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Expand Your Brand Globally Like Starbucks, Disney and Sur la Table

As a parent, it’s almost impossible not to appreciate the genius of Disney’s branding.

Not only has Disney developed design language that’s about as evocative as it gets (consider the reality that just seeing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears can transport a child and even some adults to a different world) — they’ve also done a remarkable job of universalizing their brand. There are Disney stores and theme parks all over the world, and parents from Japan to the UK have rolled their eyes and reluctantly given in to an umpteenth viewing of Frozen. Disney is one of the few, notable brands that all of us across the globe have in common.

Disney’s success is not due to the fact that their movies are fantastic (they are) or that their theme parks are the “Happiest Places on Earth” (they are, unless you’re a parent with cranky toddlers) but that they’ve figured out how to speak to a universal truth: We all need a little magic in our lives.

The thing that makes Disney “Disney” is not their characters or their theme parks but the magic they inspire.

What is Universal About Your Brand?

Before marketing your brand on a global level, you have to recognize the intrinsic aspect of your brand that can speak to people all over the world, regardless of how old they are, where they live, how much money they make, or what they do. This is the universal truth of your brand — it should drive your brand promise and serve as the foundation for both your local and global marketing strategy.

To figure out your brand’s universal truth, go back to the basics. Strip the graphical identity you’ve developed away and think about the primary reason someone (anyone, in fact) would be interested in your product.

To start, ask: What is it about your brand that speaks to a more basic, instinctual need? If you’re in the food and beverage industry, you can stand on the promise that your product meets a universal need to eat or drink. That’s simple enough, right? But truly setting your brand apart requires tapping into a deeper human longing for love, acceptance, security, adventure — whatever the case may be. This connection to a higher need is your brand’s bread and butter.

Starbucks and the Need for Belonging

Starbucks is one of the most widely recognized and globally successful brands of all time, and it’s because they’ve made their universal truth an integral part of their brand. No matter where you live or where you’re from, you understand that Starbucks is a brand for coffee drinkers across the spectrum. No matter how simple or sophisticated your tastes may be, Starbucks creates a coffee house culture for everyone.

Starbucks is a brand that translates everywhere, from small-town America all the way to the Great Wall of China, because it conveys a universal truth: We all want a warm drink and a place to gather together. But maybe more importantly, the brand speaks to a deeper longing — that we all want a place where we can do those things and feel like we belong, whether we’re ordering an Americano or a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Starbucks lets you be whatever kind of coffee drinker or really, person, you need to be.

Sur La Table and the Creative Spirit

A few years ago, we worked with Sur La Table, a US-based kitchenware company. They had experienced success within their local market but were looking to expand — specifically to the United Arab Emirates. Like many companies delving into global branding for the first time, they had no idea where to start.

A lot of agencies faced with Sur La Table’s predicament would have recommended completely rebranding these new Middle Eastern stores to fit some misplaced perception of what a kitchen store in the UAE should look like. But they would have realized on the other side that these international stores looked and more importantly, felt, nothing like a Sur La Table store.

To reach this new international market, our advice to them was simply to redraft their logo in Islamic script.

We took a much more straightforward approach to their global marketing challenge not because it seemed like the easiest thing to do but because after getting to know their brand, we knew we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel when it came to their brand strategy.

Our advice stemmed from an understanding and recognition that the Sur La Table brand was already built on the fundamental and universal truth that people cook. Their brand also resonated with this much more interesting concept that the more you cook, the better at it you become — and the more creative you can be.

Sur La Table not only helps you become a more accomplished cook; it provides an outlet for self-expression and creativity. It’s a brand that speaks to a universal need for self-actualization, and that’s a message that’s about as strong as any brand can hope to portray.

Think Universally to Market Globally

Once you’ve uncovered this universal truth and made it a part of your foundational branding strategy, the global marketing process should come naturally.

If you can figure out how your brand connects to a human experience we all share, you don’t need a brand new marketing strategy for each country or region you expand to — you just need to pay attention to how that truth should be expressed in light of different cultural norms.

The key to global marketing is not to make isolated, regional brands work for a global market but to create a universally compelling brand that resonates with markets all over the world.

