all Insights

Food and Beverage Innovation, Begins and Ends with People featuring Natalie Shmulik, The Hatchery

Gooder Podcast featuring Natalie Shmulik

In this episode of Gooder I had the privilege of interviewing Natalie Shmulik, CEO of The Hatchery, a food incubator just outside downtown Chicago. The Hatchery is a powerful initiative that brings a community of innovators along the entrepreneurial path and launches the dreams of owning and running a business to communities that have not traditionally had this access. We learn about the resources The Hatchery provides and how we as a community can provide our expertise, in big and small ways. And why Natalie believes in the power of community.

“Whenever speaking with an entrepreneur, you should always make sure that if you are going to provide feedback or input or a suggestion, that you coach them to believe that the idea was their own.”

In this episode we learn:

* The genesis of The Hatchery and why it is fast becoming a beloved innovation partner to the food and beverage industry.
* The common challenges of budding and small entrepreneurial food and beverage brands.
* Why exciting innovation comes from under-represented entrepreneurial brands.
* About the symbiotic co-learning traditional CPG’s and entrepreneurial brands share in their journey with The Hatchery.
* How coach-ability is a make-or-break trait for leaders and how to vet for coach-ability in your recruiting process.
* How to become a Hatchery brand or partner.
* About Natalie’s trend forecasting super-powers and how it supports The Hatchery’s entrepreneurs.

Gooder Podcast

Food and Beverage Innovation, Begins and Ends with People featuring Natalie Shmulik, The Hatchery

About Natalie Shmulik:

Natalie Shmulik is The Hatchery’s CEO, and go-to resource for everything food business related. Along with an M.L.A. in Gastronomy from Boston University, she has a wide range of experience working with supermarkets, culinary publications, consumer packaged goods companies, and food service establishments. After successfully operating her own restaurant, Natalie was hired as a specialty consultant for one of Ontario’s largest supermarket chains where she enhanced consumer experiences through educational initiatives. Discovering her passion for innovation, Natalie was brought on as a brand strategist for the first cold brew tea company and later moved to Chicago to run The Hatchery Chicago.

With over six years of food incubation experience, Natalie has gained a unique perspective on the industry and what it takes to launch and grow a successful business. Natalie is a regular contributor to Food Business News, was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune’s 10 Business People to Watch in 2020 and received the Specialty Food Association’s award for leadership in vision. She continues to play a valuable role in branding and marketing for food businesses around the country, with her specialty in trend forecasting.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalie-shmulik-1432313b/

Email: info@thehatcherychicago.org

Show Notes:

The Hatchery:  A non-profit food and beverage incubator dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs build & grow successful businesses.

ICNC: Industria Council of Nearwest Chicago offers entrepreneurs an innovative community to grow small businesses through incubation, workforce development, neighborhood planning, and business advising.

ACCION: A nonprofit microlender providing small businesses with loans at an early stage, particularly to support those that aren’t bankable yet.

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
all Insights

Reimagining Well Being Snacking with Brigette Wolf, Mondelēz International

Gooder Podcast with Brigette Wolf

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

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

In this episode, we learn:

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

Reimagining Well Being Snacking with Brigette Wolf, Mondelēz International

About Brigette Wolf:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Resources:

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

Diana Fryc

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

Connect with Diana
all Insights

The Future of Plant Based Period Products with Denielle Finkelstein, TOP

Gooder Podcast Featuring Denielle Finkelstein

In today’s episode, we are joined by a highly accomplished retail executive with a proven track record in growing large scale businesses profitably and creating new business opportunities within brands, sharp business acumen with a keen ability to assess business conditions and manage towards opportunity with a relentless focus on the customer, Denielle Finkelstein, President and Co-Founder of TOP (the organic project). She is experienced in overseeing brand development and strategy, launching businesses, Omni-channel merchandising, marketing, international expansion and operations. She is also recognized as a passionate and strategic leader, known for relationship building.

