares her passion for naturals as well as her insights into how this category has developed and changed over the years. Diana is also a champion of the women and minorities who were responsible for nurturing natural products in their infancy, but who are now being displaced in some cases.

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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The Evolution of The Natural Products Industry and The Acceleration of Better-For-You Products’ Consumption featuring Cynthia Tice, Lily’s Sweets

Gooder Podcast featuring Cynthia Tice

“Better-for-you Foods was here to stay, and more consumers wanted it, but that required education.” – Cynthia Tice

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Cynthia Tice, the Founder of Lily’s Sweets. We discuss the history of Lily’s Sweets – a leader in the no added sugar movement. We also learn about the history of the naturals industry and some trends that have come up in the natural products industry and Better-For-You brands. Along the way, we learn the extraordinary journey of a passionate leader in finding and building a creative naturals community through Lily’s Sweets. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • The legacy and history of Lily’s Sweets. 
  • Cynthia’s journey of dispelling myths around using naturals products throughout her career. 
  • How the pandemic has given consumers a reset moment to reevaluate health and consumption habits. 
  • The evolvement of the natural products industry and accessibility to naturals/Better-For-You products.
  • About Cynthia’s emphasis on leadership, mentorship, and the importance of creating a collaborative culture.
  • How a do-it-yourself mentality is a strength and (sometimes) a challenge for entrepreneurs.
  • The advice she finds herself consistently giving entrepreneurs who have been approaching a professional transition. 
Gooder Podcast

The Evolution of The Natural Products Industry and The Acceleration of Better-For-You Products’ Consumption featuring Cynthia Tice, Lily’s Sweets

About Cynthia Tice: 

Cynthia Tice got her start in the natural foods industry before green juice was cool. She opened a natural foods grocery store, Center Foods, in Philadelphia in 1978, and owned and operated that store for 20 years. As supermarkets realized the staying power of natural and organic foods, Tice began consulting retailers on how to launch or build out their natural and organic offerings. She also began advising brands looking to launch natural and organic products. While working with a client who wanted to launch a natural soda, Tice became aware of the opportunity for naturally sweetened, no added sugar foods. This trend was emerging because of growing consumer sentiments to limit sugar, along with all time high levels of distrust of non-nutritive artificial sweeteners. 

As a long-time user of stevia, when the ingredient was granted GRAS status in 2008, Tice began experimenting with making chocolate with stevia to satisfy her own need for a no added sugar chocolate (her favorite food) that she could eat daily. In 2011, the recipe was perfected using not only stevia, but also the finest Fair Trade, additive-free, and Non-GMO other ingredients in order to benefit both people and planet. By 2012, Lily’s Sweets was on shelves in Whole Foods stores nationwide. Today, Lily’s Sweets remains a leader in the no added sugar movement through continued innovation, and the company’s chocolates and confections can be found in more than 24,000 stores nationwide. Lily’s Sweets has been recognized by Forbes as a, “mission-driven company reinventing the packaged food industry.” 

Cynthia stepped away from the daily running of Lily’s in 2018, and spends her time working with Non-Profits, and mentoring young entrepreneurs.  She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Dennis, of 30+ years, near her parents, her children, and their spouses/partners, and four family dogs! 

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cynthia-tice-4a87a648/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LilysSweets/?ref=page_internal 

Website: https://lilys.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Stevia is a natural sweetener and sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay. The active compounds are steviol glycosides, which have 30 to 150 times the sweetness of sugar, are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable. 

Alar Scare – In early 1989, the NRDC released a report on Alar, a chemical used to harvest apples. The report estimated that Alar caused cancer and children were at greater risk. 

Mothers & Others, a campaign that rallied concerned citizens who supported NRDC in the fight for tougher pesticide residue standards, standards that—thanks to a law passed 10 years later—would protect particularly vulnerable subpopulations such as infants and young children. 

FMI Corporation For over 65 years, FMI has been the leading management consulting and investment banking* firm dedicated exclusively to engineering and construction, infrastructure, and the built environment. 

Campaign to label GMOs: Using the hashtag #ConcealOrReveal, the campaign reached over 28 million people through social media. In addition to mobilizing American consumers around GMO labeling, Just Label It! won support from many food companies it targeted.  

