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Above the Fold Podcast: How to be a ‘Gooder’ Brand featuring Diana Fryc

Above the Fold Podcast with Diana Fryc

Do-gooder Diana Fryc sees brands as a force for good, but a lot goes into walking that walk. Fortunately, she knows all the steps. The co-founder of Voodoo Retail, and host of The “Gooder” Podcast, with two lovely hosts Jeff Baker and Francis Ma, discuss food equity, conscious capitalism, women in leadership roles, sustainability, and more on what is possibly the most important episode of Above the Fold to date.

Other key issues we cover:

  • Racial and ethnic representation at grocery stores.
  • Operationalizing your “brand values.”
  • The role leadership plays in branding.

Listen Here

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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Focus Your Food & Beverage Innovation on Your Brand’s Promise

In a recent client meeting where we were discussing potential new product opportunities, the CFO threw out a quote from Confucius: “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

His words prompted me to think deeply about the intersection between brand strategy and innovation.

Some food and beverage brands manage to out-innovate their strategy, to launch products that deviate so far from the brand’s mission and promise that they a) don’t make any sense and b) confuse the consumer. (Think, for example, of a beloved luxury ice cream brand extending into probiotic dairy-free plant-based frozen treats. Two different rabbits.)

Others risk overlooking meaningful opportunities to develop a new product offering because it falls outside the known audience and their understood needs.

So what’s the right balance? It’s a timely question because we’ve predicted that the coming 12 months post-pandemic will be a boom time for innovation in natural food and beverage brands.

With this article and the next, we’ll try to answer the question, sharing our insights on when it’s best to chase just one rabbit and when it’s smart to pursue both.

Innovation Yields Opportunity

When we talk about innovation, we mean real research and development to yield new products, not just line extension with a new chocolate peanut butter flavor. True innovation requires that brand leaders are disciplined in two areas. First, they deeply understand their audience, both current and future, and how the brand meets needs that these consumers don’t yet know they have.

Second, they are committed to anchoring R&D in brand strategy, which means that they grasp what we call the “range of acceptable stretch.” (That means how far you can push your product line in a way that makes sense to your audience.)

Businesses are pressed for growth like never before. The chief growth officer (CGO) has surpassed the CMO on the corporate food chain and in this new organizational hierarchy, the CGO (not the CMO or COO) is responsible for marketing and innovation. Companies are bringing in a bunch of really smart people and task them with finding opportunities (we’re big fans of using Blue Ocean Strategy as a catalyst for new product development). If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Sometimes they stumble on an idea that’s so outside their existing audience and promise that it would be problematic to implement under the current brand umbrella. (If this is you, stay tuned for our forthcoming article.)

Go Narrow, Go Deep, Be Relevant

Given all this activity, chances are good you’ll unearth a few ideas that do fit with your brand’s ethos and fall within that range of acceptable stretch. And those offer strong potential for ROI.

Generally, we guide our clients to focus their innovation around brand strategy and scenario planning that addresses their current and future buyers’ need states. Becoming a Beloved & Dominant Brand requires focus and an ownable point of view that resonates with critical audiences.

Throwing a bunch of quasi- (or not at all) related SKUs on the shelf dilutes the brand’s position, confuses your consumers, and opens you up the risk of losing fans, market share, and velocity. You’ll become more susceptible to competition and over-rely on your leading SKU to offset weaker products.

Instead, go narrow, go deep, and be relevant—for the win!

Being too narrow or niche-y is scary for most CMOs. Best practices tell us that broader is safer. With performance pressure from above, marketers tend to hedge their bets by offering a bunch of stuff instead of honing in on a lineup that’s strongly relevant to their audience. Call it FOMO — fear of missing opportunity: What if there’s an ingredient we didn’t think about or a technology we didn’t know about or an adjacent product we didn’t add?

Marketers assume that the goal is to be in the consumer’s consideration set; you have a 1 in 10 chance of being purchased, which is better than not being purchased at all. Even sophisticated marketers buy that theory, but we think it’s a fallacy. If you’re always the preference and never an alternative — the position of a Beloved & Dominant Brand — you’ll be purchased every time. Brands that build stark-raving fandoms do not pursue general audiences. They have earned their loyalists through the discipline of going narrow, becoming preferred, and evangelized by their tribe.

Plenty of brands do narrow and deep exceptionally well, like these:

Highkey understands the principle of solving the same problem in so many delicious ways for the same narrow group. The team came to us for help rationalizing a massive list of potential products into a logical, manageable range upon which to grow the brand. Together, we repositioned Highkey from keto dudes to on-the-go moms looking for great-tasting snacks that wouldn’t wreck their diets. It’s a focused audience, a tight use case, and yet a wide range of products.