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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Working with a Creative Agency: What to Expect

If you’ve even begun to dip your toes in the market for a creative agency, chances are you know something is broken with your brand. At the very least, you have the inescapable sense that something’s just not right, not working the way it should.

More often than not, the underlying issue with your brand is hiding in plain sight. But before you can identify what that is, you have to be on the lookout for the symptoms of your problem.

Perhaps your sales are flat or trending downward in a marketplace that’s growing, or you’re dealing with sales that are generally inconsistent and unpredictable. Maybe you’ve had success with an aging audience but are struggling to gain traction with new consumers. Problems with sales like these are typically a strong indicator that there’s a deeper strategic issue with your brand.

High turnover or changes in your company’s leadership or product line can also signal that you need help from a branding agency. Sometimes, particularly in the case of turnover, these symptoms can reveal evidence that your internal brand is broken. Other times, there’s nothing technically wrong with your brand, but new leadership or products mandate a change all the same.

The important thing is to be aware and acknowledge that you have a problem, even if you don’t exactly know what the root of the problem is. If you’re looking to hire a strategic branding partner with that knowledge in mind, you’re on the right track.

What a Brand Strategy Agency Is — and Isn’t

There is a lot of ambiguity around what a branding agency actually is, and that muddiness has regrettably caused misplaced mistrust in creative agencies as a whole. And why wouldn’t it?

You’ll find so many agencies that call themselves branding agencies, but what they’re really doing is brand application — for all intents and purposes, they’re graphic designers. Graphic designers absolutely have their place in the market, but if you’re looking for creative solutions to fix a more fundamental problem with your brand, you’re starting in the wrong place.

Maybe you know something is broken with your brand, or maybe you just need help figuring out where those weak links might be. Either way, you need a brand strategy agency, plain and simple. They’re the ones who will be able to strengthen your brand for future success and elasticity.

Brand Strategy and Creative Strategy Are Not the Same Thing

So many potential clients walk into our doors thinking they have one issue when they actually have another.

Case in point: We had a brand come to us asking for billboards they wanted to put up around town. As we got deeper into conversations with them, however, we realized that their problem wasn’t that they weren’t doing enough advertising — their problem was that their brand was fundamentally broken. We were blunt and directed them that if they fixed their brand first, a solution to their advertising woes would naturally follow.

Unfortunately, strategy can be a tough sell for our potential partners. Strategic consulting isn’t sexy, like a billboard or a magazine ad, and it can’t deliver instant gratification like a creative deliverable can. Combine that with upper management teams who tend to prioritize time and budget over all else, and the decision to hire a brand strategy agency can be a hard pill to swallow.

But if you want to strengthen your brand, you have to be open to beginning with brand strategy. Brand strategy births creative output, not the other way around. Don’t be afraid to invest in your branding strategy — you’ll be glad you did, and so will your superiors.

Ask the Right Questions

If you want to find the right branding agency (or really, if you want to know if it’s the right time for your brand to work with a strategic firm at all), you have to ask the right questions. When it comes down to it, we recommend you start with one fundamental question: “What is my end goal?”

Your end goal is not a packaging system or some other creative output. Your end goal is defining your target audience, finding new channels, or increasing turn on shelves. Make your brand strategy about an end game, not a deliverable.

It’s that simple. Instead of saying, “I need new packaging,” ask “Why do I need new packaging?” If you can ask the “why” questions, the right agency will know the right questions to ask in return.

Trust the Experts

So you’ve asked the right questions and found an agency with a history of growing and evolving brands through brand and creative strategy. Perfect. The foundation of trust has to begin with the hiring decision.

Very few of us would presume to dictate how our doctor analyzes our health or provides care when we’re sick — and with good reason, right? We recognize that a doctor is a licensed medical professional, and we, with a few exceptions, are not. The same level of trust should hold true when you work with a branding agency. Once your brand makes the decision to hire an agency, feel confident that you’ve hired an expert and trust them to do their job with the tried-and-true processes they have in place.

It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re working with the right brand strategy agency, you should know off the bat that results will not happen overnight.