Join us as we dive deep into healthy living, her organic business, plant-based organic period products and the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur and how to overcome them. We discuss the decisions that helped her leave the retail fashion world to focus on a passion and build a brand (from the ground up) to tackle the legacy taboo of period products, building a greener product and doubling down on the leadership and innovation that she’s been craving.

In this episode we learn:

  • The genesis of The Organic Movement (TOP) – organic/natural period products.
  • How Gen Z is changing the conversation around personal care and period products.
  • What plant-based innovation has been a game-changer for the brand and the industry.
  • How the leadership experience of a large retail brand helps, and hinders the start-up business process.
  • The challenges legacy conventional brands may have converting natural shoppers.
  • What period poverty is and how pervasive it is in the United States.
  • Denielle’s call to arms to major period product brands.
Gooder Podcast

The Future of Plant Based Period Products with Denielle Finkelstein, TOP

About Denielle Finkelstein:

Denielle Finkelstein, President and Co-Founder of TOP (the organic project) was raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. Post graduation, she moved to NYC with her future husband and started her career in fashion retail at Ann Taylor. She went on to executive merchandising roles at Coach, Kate Spade and Talbots. She was always recognized for her strength in building businesses, finding the white space and managing high performing teams. At the height of her career, she began looking for more purpose in her work and how she could do things differently for future generations.

After spending 22 years in fashion retail and sitting in the C-suite, she took the best risk both professionally and personally and left the corporate world to join Thyme Sullivan, to launch TOP the organic project. As moms, they went searching for organic period products that were healthy and safe for their girls and the environment and came away empty-handed. They have set out to build TOP as a business to drive positive social and environmental change.  TOP is bringing innovation to period products with Organic and Plant-based Tampons & Pads.  What we put in and on our bodies matters more than ever!

Show Resources:

TOP (the organic project) – We are here to educate, enlighten, and embarrass ourselves so that every girl and woman on the planet has access to healthy, 100% organic, eco-loving tampons and pads. and every step of the way, we’ll inspire stigma-shattering conversations about periods.

Poo-Pourri – We’re Poo~Pourri. A poop-positive brand dumping the shame around the things we *all* do. We deliver quality products made with natural essential oils that leave the bathroom smelling amazing and liberate you from harmful ingredients and inhibiting worries.

Beautycounter – One by one, we are leading a movement to a future where all beauty is clean beauty. We are powered by people, and our collective mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. Formulate, advocate, & educate—that’s our motto for creating products that truly perform while holding ourselves to unparalleled standards of safety. Why? It’s really this simple: beauty should be good for you.

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
all Insights

Living Your Truth: Linda’s B-Corp Story featuring Linda Appel Lipsius, Teatulia Organic Teas

Gooder Podcast with Linda Appel Lipsius

Ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages is a category where consumers are continually demanding more from the brands they bring into their homes and lives — especially Gen Z. Features, benefits, and ingredients are table stakes, and as the natural products industry continues to become increasingly competitive, Brand has become more important. How a brand operates in relation to employees, environmental footprint, and business ethics that are paramount to this group.

Straight from the center of the naturals universe in Denver Colorado – join Linda Appel Lipsius (Co-Founder of Teatulia) and I as we cover everything people, planet, and profitability and how a B-Corp certification helps brands like Teatulia lean into their missions. Learn why Linda says “Gen Z will save the world.”

In this episode we learn:

  • Linda’s journey and aha moment creating the Teatulia brand.
  • What Gen Z and Millennials expect from brands and employers right now.
  • That investment in company culture and employees can have a higher than expected ROI than other typical “benefit” investments.
  • What a B-Corp is: It’s importance to and impact on business.
  • How the tips and tools that B-Corp provides can help brands become better business leaders.
  • About trends in beverage, functional ingredients, and innovation in powdered/crystalized beverages.
Gooder Podcast

Living Your Truth: Linda’s B-Corp Story featuring Linda Appel Lipsius, Teatulia Organic Teas

About Linda Appel Lipsius:

Linda Appel Lipsius is the Co-Founder of Teatulia Organic Teas. Since 2006, she’s been working with her partners in Bangladesh to bring premium, 100% Organic, direct-sourced teas & herbs to the United States. Teatulia produces innovative, delicious & award-winning hot teas, foodservice iced teas & canned RTD teas that are sold throughout the U.S in grocery, foodservice, and online. Lipsius has built a universally-respected brand known for doing things better. From the 3,000-acre regenerative tea garden itself to Teatulia’s stunningly sustainable packaging to the long list of awards Teatulia has received for quality and using business as a force for good. Named one of Food & Wine/ Fortune’s 20 Most Innovative Women in Food & Wine, one of Denver Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business, and a frequent public speaker, she is a leading voice on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to sustainable business practices to the food & beverage industry in general.