Anser is a still-new brand of supplements and wellness products aimed at women of color, who’ve historically been overlooked by the industry. We helped them launch with an aim to make a self-care routine for multiethnic women, and now they’re line extending like crazy with a whole bunch of new products for the same focused need state.

Reser’s Fine Foods is a family-owned Pacific Northwest brand that creates prepared foods for the grocery deli case. They’re super focused on a consumer segment with a common need: people attending a potluck or barbecue who want something reliably delicious to share, and families who need something good and easy for dinner. Within that focus, they have wide latitude to innovate; their product offering ranges from salads and dips to heat-and-eat side dishes.

Given the fire hose of innovation at many companies, you’ll likely pump out lots of great options, and you may want to pursue multiple opportunities at the same time. The problem is that instead of doing one thing well and staking out mindshare with key groups of humans, you risk spreading thinly across multiple categories, solving groups of unrelated problems for different audiences.

Brand strategy is the discipline of narrowly defining who you are, what your contribution will be, and then making a series of decisions to keep your promises in a way that other brands can’t or won’t. And that strategy should underpin the choices you make about what to add to your portfolio.

In other words, chase one rabbit and you’ll catch him.

But … what if that second rabbit is simply too appealing to ignore? What if your thorough innovation process spots an opportunity — a new product aligned with an unmet need among a different audience — that has enormous bottom-line potential?

We’ll dive into that in our next article.

In the meantime, we’re always happy to talk innovation, so give us a ring.

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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Building The Listening Revolution Through Podcasting featuring Molly Ruland, Heartcast Media

“You’re not going to build an audience with three podcasts.” – Molly Ruland 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Molly Ruland, the founder, and CEO of Heartcast Media. We discuss podcasts, and how the platform has provided a powerful listening revolution for brands and professionals. We learn about ways that brands can utilize podcasts to humanize themselves and authentically connect with consumers. Along the way, we get to meet one of the hardworking business leaders whose passion extends past the microphone and office space into cultural revolution and human rights. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • A background of Heartcast Media and the reason it exists 
  • Molly’s journey of transitioning from One Love Massive (a multi-sensory creative platform founded in D.C.) to Heartcast Media which focuses on supporting brands, NGOs, and businesses in podcast/content creation and distribution. 
  • The rise of audio storytelling and how podcasting has evolved in the last several years. 
  • Podcasts ability to humanize a brand and develop relationships with consumers and business partners.
  • How podcasts can be an effective advertising tool for consumer brands.
  • The importance of being intentional when starting a podcast by using your mission and business goals to drive content creation.
  • Podcasting 101: for companies, organizations, and humans. 
Gooder Podcast

Building The Listening Revolution Through Podcasting featuring Molly Ruland, Heartcast Media

About Molly Ruland: 

Molly Ruland has spent the last 20 years elevating and amplifying voices through community, art, music and culture. Heartcast Media was formed in 2018 to create a sustainable podcast production offering for businesses, brands, think tanks, and organizations with a message. She currently produces content for NATO, The Dept of Health, DC Gov, several podcasts for The Atlantic Council, and many more. Molly believes that “listening is the revolution” and she aspires to make the world a better place with intentional content. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

Websitehttps://www.heartcastmedia.com/  

LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/heartcastmedia/  

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/heartcastmediadc/   

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/HeartcastMedia   

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/heartcastmedia/   

YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcCfuiqNu9ZqWMGjMEV8ySA   

Emailinfo@heartcastmedia.com   

Show Resources: 

Ad Sales in the Packaged Goods Industry on The Rise 

One Love Massive is a multimedia platform and cultural hub for all things creative in the DMV. We are a booking agency, marketing firm, production company and talent collective all housed in a 3 story building across the street from the Historic Howard Theatre where we have a podcast studio, recording studio and a live music stage. 

Go-go is a popular music subgenre associated with funk originating in the Washington, D.C., area during the mid-60s to late-70s which remains popular in the Washington metropolitan area as a uniquely regional music style. It became the official music of the city in 2020.  

The Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Toyota, Aichi, Japan. It was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda and incorporated on August 28, 1937. 

Pirate radio or a pirate radio station is a radio station that broadcasts without a valid license. In some cases, radio stations are considered legal where the signal is transmitted, but illegal where the signals are received—especially when the signals cross a national boundary.  

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

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) are items used daily by average consumers that require routine replacement or replenishment, such as food, beverages, clothes, tobacco, makeup, and household products. 