If you want immediate results, there are certainly agencies out there that can deliver Band-Aid solutions, (though they may not admit as much). But real strategy that produces lasting results takes time. You can’t hurry the process.

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 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.


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.

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Diet Coke’s Rebrand: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Article after article has praised Diet Coke for making this “bold” move. However, most fail to recognize the flawed strategy behind the design and potential dangers in some of their design and messaging decisions.

Diet Coke’s new look aims to attract health-conscious millennials by adding four new flavors, modernizing the typography of the Coke logo, adding color and illustrations to the package, and introducing a slimmer 12 oz. can.

Although the brand seems to have good intentions, Diet Coke misses the mark in our books. This is a classic example of a brand attempting to target a particular audience without really understanding said audience and using faux innovation to cover up gaps in their brand strategy.

The Good: What They Got Right

The move to a sleek, slimmer can heightens the illusion of a “diet” soda being a healthier choice. This move, reminiscent of Sparkling Ice, gives off a lighter, high-end feel. Additionally, in most of their messaging the brand leaves out the word “soda” completely. Reframing the brand as a sparkling beverage instead of a soda positions it to seem healthier and more adult-friendly. The brand seems to have taken a page right out of DRY Sparkling’s book with this move.

As we all know, bottled water sales now far outpace soda sales in the U.S. and sparkling water is rapidly approaching that milestone as well. Strategically introducing four new fruity flavors to the Diet Coke line potentially threatens to grab market share from millennial LaCroix lovers. Targeting this booming demographic – although not necessarily revolutionary – is a smart move. Millennials hold tremendous buying power, so it would be foolish for a brand to ignore this influence.

“From the vector illustrations to the ‘fresh’ new flavor names, they’re screaming at a Millennial and Gen Z audience saying, ‘Hey, remember Diet Coke, the original diet beverage? We’re not a normal soda, we’re a cool soda.’” – Kat Simpson, designer at Retail Voodoo

Unfortunately, we’re not sure those “hip” new flavors (like twisted mango) will be used for what Diet Coke intended. Instead, we feel they’re just one step away from partnering with Smirnoff. These “feisty” flavors scream college party mixer. From their messaging, it seems like they’re trying to give consumers “what they wanted.” but it feels more like they are trying to re-engage those consumers that have already grown out of the soda phase of life. Although we don’t see the new flavors being consumed in a way Diet Coke intended, we can see them being used a bit more than the classic flavor is being used currently. But hey, at least we can see the flavors being embraced on some level – even if it’s not the intended one.

The Bad: What They Got Wrong

In terms of identity, Diet Coke failed to meet our expectations. The design and messaging changes feel disjointed and misleading. The flavor illustrations feel like an afterthought and destroy the only interesting new element of the can: the stripe.

“You can start to believe that the reduction of graphics and exposed can is like wearing a bikini after a diet, but those illustrations stop any dreamy visions you have like that.” – Eric Wyttenbach, senior designer at Retail Voodoo

The flavor naming conventions try to be young but just seem confused (twisted mango, zesty blood orange, feisty cherry, ginger lime). What’s so feisty about cherry Coke? They really feel like party drinks, not healthy and refreshing alternative beverages. And although as we stated before, this might potentially give a bump in sales, it won’t be among the target demographic nor will these flavors expand Diet Coke’s reach into new realms as this redesign intended.

The Ugly: The Bottom Line

A pretty new package, strong advertising, and fun messaging might be enough to briefly drop Diet Coke back into this audience’s consideration set. But when this audience takes one look at the label and sees that aspartame is still present, they’ll place it back on shelf and avoid it like the plague.

“News flash: Millennials and Gen Y are label readers.” – David Lemley, founder & chief strategist at Retail Voodoo

Although messaging and design updates attempt to communicate health, the brand still uses the harmful ingredients that repelled these consumers in the first place. Ultimately, Millennials will never replace their LaCroix (or any sparkling water for that matter) with soda.“This feels like a disingenuous move driven by a desire to pander to younger audiences and health-conscious consumers, but I predict both audiences will see through it and shun the can as a poser.” – Jacob Carter, design director at Retail Voodoo

Diet Coke’s VP of marketing is quoted in AdAge as saying that they didn’t want to change the formula for fear of risking their current loyal audience. They ignore the fact that nutrition and ingredient labels are important to most young people. Looking on-trend doesn’t matter when the product is full of unhealthy ingredients. If Diet Coke really wanted to make a bold move, they would have removed aspartame fully.