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., is a privately held American supermarket chain; it is headquartered in Gates, New York. As of March 2021, Wegmans has 105 stores in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions.  

Acme Markets Inc. is a supermarket chain operating 163 stores throughout Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania and, as of 1999, is a subsidiary of Albertsons, and part of its presence in the Northeast. 

VMG  is an organization comprised of diverse people and points of view, and we are aligned in our mission to challenge the status quo. We encourage everyone in our ecosystem to cultivate a safe space in your communities and to operate with compassion and empathy. 

Maxlove Project is an innovative, parent-driven, volunteer-powered, grassroots nonprofit organization founded to help SuperKids thrive against cancer and related life-threatening illnesses with integrative medicine and “Fierce Foods” anticancer nutrition. 

The Family Thrive delivers strategies, tools, and experts that help families create joyful, meaningful, thriving lives.

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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The Evolvement of Supplements Industry featuring April Siler, 8Greens

Gooder Podcast featuring April Siler

“The pandemic was everybody’s chief digital officer accelerant.”– April Siler 

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with April Siler, the CEO at 8Greens. We discuss the history of 8Greens and how their product first entered into consumer’s visibility. We also learn about the trends that have come up in the supplements industry, accelerated due to the pandemic. Along the way, we learn the story of an experienced brand builder who incorporates the lessons that she learned as a professional athlete into the corporate world and running a business. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • The legacy of 8Greens and the taste innovation of their first product. 
  • How the supplements industry has shifted and been impacted by the pandemic. 
  • How, as a supplement brand, 8Greens leveraged an alt-channel strategy on the front end of the beauty supplement trend to become a dominant player in this growing consumer category. 
  • About April’s emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and the importance of creating a collaborative culture.
  • How marketing and creative experience in a CEO role produces a different organizational growth mindset than that of a traditional MBA approach.
  • The advice she finds herself consistently giving Gen Z mentees.
Gooder Podcast

The Evolvement of Supplements Industry featuring April Siler, 8Greens

About April Siler: 

April Siler, the CEO of 8Greens, is a globally experienced brand builder specializing in driving health and wellness innovation. 8Greens, a digitally native brand, is experiencing triple digit growth by delivering exactly what consumers are seeking in this moment, an easy and convenient way to build immunity and boost overall health. 

Prior to joining 8Greens April was the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Global Development for Califia Farms. During Califia’s most intensive 3-year growth period April spearheaded all USA marketing in addition to executing all operational aspects of the brand’s internationalization. April previously led marketing and sales at The Chia Co. From the brand’s creative inception through to development of a world first innovation – Chia Pod, where April partnered with world champion surfer Kelly Slater for brand communications. 

April also led marketing initiatives for Australia’s largest food and beverage packaging manufacturer, Visy, a $6.7bn privately held company. At Visy, she developed packaging innovation for the top ten accounts — including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Fosters, Diageo — and developed the company’s consumer insights platform. 

April has a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Marketing and Economics, from Monash University in Melbourne. April played professional basketball in Australia and Europe, rowed for Melbourne University Boat Club and has a passion for nutritious foods. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/april-siler-b8790711/ 

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

Website: https://8greens.com/ ; https://thechiaco.com/au/ 

Show Resources: 

At Califia Farms, we’re all about creating delicious, plant-powered foods with natural ingredients. Because we believe the world needs a healthier food system. 

8Greens is an effervescent dietary supplement tablet, packed with enough superfoods to give your healthy diet a green boost. 

The Chia Co  are the largest producers of Chia seed in the world. Founder and CEO John Foss, discovered the benefits of Chia while researching natural solutions to modern diet related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. 

Amazon.com, Inc. is an American multinational technology company based in Seattle, Washington, which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. 

A dot-com company, or simply a dot-com, is a company that does most of its business on the Internet, usually through a website on the World Wide Web that uses the popular top-level domain “.com”.  

Nordstrom, Inc. is an American luxury department store chain. Founded in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin, it originated as a shoe store and evolved into a full-line retailer with departments for clothing, footwear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, cosmetics, and fragrances.  

Bluemercury.com is a leading luxury beauty retailer offering the best cosmetics, skincare, makeup, perfume, hair, and bath and body.  