TikTok, known in China as Douyin, is a video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. The social media platform is used to make a variety of short-form videos, from genres like dance, comedy, and education that have duration from 15 seconds to one minute. 

Black Lives Matter is a decentralized political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people. 

FreshBooks is accounting software operated by 2ndSite Inc. primarily for small and medium-sized businesses. It is a web-based software as a service model that can be accessed through a desktop or mobile device. The company was founded in 2003 and is based in Toronto, Canada. 

Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. was created in 2014 to provide fresh, fast, and affordable Southern comfort food to the masses. Our solution was perfecting the biscuit – making them with hormone-free dairy, real butter, and no preservatives. Through grassroots support, smart growth and investment, and growing demand, we also launched a CPG line of frozen biscuits in 2015 available nationwide and growing. 

Black Girl Ventures’ mission is to provide Black/Brown woman-identifying founders with access to community, capital, and capacity building in order to meet business milestones that lead to economic advancement through entrepreneurship. 

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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From Orchard to Table featuring Pam Montgomery, Chukar Cherries

“If you can understand how to learn and you have a learning mindset all the time, you can pretty much do anything.” – Pam Montgomery 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Pam Montgomery, the founder and CEO of Chukar Cherries – a pioneer in boutique food processing, that turned Pacific Northwest cherries into a global gifting brand. We discuss the history of Chukar Cherries and the a-ha moment of Pam’s product idea, including the acquisition of chocolate making “tools” from a famous chocolatier. We also learn about Pam’s leadership for driving an inclusive workplace. Along the way, we hear the amazing journey of a dedicated woman who lead the way in clean food processing, environmental stewardship, equity, and has a deep passion for the agricultural community of Central Washington State. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the history and inspiration of Chukar Cherries. 
  • The stories of hunting for and finding THE right ingredients and tools to make a premium delicious gifting chocolate. (pre-internet!) 
  • How she uses her real-estate back-experience to grow her brand. 
  • Pam’s emphasis on inclusivity, team fulfillment and leadership in Chukar’s workplace culture. 
  • How “box-checking” isn’t the path to growth. 
  • How the pandemic has impacted the business and the opportunities that came along with it. 
  • The drivers behind the trend of biodegradable and compostable packaging in her business. 
Gooder Podcast

From Orchard to Table featuring Pam Montgomery, Chukar Cherries

About Pam Montgomery: 

Pam Montgomery started multiple businesses in her 20’s, but it was in Northwest cherries, chocolate & wine in the late 80’s that she found her calling.  

Early childhood tragedy accelerated Pam’s self-reliance, independence, and problem-solving. She was just shy of 5 years old when her mother died of polio. Her older sisters and newborn brother were sent to live with relatives in California, but Pam stayed with her father—a forester for Weyerhaeuser stationed in a tiny logging community outside of Olympia, WA. On weekdays, Pam and her dad would climb into the work truck and drive into the mountains, walking for hours inspecting new tree plantings. The family was eventually re-united, and Pam’s French-Canadian grandmother cared for Pam and her siblings for several years, during which homemade soup, fruit pie, and suet pudding were the heart of the home.  

Fast forward to 1988: Pam and her young family escaped the bustle of Seattle to purchase the largest family-owned cherry orchard in Washington State. 8000 trees and three daughters (under the age of four) later, she had an idea. On her daily walk around the orchard, Pam noticed that cherries left on the tree after harvest increased in natural sugar while slowly dehydrating. Their flavor was incomparable! A question nagged her, why couldn’t cherries be dried without adding sugar for a healthy year ‘round snack?   

At the time, no one was drying cherries without preservatives, sulfites, or added sugars. Pam reached out to UC Davis—the research center for California’s raisin and prune industries. They told her it could not be done. Undeterred, Pam started experimenting on her own and found that the natural sugars in a cherry that was allowed to fully ripen on the tree were sufficient. Pam began dehydrating Bing & Rainier cherries with no added ingredients whatsoever.    

Later, on a trip to London, Pam visited the famous Harrods department store and their huge art deco confectionery hall filled with European fruits—preserved and chocolate covered. Visually, it was stunning, and the naturally dried dark sweet cherries covered in chocolate astonished her. She purchased a jar to take home as inspiration to create a Pacific Northwest chocolate-covered cherry. 