Diet Coke’s redesign is a prime example of why diet soda sales continue to fall. Brands focus on the exterior appearance of their products without addressing the real issues lurking beneath the surface.

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 “Old” Versus “New” Design Language of Healthy Brands

Up until the last several years, there was a specific formula for the package design of natural and healthy food products. The target market of conscious consumers was small and looked for a very particular set of design cues to signal the niche natural food category.

However, nowadays, these brands are making healthy living more accessible to the average consumer. The claim of all-natural or organic is no longer a differentiator because it’s all over the shelves. Natural is no longer a luxury – it’s an expectation.

So, how do brands redesign their brands and packaging to stand out among these cluttered shelves of sameness? As the target market has expanded and evolved, so has the design language. These new cues speak to consumers in new, disruptive ways. For the brands not speaking this language fluently yet, it’s time to make some bold changes and reimagine the way they communicate their product’s benefits on-shelf.

Bob’s Red Mill vs. Lark Ellen Farm

Bob’s Red Mill used to scream healthy. Only the stereotypical health nuts would go straight for their bags when they saw them on-shelf. Now, it just screams outdated and makes you feel like it has been sitting on the shelves for a few months. The natural colors now feel dull and flavorless. The picture of the elderly Bob used to signify longevity, now it translates to all of the negative connotations of the word old. Instead of thinking, “Wow, if I eat this, I’ll grow to be that old someday,” people think, “Wow, only old people eat this.” Quaker Oats went through a large rebrand to make their mascot Larry appear younger for this exact same reason.

Bob’s Red Mill used to signal healthiness because it had a lot of information all in one place. The cluttered design and small text told the consumer there was a lot of health talk going on. With all those words, they must know what they’re doing – right?

For a consumer who is not naturally inclined to pick up a healthy product, this high density of information on-package can be a huge deterrent. It triggers the thought, “I don’t have the time to learn about this!” so they just grab the comfortable, unhealthy brand that doesn’t make them read or think too much. More modern natural brands have positioned themselves now to be far less overwhelming. To show their transparency and the simplicity of their ingredients, they don’t make consumers work to get the answers or information they need. It’s a reduction in information and increase in simplicity that communicates benefit and lifestyle clearly in-store.

Lark Ellen is the perfect example of this level of simplification. They have three clearly marked areas of information – the most important ones being readable from a few feet away. It also helps that it feels bright and lively while maintaining a healthy vibe. The hand-drawn ingredients contrasted with the window to the real ingredients shows whimsy and transparency. The playfulness of the illustrations is an invitation rather than a distraction.

Lay’s Natural vs. Uglies

You see the Lay’s logo, and you immediately think unhealthy. It’s hard for the brand to have any semblance of health because of its reputation for salty, fatty snacks. The illustrated farmland in the background originally signaled to any shopper it was more natural than the usual, regular old chip. Showing cues of farmers or farmland is one of the oldest tricks in the “Make This Product Look Natural” handbook. However, that’s about it. The packaging differentiated the natural product from the traditional just enough. Nowadays, health-conscious consumers skim over this package—it blends into the product line and doesn’t offer any value besides “natural-ish.”

Uglies, on the other hand, educates the consumer through creative copy and visual storytelling as to the value of the product beyond just a chip. Many natural products originally look funky and weird before they’re manicured for consumption. It used to be common practice to hide this by showing the prettiest, most perfect chip on the package, which left the concept of authenticity at the wayside. But now, there’s this celebration of ugly. That’s why this packaging works so well. It’s embracing natural for what it is and finding joy in telling that “imperfect” story. Not only that, but it also promotes the reduction of food waste and makes ugly food more appealing to the average consumer. The simple colors, unique typography, and cute illustrations work together to communicate a trial-worthy product.