Goop is a wellness and lifestyle brand and company founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Launched in September 2008, Goop started out as a weekly e-mail newsletter providing new-age advice, such as “police your thoughts” and “eliminate white foods”, and the slogan “Nourish the Inner Aspect.”  

Target Corporation is an American retail corporation. The eighth-largest retailer in the United States, it is a component of the S&P 500 Index. Its largest competitors, Walmart and Amazon.com, are the first and second-largest retailers, respectively.  

Slack is a proprietary business communication platform developed by American software company Slack Technologies. Slack offers many IRC-style features, including persistent chat rooms organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging 

Bluestone Lane is an Australian cafe lifestyle in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Toronto. 

Rosé Water is a refreshing combination of pure, sparkling water blended with dry rosé wine, produced in the heart of Bordeaux, France. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina. Produced by Boutique Beverage Company, LLC. 

SodaStream International Ltd. is an Israel-based manufacturing company best known as the maker of the consumer home carbonation product of the same name. The soda machine, like a soda syphon, carbonates water by adding carbon dioxide from a pressurized cylinder to create soda water to drink.

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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The World Is About to Change (Again); Is Your Brand Ready?

Right now, in the spring of 2021, we’re at an inflection point: One year ago, the world was in full lockdown and consumers were “hunkered ” at home; one year from now, things will be fully back to business as pre-pandemic.

Over the past 12 months, your company has made shifts large and small in response to rapidly changing consumer habits, supply chain disruption, and retail upheaval. Those pivots were reactive; now is the time to be proactive.

As you create a new future for your food or beverage brand, ask yourself: What from our past can—should—we let go of?

Great Brands Are Built for Evolution

Brand strategy is fundamentally a set of choices and decisions—what purpose to serve, who to sell to, who to ignore, what to make, what to add, what to leave out. Over time, those decisions add up to create the foundation for the brand.

If they’re smart, the approach that brand leaders take to making those decisions changes in response to new market or cultural conditions. And, boy, are we experiencing conditions we’ve never seen before.

Every brand owner needs to rethink what they’ve done in the past and are doing with their brand now, so they’re well positioned for the future. Revisiting brand strategy is critical to both survival and/or capitalizing on untapped opportunity. And at this moment, the brand’s legacy can become both its biggest asset and its most obstructive blind spot.

A brand strategy that starts with people, purpose, and planet, when built well, will be adaptable to massive shifts like the ones we’ve seen in the past 12 months. But brands that stand on legacy product offerings, a culture of “this is how we do things,” and a fixed view of their audience will struggle. They’ll have difficulty recognizing when their ingredient profiles or target consumer or channel strategy need to evolve. They’ll miss opportunities for actionable, effective, radical shifts in brand strategy because they simply can’t see those that lie outside their point of view. They’ll be stuck.

Satisfy Consumers’ Craving for an Exciting New Normal

We predict that the next year will be like rebound dating after a bad breakup. Consumers don’t want to get back to normal; they want to let loose, experiment, expand their horizons.

Consumers are open to trying absolutely anything now; Covid created such disruption that people were eating exclusively at home and had to try new things when their favored brands or products were out of stock. That busted ruts and opened minds. Individuals and households have established new habits and preferences during the pandemic year—family hiking, cooking at home, new favorite snack foods—yet they’re also hungry for even more new experiences. Like, mom cannot make another box of the same macaroni and cheese one. more. time.

We can’t overstate this: Consumers are looking for new and different.

So make it easy for them to find you. Talk to them; the probability of trial is greater than it’s ever been. You don’t have to leave your base, but pitch a bigger tent.

Leverage Operational Changes You’ve Already Made

Over the past 12 months, massive disruption in the supply chain has opened companies’ eyes to different ingredients or production methods or distribution. Can’t get organic dried blueberries? How about organic dried papaya? What about a new tropical flavor profile?

Companies that would have never before thought about operating a certain way or using a different ingredient profile—and are now open to those different options because they’ve had to adapt—are going to be well-positioned.

It’s like sailing to a new beach—you’re still out there on the same body of water and navigating toward dry land; you’re just steering down the coast to a different landing point. Same, but different.