Over the next three decades Chukar’s product line blossomed from naturally dried & chocolate covered cherries to cherry & nut energy snacks, fruitful preserves & sauces, baked goods & granola, and now regional wine & chocolate pairings—all made with clean ingredients and local cherries.  When the pandemic stopped many businesses in their tracks, Chukar continued in their capacity as a food processor, selling their goods at CHUKAR.COM  

Since 1988 Pam has remained the creative force in Chukar Cherries—creating a team culture committed to excellence in product development, customer retention, and sustainability.  

Perhaps Pam’s greatest contribution has been mentorship within her company. Notably, she’s willing to “take a chance” and hire young people in whom she sees potential, regardless of their level of experience. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pam-montgomery-0b666715/ 

Email: Pam@Chukar.com 

Website: http://www.chukar.com/ 

Show Resources: 

The University of California, Davis is a public land-grant research university near Davis, California. Named a Public Ivy, it is the northernmost of the ten campuses of the University of California system.   

Harrods Limited is a department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London, England. It is owned by the state of Qatar via its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.  

The Guittard Chocolate Company is an American-based chocolate maker which produces couverture chocolate, using original formulas and traditional French methods. The company is headquartered in Burlingame, California.  

AT&T Inc. is an American multinational conglomerate holding company, Delaware-registered but it is headquartered at Whitacre Tower in Downtown Dallas, Texas. It is the world’s largest telecommunications company, and the second largest provider of mobile telephone services.   

Battelle Memorial Institute (or Battelle) is a private nonprofit applied science and technology development company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. 

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.  

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.   

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is a culinary event that consists of three incredible days of cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and panel discussions by world-class chefs and wine experts.

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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Compostable Packaging Is HOT featuring Kate Flynn, Sun & Swell Foods

“Meeting the needs of the consumer and meeting the needs of the environment sometimes is tricky.” – Kate Flynn 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Kate Flynn, the founder and CEO of Sun & Swell Foods. We discuss the history of Sun & Swell Foods – one of the first food and snacking brands leading the way in the use of compostable packaging. We also learn about the evolvement of sustainable packaging and Kate’s leadership in driving this hot topic. Along the way, we learn the amazing journey of a passionate leader in creating more inclusive, accessible, and affordable real food products for all consumers. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the history and inspiration of Sun & Swell Foods. 
  • Sun & Swell’s brand transition from a traditional CPG brand to a direct-to-consumer brand. 
  • Kate’s journey from being a consultant in a firm focused on retail and consumer products to having a CPG brand herself.
  • The evolvement of compostable packaging technology.
  • How to create accessibility, affordability for mainstream consumers in the healthy food category.
  • The advice she finds herself consistently giving entrepreneurs who have family members or loved ones as their business partners.
Gooder Podcast

Compostable Packaging Is HOT featuring Kate Flynn, Sun & Swell Foods

About Kate Flynn: 

In 2017, Kate Flynn, and her husband and co-founder, Bryan Flynn, launched their natural food company, Sun & Swell Foods. Their mission is to make healthy and sustainable eating more accessible with their collection of sustainably-packaged, organic, plant-based pantry staples and snacks. Sun & Swell is the first food company in the US to offer a wide array of healthy foods in compostable, plastic-free packaging. 

With a background in business economics and nutrition and a penchant for creating her own healthy snacks, Kate brings a unique set of skills to Sun & Swell Foods.  Early on, she pursued her academic career at UC Santa Barbara and graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School. Kate’s professional career included a consulting role as a brand strategist in the retail and consumer products space, where she focused on brand and growth strategy for various leading CPG brands. After spending nearly ten years in the consumer products world, she was looking to do something more purposeful and fulfilling that would positively impact the world. In 2017, Kate took a leap of faith to follow her real passion for health and wellness to start Sun & Swell Foods with Bryan.  

Leading up to this, Kate had switched to a more natural lifestyle, including eating only ‘whole foods.’ She realized that eating a whole food diet made her feel better, both physically and mentally, and realized that she wanted to keep eating this way. However, when she looked around for packaged foods to accommodate this new way of eating, she realized there were no options available. Most packaged foods are made with artificial ingredients and loaded with added sugars, preservatives, and flavors. This realization sparked an idea, and Sun & Swell Foods was born. 

When sourcing ingredients, Kate and her team buy organic ingredients as close to the source and farm as possible, seeking out small family farms. Sun & Swell is a Certified B-Corporation and a member of 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of the revenue to environmental non-profits addressing two areas the founders are deeply passionate about: regenerative farming and ocean health.  

When not running the company’s day-to-day, Kate loves frequenting Santa Barbara’s local farmers’ markets and beaches and spending time with her husband and newborn daughter, Leila. Kate is also a Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-flynn-15187726/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kateflynn1/?hl=en 

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

Website: https://sunandswellfoods.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. 