Adams vs. Wild Friends

Adams—western, wild, natural. The gradations of color and old western style typography gave you a sense of nostalgia to simpler times. When this packaging was designed, the big “100% Natural” probably jumped out at customers from the shelf. Now, we just expect to see that label. Most consumers hardly even notice it.

In stark contrast to that aesthetic, Wild Friends nut butters jump from the shelf into the consumer’s cart because of the vibrant colors and friendly illustrations. It makes the customer feel youthful and playful. There’s an immediate whimsical feel when you view this packaging. Whimsy is a cue many natural brands use to help consumers understand they can feel good about what they eat while also having it taste great.

It’s uplifting – you can tell by the craft design cues that whoever makes this product feels a sense of pride in their product. Wild Friends tells their origin story upfront in a relatable way. This squirrel acts as a mascot of clean, delicious nut butters and leaves an emotional (and therefore long-lasting) impression on consumers.

Mountain House vs. Patagonia Provisions

Mountain House was one of the first brands to pioneer the category that answered the consumer need for portable, practical, and tasty backpacking food. At the time, they had a great idea. They put beautiful photos of a place anyone would love to set up a campsite, large and prominent on the front. It was all about the activity of the consumer and did not say too much about the product itself or the lifestyle associated with it.

As this category of packaged goods continues to expand to accommodate a wider audience of backpackers and people looking for more from their snacks, Patagonia has stepped up to the plate. Being a premium brand known for having a triple bottom line and a deep understanding of their consumers, Provisions was a natural brand extension for them to move into a new outdoor category: food. They come with a promise—one they don’t have to shout from the package because they use purity of color and youthfulness to communicate it. The vintage style illustrations and simple typography communicate the natural and pure elements of their food, rather than drool-worthy photos of mountains. In the case of Patagonia Provisions, if you took the Patagonia name and logo off the package, their packaging looks like a kick-starter, “the food chain needs fixing,” kind of brand. It harkens back the same feeling you get when you look at something from the Audubon society, but with more joy and celebration about the ingredients.

The natural category used to rely on complex packaging. It needed to scream “outdoors” or “natural” or “healthy” from the shelf, and need to explain itself far more than it does now. And as the natural sector has evolved, so have the design cues. Healthy and natural foods have become far more accessible to the average customer, which means the packaging must speak on that same wavelength. Simplicity translates to transparency and makes information easy to understand and find. Bright and vibrant colors evoke joyful feelings of youth and vitality. Illustrations and unique typography show how the product amplifies and enhances the consumer’s lifestyle. And finally, this concept of a celebration of natural builds an emotional bond with the consumer and feels extremely authentic. Understanding these changes and anticipating the next evolution of design will keep your brand ahead of the curve in the healthy food category.

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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Healthy Food Movements That Will Gain Popularity in 2018

We live in a fast-paced world where we’re surrounded by innovation. It’s tricky to keep up with the hottest trends – especially in the better-for-you sector. It seems like every day, we’re hearing about a new advancement in food or beauty.

More and more, brands are making healthy living accessible and mainstream. Complex concepts like plant-based protein are becoming far more approachable for the average consumer. Niche products and trends previously reserved only for the “healthy elite” aren’t novelty anymore.

Edible Collagen

Functional foods boomed over the past year as consumers continue to become more impatient and demand more value from their foods. We anticipate edible collagen is the next mainstream extension of this movement.

Foods infused with collagen and amino acids (what collagen is composed of) have begun to spring up in the marketplace. Increasing your body’s collagen has been linked to diminished signs of aging (like wrinkles or thin skin), boosting metabolism, strengthening hair and nails, reducing cellulite, providing joint pain relief (especially in runners’ knees), and improving mental health.

Bone broth is the most notable fad we predict will take off in the next year. It’s an easy-to-make, convenient, and tasty vehicle for getting more collagen in your diet. Already, brands like Bonafide Provisions and BRU are making bone broth in consumer-friendly bottles ready for grab-and-go.

Floral Flavors

As the food industry moves toward healthier options, consumers demand more complex and imaginative flavors. Palates have stopped craving super-sweet, dense flavors as natural ingredients become more prevalent and common.