Get Out of Your Own Way

Here’s the biggest challenge, particularly for legacy brands or those that are so organizationally bulky that changing course takes enormous effort: You must find a way to break out of “we’ve always done it this way” and “this who we know our audience is.”

More than ever, making decisions requires keen vision, boldness, and a mindfulness about what must be sacrificed to move into a bigger future. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • If we were to create this brand from scratch today, how would we do it?
  • What are the little things about the business we’ve always sensed were off-kilter that we can easily drop?
  • Now that we’ve shedded the easy stuff, what else needs to go?
  • Can we acknowledge that our audience is not just made up of people like us? So, who are they?
  • Our original mission is still valid, but the world has changed. How do we respond?

What Should Brands Be Doing NOW?

Every aspect of our lives is going to evolve; we’re all at the point where we feel the shell begin to crack, and it’s taking longer than we want, and we have all this pent-up energy and desire. It’s like the last day of school: We’re just waiting for the final bell to ring so we can throw open the doors, chuck our books and papers in the trash bins, and rush out into the promise of summer break.

The brands that are crushing it are those that constantly ask: What does the world outside our four walls look like? As humans seek to breathe more air and see more things and have more experiences, where can we meet them and serve their needs? If you’re not paying attention to the zeitgeist, your brand will get left behind.

Unsurprisingly, alcohol brands are doing this well; with the promise of all the screws loosening and we’ll get to do stuff and be with people again in a celebratory fashion, marketing campaigns look like the world does: bright, sunny, and optimistic.

Don’t let dumb things get in the way of innovation and change in the current environment. Brands should take advantage of the psychology of what is happening and establish themselves as an important component of that environment.

If you’re augured into your history and your ways, you may be doing great right now; you’ve managed supply chain and relied on consumer familiarity—but if you’re not looking at the way consumers are changing, you’re going to miss the opportunity.

So pay attention. Be part of humanity’s escape hatch.

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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Sustainability is Good for the Bottom Line featuring Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, ECOS

Gooder Podcast featuring Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks

“Everyone has the right to a healthy home.” – Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks 

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, the President and CEO at ECOS. We discuss all things ECOS: innovation, leadership, sustainability, and life. We also learn about the trends that have come up in the natural cleaning industry, accelerated due to the pandemic. Along the way, we learn the story of the transformation of a family legacy into a category champion and hear about an innovative leader who advocates for corporate social responsibility and sustainable manufacturing.

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the family history and legacy of ECOS.  
  • How far green science has evolved and its impact on product efficacy in home cleaning and personal care. 
  • Reasons why consumers resist switching from traditional industrial cleaners to more people/planet/pet-friendly cleaning products.
  • About product innovation and trends in the natural cleaning industry. 
  • The behind-the-scenes efforts of developing one of the most disruptive environmentally friendly supply chains and its net-positive impact for consumers pocketbooks. 
  • How Kelly’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and love inspires a brand that continues to break all the rules on its way to saving the planet. 
Gooder Podcast

Sustainability is Good for the Bottom Line featuring Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, ECOS

About Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks: 

As President and CEO, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, leads the strategy and production environmentally friendly cleaning products at ECOS. She oversees four geographically diverse facilities across the U.S. as well as a European Manufacturing platform. She has been widely recognized for her highly effective movement, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable manufacturing. 

Vlahakis-Hanks has led ECOS to become a Climate Positive company and the first company in the world to achieve the sustainability trifecta of carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification. Her sustainable business   practice has made ECOS a model for green business in the U.S. ECOS is a primary manufacture that has received many awards for its innovations in safer green chemistry, including the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Partner of the Year four times. 

As an African American woman and the daughter of a Greek immigrant, Vlahakis-Hanks has made environmental and social justice a cornerstone of ECOS’s mission. She actively promotes a corporate culture of diversity and empowerment, ensuring that over 50% of her C-Suite and top executives are women. She supports a green economy by creating sustainable manufacturing jobs across the U.S. and offering strong employee benefits and a living minimum wage of $17 per hour, one of the highest in the industry.  She also offers financial incentives to employees who make sustainable living choices such as purchasing a low-emissions vehicle or solar panels. 