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries. 

Kurt Salmon was a global management and strategy consulting firm formed by the merger of Ineum Consulting and Kurt Salmon Associates in January 2011. 

Accenture plc is an Irish-domiciled multinational company that provides consulting and processing services. A Fortune Global 500 company, it reported revenues of $44.33 billion in 2020 and had 537,000 employees. In 2015, the company had about 150,000 employees in India, 48,000 in the US, and 50,000 in the Philippines. 

Clif Bar & Company is an American company that produces energy foods and drinks. The company’s flagship product, CLIF Bar, was created by Gary Erickson and Lisa Thomas. The company is based in Emeryville, California, and is privately held. 

Trader Joe’s is a German-owned chain of grocery stores in the United States headquartered in Monrovia, California. By 2015, it was a competitor in “fresh format” grocery stores in the United States. By November 2019, Trader Joe’s had over 503 stores nationwide in 42 states and Washington, D.C. 

For over 50 years, ECOS’ mission has been to protect the health & wellness of people, pets, & the planet with sustainable & affordable cleaning products. 

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. 

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. 

The Kroger Company, or simply Kroger, is an American retail company founded by Bernard Kroger in 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the United States’ largest supermarket by revenue, and the second-largest general retailer. 

The United States Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

In 2009, Tory Burch launched the Tory Burch Foundation to advance women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the United States by providing access to capital, education and digital resources, as well as a Fellowship program. 

Tea Drops are organic whole leaf tea shaped into fun drops that melt into finely ground plant fibre. 

Peloton Interactive, Inc. is an American exercise equipment and media company based in New York City. It was founded in 2012 by John Foley and launched with help from a Kickstarter funding campaign in 2013.

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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What’s in a Name? Your Brand’s Mission and Meaning

A brand name, in and of itself, is meaningless. Think of it as a vessel into which you pour meaning—your capital-B Brand: The promises you make to the world and the ways in which you keep them.

A powerful brand name carries all kinds of weight. It becomes shorthand for everything you stand for. It creates a halo over your product line, even as it expands. It’s a marker that allows people who are in the fan club to identify one another. It’s the single word jotted on a shopping list.

But names have to earn that cred over time. It’s not like Oreo instantly connoted childhood and treats and dunking in milk the moment the brand was launched in 1912. Those associations affixed to the name over many years.

Too, there may come a point in a brand’s life cycle where the name and the mission no longer synchronize. And a change may be needed.

These days, the barriers to entry in the food and beverage space are low, and brands are emerging from the depths of Amazon. If you’re launching or renaming, we’ll share some guidance.

Great (and Not So Great) Brand Names

Let’s explore some examples to demonstrate our thinking here:

What Does This Even Mean?

Some brand names truly are empty vessels: devoid of meaning until marketers—or, more accurately, consumers—give it one.

Apple
Oreo
Chobani

Name = Product Attributes

When brands launch with a singular product, they often adopt the product as the imprimatur for the larger company. (Watch out: As market opportunities arise, the product-as-brand naming convention becomes self-limiting.)

Brad’s Kale Chips
Keto Naturals
Hippeas
IQBAR

Brand as Biography

Other brands associate with a charismatic founder, whose personality represents the mission in the marketplace. These face-of-the-brand names can be successful as long as the person remains in good public standing and as long as the founder doesn’t become an obstacle to the brand’s success.

Newman’s Own
Annie’s
Bob’s Red Mill

Brand Names We Love

The strongest brand names are those that consumers can “get” in a second, yet broad enough that the company can grow logically into new categories.

One of our favorite brand names is Califia. You only need to hear the story of the mythical goddess of California and protector of the environment for whom the brand is named once—and it’s easy to extrapolate from that all of the brand’s values around wellness, quality, and sustainability. Califia started as a juice company; now it’s known as a plant-based dairy alternative company.

Likewise, the inspiration behind the name Nike—the Greek goddess of victory—perfectly encapsulates the brand’s mission to support athletes of all types in pursuit of their highest potential. That mission is laser-focused, yet roomy enough to allow for a huge assortment of products.

KINDa client of ours, is another superior brand name. The healthy snack brand advocates kindness to body and planet—and to your tastebuds. The name is a no-brainer, and it naturally attracts an audience of fans who identify with the brand’s mission.

Naming/Renaming? Do Strategy First

Notice anything about the three examples above? The brands’ names and value systems perfectly align.

Before you concoct or change a name, you’d better have your mission in place. And if you’re struggling with mission, here’s how to get started on a real, actionable mission (as opposed to a cut-copy-paste mission statement).