We predict this will impact the dessert and beverage industries the most. People already flock for lavender-flavored ice cream – but that’s just the beginning. Floral, fragrant flavors feel sophisticated, making consumers feel a heightened sense pride in their perceived culinary prowess. Additionally, the floral – rather than sickly sweet – aroma makes consumers feel like they’re making healthier choices.

This trend – seen as craft and niche until now – will become much more mainstream in the coming years. For example, Whole Foods’ 365 label already has a lemon lavender granola and violet marshmallows. Keep your eyes peeled for floral dairy, baked goods, beverages, soups, desserts, teas, and more hitting conventional grocery soon.

Hybrid Food

We’ve heard of the cronut craze, Doritos Locos Tacos, or seen pictures of coffee in a cone on Instagram. Although this trend might seem over-played, it has yet to ramp up in the health food sector. Until recently, hybrid food lives among desserts and comfort food.

Now, healthy hybrid foods are finally having their moment. Moving away from the decadence and spectacle of unhealthy hybrid foods, the health food industry masterfully engineers mash-ups to make healthy eating more diverse and enjoyable for all. For example, take Broffee (a hybrid of coffee and bone broth) – it’s a small tweak to combine two things people love. It combines the trends of collagen, alternative protein, and energy into a portable, tasty blend. These more subtle combinations and alterations on familiar staples are far more approachable and something consumers can adopt for longer than just a passing fad.

Plant-Based Protein

The rehabilitation of science has made people more comfortable with science and food engineering as long as it’s ethical and transparent. Scientific manipulations of food allow for endless protein alternatives. Now, instead of a rare novelty, plant-based protein prevails.

With increased consumer education, shoppers are understanding the benefits of plant-based protein. Although many consumers have yet to fully understand the concept, their shopping and consumption habits already align with the trend. Making the step won’t be too much of a stretch for most of them. For example, the Impossible Burger is a plant-based patty that “bleeds” just like a beef patty. It makes it feel like a much more natural transition from meat.

From tomato tuna to pea milk to avocado ice cream – plant-based alternatives are here to stay.

Functional Drinks

People are hacking the food chain little by little to maximize nutrient benefits and get the most out of their food. This goes beyond just eating a balanced diet – it’s all about eating the right combination of things and the right time in the right amount (also called “bioavailability”). Functional drinks have gained popularity because they combine many different nutrients in one easy-to-consume form.

Prebiotics (essentially the “food” for probiotics) are a terrific example of this concept. Combined, prebiotics and probiotics protect your body against harmful bacteria and promote gut health. One without the other just isn’t as effective. Functional drinks on the market are adopting prebiotics into their formulas to make sure their consumers reap the full benefits of the nutrients in their products.

Eating Evolved, Soylent, and Bulletproof are just a few of the companies leading the way in this movement. Functional drinks like this easily supplement healthy diets, appeal to the on-the-go consumer, and are growing in popularity by the second.

As consumers become increasingly aware of the benefits of new and exciting variants of ancient ingredients, we can’t wait to watch more and more of them take personal nutrition into their own hands.

These concepts might not become “popular” this coming year, but we see them becoming more mainstream and receiving increased media attention. Overall, we can’t always predict exactly which foods or movements will trend over the next year. However, our research, experience, and intuition can inform us so we can make an educated guess.

Keep an eye on the shelves, devour industry publications, and pick the brains of fellow thought-leaders to stay up-to-date on the most recent trends in your category. Use these rising movements and changes in consumer behavior to grow your brand and drive meaningful innovation.

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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How and Why You Should Target Generation Z Through Branding

Predicting market trends and anticipating consumer shifts can make or break your company. However, we’re so often hyper-focused on what’s happening right in front of us, we forget to look ahead. Don’t let Gen Z sneak up on you – arm yourself early with data and resources to engage this consumer base effectively and powerfully.

You might not have the time or the resources to fully understand how this up-and-coming generation will affect your brand, so we’ve done the work for you.

Who is Gen Z?

Remember when Millennials overtook Generation X? Well, it’s about to happen again – but this time with Generation Z. Born between the years 1997 and 2015, this group currently makes up 26 percent of the population. Undeniably, marketers need to pay attention to this demographic before it’s too late.