Vlahakis-Hanks received her undergraduate degree at UCLA and an MBA at Chapman University Argyros School of Business and Economics. She has been featured on CNN, CBS News, FOX News, NBC News, Bloomberg and Marketwatch and in publications such as Fortune, Entrepreneur and the Los Angeles Times. She has received many awards for her sustainable leadership, including Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Powerful Women in 2020 and Conscious Company’s World-Changing Women in Conscious Business Award. 

She is an active member of several boards, including the Environmental Media Association and the Chapman University Board of Governors, where she serves on the Diversity Task Force. She is active in industry councils and public policy advocacy, including the American Sustainable Business Council and the Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition, working to promote higher standards for consumer products to protect human health and the environment.  She is also a member of YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) and Abundance 360, Peter Diamandis’ select community of executives and entrepreneurs using exponential technologies to transform their businesses. 

Vlahakis-Hanks resides in southern California with her husband, teenage daughter, and rescue dog Mina. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

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

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

Website: https://www.ecos.com   

Show Resources: 

ECOS’ One-Step Disinfectant – Fragrance Free. 

ECOSNEXT™ Liquidless Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear. 

The University of California, Los Angeles is a public land-grant research university in Los Angeles, California. UCLA traces its early origins back to 1882 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School. 

Brown + Dutch was founded in 1996 when Alyson Dutch and her chocolate Labrador Rocky Brown found themselves starting a PR agency, quite by accident.  

Walmart Inc. is an American multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores from the United States, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and incorporated on October 31, 1969.    

Sam’s West, Inc. is an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc., founded in 1983 and named after Walmart founder Sam Walton.  

Costco Wholesale Corporation is an American multinational corporation which operates a chain of membership-only big-box retail stores. As of 2020, Costco was the fifth largest retailer in the world, and the world’s largest retailer of choice and prime beef, organic foods, rotisserie chicken, and wine as of 2016.  

TerraCycle is a private U.S. recycling business headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey. It primarily runs a volunteer-based recycling platform to collect non-recyclable pre-consumer and post-consumer waste on behalf of corporate donors or municipalities to turn it into raw material to be used in new products.  

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. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is an independent executive agency of the United States federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970; it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. 

Safer Choice helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. 

Green For All is an organization whose stated goal is to build a green economy while simultaneously lifting citizens out of poverty. It is a DC-based group that brings unions and environmentalists together to push for anti-poverty measures and a clean-energy economy. 

The Environmental Media Awards have been awarded by the Environmental Media Association since 1991 to the best television episode or film with an environmental message. 

YPO is a global leadership community of chief executives with approximately 29,000 members in more than 130 countries, according to the organization’s 2019 YPO international fact sheet. 

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. 

Daniel Pink’s Master Class: Teaches Sales and Persuasion. 

Kellogg Garden has operated as a family-owned and operated company. Established in 1925, they have remained a stable, steadfast family business guided by the core values of their founder, H. Clay Kellogg: integrity, innovation, loyalty, experience, commitment, and generosity. 

Beyond Green is a Certified B Corp making positive change easier by inspiring everyone to create a sustainable world. 

Rivian is an American automaker and automotive technology company founded in 2009. The company develops vehicles, products and services related to sustainable transportation. 

Publix was founded in 1930 in Winter Haven, Florida, by George W. Jenkins. Their mission is to be the premier quality food retailer in the world.

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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Food & Beverage Companies: Time to Go from Bland to Brand

If you’ve walked the health and beauty aisle at Target in the past few years (back when leisurely strolling a retail store was an everyday occurrence), you’ve seen the rise of a particular brand aesthetic.

Lots of whitespace, sans serif type, an absent logo, soft modern colors. Designers and marketers have dubbed this aesthetic “blanding” — a sort of no-brand branding. Lots of successful brands have adapted this style: Brandless (the exemplar), NativeHey Humans and others. Target’s newly launched Favorite Day brand of 700 (!) indulgent food and beverage products is another example.

The personal care and natural food/beverage categories are ripe for the blanding approach: The aesthetic is right for wellness or better-for-you brands because the whitespace and cleanness echo an old-school pharmaceutical look that implies health and purity.