There are plenty of business name generators online, and those are fine for jump-starting your research and brainstorming process—but you’ll still have to do the hard work to define a meaningful moniker. If you’re launching a new brand and developing a name from scratch, think big and long-term, as if you’re carving it in stone rather than applying it to a package.

Come up with a word or phrase that’s broad enough to accommodate future stretches to your lineup, channel, or category. If you’re going for a totally made-up word, it has to “read” quickly; you don’t want to look at it a week after you launch and think, “what were we thinking?” From a business standpoint, the name must be defensible and ownable; from a linguistics standpoint, it should be satisfying to pronounce and easy to spell.

In the naturals space, where food and beverage products lean on functional nutrition and specialized, niche-y ingredients, it’s easy for leaders to think a little too “inside the ropes” when developing a name for a new brand. We look at the name Soylent as one that’s too clever for its own good: Those in the know get the reference to the dystopian novel and film, but the ick factor is too much to overcome for consumers just discovering the brand for the first time.

Fixing an unworkable name is far harder than naming a new brand. If consumers just don’t understand it, or it’s holding the business back from larger opportunity, or if there’s some kind of cultural baggage around the name, the problem will eventually show up on the bottom line—loss of traction, retailer discontinuation, increased competition. Marketers think they can spend their way out of the jam—throwing dollars at advertising or repackaging to overcome consumer misperceptions—then come to us for help.

For example, the founding team behind the clean popcorn maker Buddha Bowl tapped into their fondness for yoga when they developed the brand. While the signature buddha character on the bag resonated with Whole Foods shoppers, other retailers shied away because of an implied religious affiliation. We helped them pivot away from the name—and brought forward the parent company name, Lesser Evil. We reimagined the character on the pack and evolved the Lesser Evil brand signature. As a result, the company launched four new product lines and generated 50% topline growth in the first year.

Names keyed to the product category are also problematic, as our client Living Intentions discovered. The maker of raw, living foods rocked it in the raw food section at Whole Foods—but when the retailer decategorized raw foods and shelved products alongside conventional brands, Living Intentions’ velocity suffered. They came to us asking for a packaging upgrade; we realized that only a small segment of shoppers would understand what raw food means. We consolidated their raw and sprouted products under a new nameplate, Activated, which clarified the products’ purpose and benefits. It’s now the dominant brand of activated superfoods at Whole Foods.

If your brand is struggling to find an audience or facing stiff competition, the name may be to blame. How do you know? And what do you do about it? We can help you answer those questions.

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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Pioneering the New Tea Culture in America featuring Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops

Gooder Podcast featuring Sashee Chandran

“Luck is hard work and opportunity meeting.” – Sashee Chandran 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Sashee Chandran, the founder, and CEO of Tea Drops. We discuss the historical colonial influence in American tea culture and how her diverse background has encouraged her to create something new: Tea Drops. We also learn about the tea category shaking innovation of Tea Drops’ products and some of the trends her brand is leveraging. Along the way, we get to hear the inspirational story of a diligent and humble entrepreneur who transforms the traditional way of enjoying tea. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the history and inspiration of Tea Drops. 
  • The surprising A-ha moment of her product idea. 
  • About her go-to-market alternate channel strategy, and why it worked.
  • Where Sashee’s passion and drive for risk-taking come from.
  • What Tea Drop’s give-back program has been doing to tackle the global water crisis.
  • Diana and Sashee’s personal stories about their love for tea and how tea has helped them connect to their loved ones. 
Gooder Podcast

Pioneering the New Tea Culture in America featuring Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops

About Sashee Chandran: 

Sashee Chandran is the founder and CEO of Tea Drops, which creates bagless whole leaf teas using a patented process — shedding about 15% less waste than traditional teabag packaging. Tea Drops has become a favorite among new and experienced tea drinkers alike, launching innovative tea experiences that merge flavorful blends, food art, and edgy design. Tea Drops an omnichannel brand, selling D2C and also available in 1,500 retailers — loved by Oprah Magazine, Chrissy Teigen, and former first lady Michelle Obama. Sashee is a 1st Place $20K Women Founders Network pitch winner, 1st Place $100K Tory Burch Fellow Grant winner, and the 1st place $50K PepsiCo WomanMade Challenge winner. She has also raised over $3.5M in VC funding for Tea Drops. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sasheec 

Email: sashee@myteadrop.com 

Website: https://www.myteadrop.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Loose leaf tea is tea that does not come pre-packaged in tea bags. Because the leaves are not crammed into a tea bag, the tea maintains a higher quality and aroma while offering the best possible health benefits. 

eBay Inc. is an American multinational e-commerce corporation based in San Jose, California, that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its website. eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, and became a notable success story of the dot-com bubble.  