In 2012, Linda also started the mama ‘hood,a resource for new & expecting moms & their families, and opened Teatulia Tea & Coffee Bar next door to Teatulia’s Denver Headquarters. Previously, Linda was VP International with Orange Glo International (OGI) – makers of OxiClean, Kaboom, Orange Glo and Orange Clean – and Account Manager for Young & Rubicam. A Denver Native, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Columbia University in New York City and her MBA in Finance from New York University before moving to Washington, DC, London, Los Angeles then back to Denver.

She currently lives in downtown Denver with her filmmaker husband and her two children. In her spare time, Linda hangs with her kiddos, escapes to the mountains, devours movies & books, runs, cycles and practices yoga to keep her head & heart clear.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/linda-appel-lipsius/

Email: Linda@teatulia.com

Show Resources:

Teatulia – Organic hot and ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and beverages. Teatulia’s single-garden direct, sustainably grown teas hail from our very own tea garden in the Tetulia region of Northern Bangladesh. We created a new tea-growing region, nestled between Assam and Darjeeling at the base of the Himalayas, which has introduced the unique flavor profile of Bangladesh teas to the rest of the world.B-Corp – Certification for businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.Athleta – Clothing that integrates performance and technical features for active women and girls. A division of the GAP.Jeni’s Ice Cream – An artisan ice cream company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Jeni’s has over 40 branded ‘scoop shops’, and retail distributors nationally.Built from the ground up with superlative ingredients.Wisdom Supply Co – Environmental office and school supplies. “We curate + design products that prevent waste, for good. Waste is a design flaw.”Patagonia – An American clothing company that markets and sells outdoor clothing. The company was founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, and is based in Ventura, California.Kehe Distributors – With more than 5,500 employee-owners and a 16-distribution center network across North America, we’re one of the largest and most respected national fresh, natural & organic and specialty food distributors.Kroger – 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, operating nearly 2,800 stores.Costco – An American multinational corporation that operates a chain of membership-only warehouse clubs. Everything you could want in but and a $1.50 hot dog!Rise Coffee –  A New York-based nitro cold brew coffee company specializing in nitrogen-infused organic coffee and sourcing Fair Trade organic beans from Peru’s Chanchamayo Valley

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
all Insights

Brand Innovation: When You Can Make Anything, What Should You Make?

Manufacturing capability, ingredient access, and direct sales channels mean that brands in the natural food and beverage category today can pretty much make and market anything they want.

But a blue-sky approach to innovation isn’t particularly helpful. If you can make and market virtually anything, then how can you possibly decide what ideas to act on?

Instead of limitless innovation, you need boundaries to frame the discussion about how to grow your offering. And the source of those boundaries is your brand strategy.

Six Types of Brand Innovation

First, let’s look at the six primary areas for innovation in the naturals category:

Form factor innovation — We hold up Califia Farms as the prototypical example. Califia’s curvy, nostalgic bottle shape exploded all the conventions of milk and juice packaging.

Product innovation — Probably the most common and consistently deployed type of innovation, this involves new flavors, ingredients, and similar or tangential products (like expanding from beef to plant-based jerky or adding organic salsa to go with your organic multigrain corn chips).

Channel innovation — This means finding new places and ways to sell your stuff. When we worked with DRY Soda, for example, we identified an opportunity for the brand to expand in the hospitality market, which had a carryover impact that boosted their retail sales, as well.

Operational innovation — Think people, processes, and systems. This type of innovation is often tasked with driving cost-saving or improving efficiency. Your team should constantly be looking to streamline ops.