Why Brands Embrace Blanding

Brands favor this blanding style because it plays well on social media, it’s scalable for different digital channels and screens, and it’s easy to systematize. Blanding is essentially a kit of parts: Pick a sans serif typeface — or, if you want to parrot Goop, a quirky, cute serif — add Pantone’s color of the year, no need to design a logo, and you’re cooking.

Online, this less-is-more bland style pairs with perfectly imperfect lifestyle photos — all midcentury modern and luxury décor and rose gold and other visual cues that appeal to Millennial shoppers. Millennial consumers especially like to curate their lives, with products that have a complementary look that they can display on a bathroom vanity or kitchen counter. For that reason, blanding is purpose-built for Instagram, which is highly visual and focused on beauty. Consumers get to associate with that vibe and imagine themselves immersed in the images they see in their IG feeds.

Too, there’s a sort of faux consumer confidence that emerges among lookalike blands. “If my snack bar looks like my deodorant looks like my vitamins, then it must be good.”

Because it’s a) super popular right now, so a proven creative concept, and b) really easy to pull off without hiring a high-fee design agency, many startup and direct-to-consumer brands have adopted the blanding approach right out of the gate.

But there’s a real challenge for these companies. As a FastCompany article puts it, “Blands are like teenagers. They dress the same, talk the same, act the same. They don’t have a defined sense of self or, if they do, they lack the confidence to be it. It’s a school-of-fish mentality where the comfort and safety of the familiar outweigh the risk of attracting too much attention.”

Blanding is simply a visual style. It’s not branding. And without a capital-B Brand, your product risks becoming a commodity. By Brand, I mean a mission or purpose: a wrong that your company and its community strive to remedy, a higher calling, a better way of life for your customers.

Blands recede into the swirl of other similar products on the shelf; brands — especially Beloved & Dominant brands — stand up, stand out, and stand for something. And to do that, you have to use your own voice.

Graduating from Bland to Brand

I get the appeal of blanding. When done well, it can be quite attractive. It’s why so many charismatic entrepreneurs in food and beverage start-ups leverage the style: Their product looks great, their packaging looks great, and by association they look great.

My sense is that this design trend would have passed already were it not for the pandemic, which forced emerging DTC and ecommerce brands to rapidly ramp up their consumer presence in the first six to eight months of the quarantine.

You can get away with a bland for a while, but as the brand matures and starts to stand for something, this one-of-many design style becomes useless. The challenge is that just like emerging artists who haven’t yet gelled their own style, these young brands emulate their peers.

When the quarantine is over, people will go out to shop more frequently and more leisurely than they do today. And the blands will quickly start to feel like private label.

Bespoke brands understand how to stand out enough to become Beloved & Dominant category leaders. The first step is to look critically at the ecosystem of your consumers and then work to becoming a one-of-a-kind standout in their world. If Instagram frames your worldview, then you’ll land on the same visual construct that other players in your category are using.

Blanding is normcore — it’s riskless, you don’t have to stake a claim to meaning, it’s the easy path. Branding is unique — it’s risky, pegged to an idea, and demands a deep understanding of your consumer and their world.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with blanding as the tool kit that your startup incubator gives you; a beautiful package might get you into a conversation with retailers or investors, especially if you’re riding the passion of a charismatic founder.

I think of blanding as a “fake it ‘til you make it” business strategy.

But once you’ve lost velocity or aren’t selling through or can’t get meetings with new channel partners, then you’ve outgrown it. If Target wants you on the shelf but your products don’t move and then they make a private label version of your offering, then it’s time to hit “eject” and move on.

The good news is that you’ve already begun to build a following. Now it’s time to do the work to establish a strategic foundation before you get to the cool stuff like making a logo and choosing a color palette. That includes:

— Defining the brand’s mission and values

— Articulating a brand story that’s bigger than your product

— Identifying places where you want to play, outside of Instagram but in the real world of sales

In order to become a category leader you have to exit the superhighway of blanding and go offroad to seek your tribe who will love you forever and will pay what you ask in order to deliver on your mission.

Elevating from one-of-many bland to Beloved & Dominant Brand takes guts, vision, and leadership. It’s a massive, exciting opportunity because it means you’re ready to grow up and out. We can help you take those steps, so let’s connect.