Bubble tea is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls, but it can be made with other toppings as well. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification. 

Tory Burch Foundation competition Designed to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools and platform necessary to grow their business. 

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

United Natural Foods, Inc. is a Providence, R.I.-based natural and organic food company. It is the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor of health and specialty food in the United States and Canada. UNFI is Whole Foods Market’s main supplier, with their traffic making up over a third of its revenue in 2018. 

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.  

Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., originally Neiman-Marcus, is an American chain of luxury department stores owned by the Neiman Marcus Group, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. 

The Thirst Project is a non-profit organization whose aim is to bring safe drinking water to communities around the world where it is not immediately available. The Thirst Project collects money and builds wells all across the continent of Africa where villages do not have immediate drinking water.

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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The Movement of Natural’s and Better-For-You Products and Brands featuring Jessica Lyons, PCC Community Markets

Gooder Podcast featuring Jessica Lyons

“It’s important to be able to leave a footprint and get to know an impact.” – Jessica Lyons

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Jessica Lyons, the Director of Promotions and E-Commerce of PCC Community Markets. We discuss the history of PCC Community Markets – the nation’s largest community-owned food market. We also learn more about PCC’s initiatives in building relationships with potential brands and what they do to drive organic as a standard. Along the way, we get to hear the amazing story of an inquisitive and resourceful relationship builder who continuously creates a thriving community around her.

In this episode we learn: 

  • About PCC Community Market and their involvement in the monumental changes within the food industry at a national level. 
  • About the vendor partner program that Jess is managing and some common misconceptions about this program. 
  • Customers’ high demand for product’s transparency in the food and naturals industry.
  • How the vendor partner program has helped underserved and underrepresented communities in the food/naturals industry.
  • About Jessica’s emphasis on creating a community, and following passions.
  • Diana and Jessica’s personal stories about imposter syndrome and how to transform that into positive energy which creates growth and self-awareness. 
Gooder Podcast

The Movement of Natural’s and Better-For-You Products and Brands featuring Jessica Lyons, PCC Community Markets

 About Jessica Lyons: 

Jessica (Jess) Lyons has built her career following her passions. She’s been successful in a wide range of experiences throughout her nearly two-decade-long career, making her a valuable Swiss army knife in any workplace. Jess currently serves as Director of Promotions and E-Commerce for PCC Community Markets, the nation’s largest community-owned food market. In this role, she lives out her foodie fantasies with a company centered around community and scratch-made organic food with a sustainable twist. Her greatest achievements at PCC include project managing an overnight co-op-wide rebrand, overhauling the in-store sign program, and developing a strategic, revenue-generating vendor partnership program. 

Prior to PCC, Jess’s enthusiasm for running was the starting line for 15 years in the outdoor industry. She gained retail and sales expertise during her 10 years with Finish Line and Fleet Feet Sports before joining Brooks Running Company to lead the retail marketing team. Her time with Brooks Running also included sales and customer acquisition, event marketing, and community partnerships. 

A native Texan, she proudly builds upon her hands-on experiences and is a self-starter by nature. When she’s not working or running, she can be found leading community fitness, hanging out with her husband and son, or cooking up something plant-based in the kitchen.

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lyonsqueen117/?hl=en 

Email: jesslyons117@gmail.com 

Website: https://www.pccmarkets.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Brooks Sports, Inc., also known as Brooks Running, is an American sports Equipment Company that designs and markets high-performance men’s and women’s sneakers, clothing, and accessories. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Brooks’ products are available in 60 countries worldwide. 

Ventures: they’re a nonprofit group in Seattle and they work with entrepreneurs. A lot of them are low income or people of color or immigrants or women that are basically incubated to launch their products. 

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) are items used daily by average consumers that require routine replacement or replenishment, such as food, beverages, clothes, tobacco, makeup, and household products. 

UDaB‘s mission as an alternative breaks program is to create a variety of issue-based, service-learning experiences. Our programs are available to undergraduate students of all backgrounds and incomes during spring and winter breaks. 

Hint Water is an American beverage company based in San Francisco, California, as an alternative to soda and sugar beverages. It was started by former AOL employee Kara Goldin. 

The November Project is a free, open-to-the-public exercise group founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2011. The name “November Project” comes from the Google Doc that the founders shared to track their progress in November 2011. While sessions occur year-round, the name stuck.  