Marketing innovation — Not just a new tagline or social campaign; true innovation in marketing involves significant changes in sales and promotion, pricing, packaging, and communication strategy.

Cultural innovation — Internal shifts that reshape the organization, teamwork, and values. Cultural innovation often follows a major reboot in the brand strategy.

Brand Strategy as a Framework for Innovation

Brand strategy should inform all types of innovation. Back to our original question: If you can make and market anything, what should you make and market?

In other words, where does the brand have permission from customers to grow?

Think of a Venn diagram with two circles representing the consumer’s need and the brand’s mission: Your opportunity for innovation lies in the overlap.

Disregard both the consumer and your brand promise, and your innovation will bounce all over the place. You’ll toss a bunch of products out there to see what sticks, constantly shift your messaging in search of the right tone of voice, play the price-discount game. And you’ll never have a sense of what works and why. Willy Wonka was in a constant state of innovation (chewing gum that replicated a turkey dinner, anyone?) and we all know it didn’t go well; he was all about his own joy in experimentation, not about the people he was creating for.

Armed with a strong strategic foundation for your better-for-you brand and a deep understanding of your consumer, you’ll have a roadmap for creating new products that reflect your brand’s promise. You won’t have to test-market 15 new flavors; you can confidently launch 5 you know your audience will respond to. You won’t have to chase the next pumpkin-spice trend.

An innovation miss, on the other hand, has the potential to unravel the brand story you’ve worked so hard to create. You’ll be perceived as inauthentic and opportunistic rather than as a citizen brand.

Case Study in Product Innovation: HighKey Snacks

The low-carb Keto-friendly brand HighKey came to us when they sought to expand from the DTC channel to big-box retail. They were competing in a crowded Keto market, and their world was about to get even more cut-throat. During our 360° strategic review of the brand, we discovered that they were speaking to the wrong audience. They thought their fanbase was made up of protein shake-chugging workout dudes; rather, it was busy moms seeking to manage their weight and unwilling to compromise on taste and convenience.

With this insight, we helped them reformulate their brand’s why, along with a total packaging and messaging overhaul. As important, though, we helped them rein in their innovation pipeline. The team had far too many product ideas in the works; we helped them focus on products that would mesh the brand’s values — low-carb snacks with amazing texture and flavor — with the customer’s desire to not feel like she’s missing out. Once we figured out who the true HighKey customer was, we figured out the products that she’d put into her purse and pantry.

Case Study in Form Factor Innovation: NuTraditions

This third-generation Chinese American-owned company came to us as they planned to relaunch the brand to capture the attention of stressed-out consumers. The company has long sold traditional Chinese herbal products, and it had a great backstory, but it needed a modern brand strategy. We helped them focus on a mission: using natural methods to restore balance to hectic everyday life.

They had a library of potential products, and we advised them to hone in on clean energy and clean sleep products for launch. The natural sleep aid isn’t a pill or beverage, but a dissolvable strip that melts on the tongue. A second product, a ginseng-infused coffee that provides alertness and sustained energy, comes in K-cup brewing pods. The two products work together to help people sleep well and get through their days without the up/down dynamic of caffeine and sleeping meds.

For NuTraditions, innovation meant looking at a three-circle Venn — the brand’s mission, consumer trends, and manufacturing capability. At its reboot, the company is well-poised for future product launches and smart growth.

In life and in business, we need guard rails to keep us from skidding off the road. A strong brand strategy is the guard rails for innovation, helping you answer the question: Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

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
all Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

3 Questions to Ask if Change is Inevitable

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

What is your assessment of the internal team?

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

How bad is it?

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

Have you budgeted for this?

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

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

Diana Fryc

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

Connect with Diana
all Insights

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

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

Plant-Based Protein

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

Sugar-Free or Low-Sugar Beverages

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

Ethnic Flavors

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

Biohacking

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

Root to Stem

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

Meal Delivery

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

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

Cannabis and Hemp Infusion

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

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

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

Diana Fryc

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

Connect with Diana