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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Integrate & Ignite’s Podcast: The Seven Marketing Must-Haves to Creating a Successful Brand Eco-System with David Lemley of Retail Voodoo

“When a brand gets clear on why they exist and what kind of contribution they want to make to society, that automatically puts them into the better-for-you space.”

David Lemley is a brand strategist with a strong history in restoring growth to declining brands, developing new brands, and accelerating growth on established brands. He is the president and head of brand strategy for Retail Voodoo, a firm that helps specialty food and beverage brands address their toughest growth challenges. David focuses on the growing Better-For-You category and has worked with big brands like Starbucks and REI and Kind Bars to name a few. He loves nothing more than to dig in deep to figure out what it takes to build a strong and lasting brand. His expertise in brand strategy, innovation, consumer markets, and consumer behavior builds brand awareness and equity.

Listen & Learn:

  • Defining what makes a Better-For-You brand.
  • His philosophy for making your competitors irrelevant through positioning.
  • The differences between making assumptions versus implementing strategies when marketing better-for-you brands.
  • The importance of figuring out your brand’s mind, body, and spirit.
  • Creating “impressive brand storytelling.”

LISTEN HERE

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 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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How Food and Beverage Brands Can Better Serve Consumers Nutrition Needs featuring Paula Reichel, Healthier America

Gooder Podcast featuring Paula Reichel

“When you eat the foods that are good for your health, it’s also good for the planet.” – Paula Reichel

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Paula Reichel, the Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Senior Advisor at Partnership for a Healthier America. We discuss the importance of improving food equity, cultural relevancy, and cultural competency in our society. We also learn about the positive impacts and changes the food industry has had on the average American diet, especially through the pandemic. Along the way, we hear the story of an innovative leader who helps set the flame on entrepreneurism in the food space.

In this episode we learn:

– A little background about Partnership for a Healthier America.
– How the CPG or consumer packaged goods relationships fit into the conversation in Partnership for a Healthier America.
– About health washing, what it is, and its implications on the food that people are eating and the food that people are also producing.
– How the lack of diet and cultural representation in the manufactured goods exacerbate the health divide.
– Opportunities in the naturals food industry that investors need to know about.

Gooder Podcast

How Food and Beverage Brands Can Better Serve Consumers Nutrition Needs featuring Paula Reichel, Healthier America

About Paula Reichel:

Paula Reichel serves as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Senior Advisor to the CEO at Partnership for a Healthier America. Partnership for a Healthier America is a national nonprofit founded alongside Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative to transform the food landscape in pursuit of health equity so that all children grow up healthy and free from obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

Paula grew up in the Midwest and experienced the effects of the toxic food environment on her, her family, and her community’s health and quality of life. Her passion propelled her to identify new ways to create access to good, nutritious food for economically disadvantaged communities through innovative programs, partnerships, and entrepreneurial ventures and systems, policy, and practice change. She has deep experience working with the private sector, the charitable food sector, and public schools and consults on organizational strategy and business development. Paula is a frequent guest lecturer and holds a Master’s degree from Cornell University where she studied education and inequality and a Bachelor’s degree in marketing from Butler University.

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paula-reichel/
Email: preichel@ahealthieramerica.org 
Website: https://www.ahealthieramerica.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulaereichel?lang=en
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/preichel/?hl=en

Show Mentioned:

Let’s Move Initiative – was a public health campaign in the United States, led by then-First Lady, Michelle Obama. The campaign aimed to reduce childhood obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle in children.

Through Veggies Early & Often, PHA is convening leaders in the industry, health professionals, and early childhood education to consolidate evidence and outline an action agenda with the goal to raise a generation of veggie lovers.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. – is an American multi-brand restaurant operator headquartered in Orlando.

Mars, Incorporated – is an American multinational manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products and a provider of animal care services, with US$33 billion in annual sales in 2015. It was ranked as the 6th largest privately held company in the United States by Forbes.

PepsiCo, Inc. – 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.

Frito-Lay – is an American subsidiary of PepsiCo that manufactures, markets, and sells corn chips, potato chips, and other snack foods.

Mondelez International, Inc. – often stylized as Mondelez, is an American multinational confectionery, food, holding and beverage and snack food company based in Chicago, Illinois. Mondelez has annual revenue of about $26 billion and operates in approximately 160 countries.

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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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