Recovery Café Network (RCN) is comprised of Member organizations committed to serving people suffering from homelessness, addiction and other mental health challenges using the Recovery Café Model. 

Lily’s Sweets is a line of delicious chocolate bars, baking bits and baking bars that have less than 1 gram of sugar per serving.

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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Food & Beverage Brand Leaders: It’s Not All About You

“I’m not feeling it.” “This doesn’t do it for me.” “I want to be wowed.”

Are your emotions, opinions, and whims getting in the way of advancing the brand you’ve built? If you’re like many food and beverage entrepreneurs, you might be.

Entrepreneurship is cool. You started this business because you saw a need and determined to meet it. You’ve secured placement with bigger retailers and attracted investors’ attention. The success of the company so far is proof that your hunches and insights are correct.

Yet your company may now be at an inflection point where your instincts are less relevant. It’s hard to hear and harder to fathom. But bear with me — because when you take YOU out of the organization’s decision-making equation, magic can happen.

The Brand’s Evolution Means Leadership Changes, Too

In our experience, a founder/CEO goes from huge assets to potential hurdles at a specific point in the lifecycle of a brand. As a refresher, that lifecycle looks like this:

First & Only — an innovative, world-changing newcomer powered by a passionate founder

Beloved by Default — a niche brand attracting a growing audience of fans

One of Many — a once-darling brand copied by cheaper competitors

Beloved & Dominant — a category-crushing superstar so favored by consumers that it’s competition-proof

One of Many is the point where passion-driven food and beverage brands have to mature and evolve in order to grow. That involves a hundred little decisions about channels and flavors and social media tactics — all of which add up to answer one question: What is next for the brand?

The stakes are high, because your competitors are underpricing, out-innovating, and out-communicating you. Now is the critical time to examine your foundational strategy, audience, and Brand Ecosystem. The biggest obstacle here is a lack of objectivity and insight from you and your leadership team. You think you know best because what you know has proven true so many times.

The most important insight I can share with you is this: You are not your audience.

Assuming that your customer base shares your likes, needs, and lifestyle leads to limited thinking and marketing (even subconsciously). This often results in limited growth potential and a duct-tape-and-glue approach to product development, brand architecture, and audience analysis.

Knowing When to Let the Brand Evolve

When you’re an entrepreneur, you started with a killer idea and tons of passion. You’ve built this business with your own blood, sweat, and tears — so it can be hard to separate your idea from yourself and let the brand evolve. Entrepreneurship is like parenting: At some point, the child needs to live her own life, and you hope and trust that what you’ve given and taught her will serve her well as an independent, successful, growing human being.

I’d argue that you owe it not just to the company, but to the audience you serve, to do everything you can to help it thrive. Playing small and safe kneecaps your brand’s potential. That’s not why you built this.

You may be thinking: “This brand is my passion. How can I let others criticize, evolve, or change it?” Or, “If we make it big, will everyone think I’ve sold out?”

In order to grow, you have to let go. Let go of the idea that you’re the sole arbiter of what’s best for the brand, that you need to be totally jacked about every aspect of the strategy or packaging or product offering. You absolutely have a role as the voice of wisdom for the brand. But your role needs to look different.

Adopt the platform of the servant leader. True leadership cares about everyone else first; as Simon Sinek says, “Leaders eat last.” Pursuit of your larger mission to help people, place, or planet takes precedence over your own personal objectives.

This isn’t to say you step aside; rather, you step up. Your team needs your coaching, training, mentoring — and then they need your trust that they’ll make the right decisions to evolve and grow the brand to find its true audience.

For a role model, look to Califia Farms founder Greg Steltenpohl, who passed away in March 2021. Steltenpohl built Califia as a juice company, based on his experience with the Odwalla brand — but look at all the evolutions beyond his original passion to create Juice 2.0. Califia is widely considered the brand that helped normalize plant milk as a concept for American consumers. Furthermore, Steltenpohl was a pioneer in applying environmental sustainability, employee empowerment, creative corporate culture, and community-based marketing as core drivers of business success. Under his servant leadership, the company pivoted away from making better-for-you juice products to correcting American’s poor dietary choices and making the world better. I admired him greatly.

I’ll share another family analogy here: Think of this kind of leadership like being married to the brand, not actually being the brand. Do you have to love your partner’s choice of clothing? Nope. Would you choose a different car to drive? Perhaps. But ultimately, you’re there to journey with the brand and supporting its wholeness, in sickness and in health.

If you’re seeking the right balance between loving the brand and letting go of decision-making, we can help. We’ve had these conversations before.

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 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