Massive Buying Power

Although they’re young now, Gen Zers already have a combined buying power of $44 billion in the United States. If that wasn’t enough, they also influence $600 billion of family spending and by 2020, they’ll own 40 percent of consumer spending.

Digital Natives

Often referred to as “Digital Natives,” individuals in Gen Z cannot remember a time without Internet. Given this, they spend the majority of their free time online. According to Mediakix, with an eight second attention span, they value speed and ease-of-use.

Their media consumption behaviors differ from previous generations as well. Approximately 85 percent watch anywhere between two and four hours of YouTube per day. They prefer brands communicate with them there as opposed to anywhere else (like television or direct mail). On average, they use five screens – a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and an iPad. That’s a lot of different screens communicating a lot of different messages.

Social Still Rules

Social media heavily impacts the way Gen Zers interact with one another and the way they view themselves. Because everything is so public and visible, personal appearances weigh heavy in their minds. Their parents – mostly Gen Xers – did not grow up with the same technology, so when it became available to them, they went all-in with snapping photos and sharing them with the whole world. Because, why not? Well, now we have an entire generation where their whole lives have been documented online. This is their “normal.”

Desire for Privacy

Since Gen Zers are accustomed to their whole lives being broadcast to the public, they crave privacy. More and more Gen Zers are setting up private social media accounts and being careful about what they post online. While Millennials like to share every experience and every thought with the online world, Gen Zers tend to share things among smaller, more intimate groups of people.

The “Instagram Effect”

The pressures presented by social media are encouraging Gen Zers to spend less on products and more on leisure services, such as vacations, dining out, and going out. This is what we call the “Instagram Effect.” Showing the awesome, cool, aspirational life they’re living draws more attention and satisfaction than just showing the latest, greatest product. Brand-name recognition holds far less credibility – in fact, many Gen Zers are extremely critical and less trusting of brands.


The older Gen Zers watched their families and older siblings suffer financially during the Great Recession. They see Millennials with thousands of dollars in debt and their parents’ businesses scrambling to get back on their feet. Although Gen Zers don’t have their own revenue stream yet, they have still felt the impact of financial crisis. This makes them far more cautious about spending money. They view college more as a time to hit the ground running to prepare for their career rather than a relaxing time of self-discovery.

What does this mean for my brand?

Brands can evolve to reach this new generation of consumers by following these steps:

Cater to Their Unique Shopping Habits

Gen Z individuals are twice as likely to shop on mobile devices – increasing the need for responsive websites and easy-to-navigate apps. Offering mobile-friendly shopping experiences and digestible product education is key. Convenience and visibility are critical here. If your site is too slow to load or difficult to traverse, Gen Zers will abandon ship quickly. More often than not, this generation will see your brand online before they see it on shelf.

This generation searches for information on their own, so proactive marketing will be most effective. Too impatient to wait for it to come to them, Gen Zers seek out to self-educate. They have a do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial mentality from being told “no” time after time during the Recession. They like to take things into their own hands.

Just as they look to their peers and influencers for recommendations on purchase decisions, they also love sharing their own knowledge online. This generation seeks out collaborative engagement and trusts peer recommendations before anything else. Influencing peers and sharing “insider” information on social media gives Gen Zers credibility among their followers. Brands need to give this consumer base easy ways to share this information digitally.

Since this generation lives with almost anything at their fingertips, they demand convenience. With the click of a button, they can have food delivered right to their door from their favorite restaurant in no time. Thousands of movies and television shows exist just beyond the tap of a screen. One-click smart shopping is a must.

Above all, Gen Zers demand speed. As they’ve grown up with quick load times and lightning fast streaming, they have very low tolerance for anything slow. Lagging apps or difficult-to-navigate websites will be the kiss of death for some brands. If a page takes too long to load, 60 percent of this generation won’t use it and will quickly move onto the next.

Put Values First

Gen Zers see themselves as do-gooders. As the most diverse generation, they believe people can coexist in society and want to make the world a more equal and fair place for all.

They’ve grown up seeing the Wall Street protests – rebellion against the establishment is practically in their DNA. They’re label-wary and challenge common “norms” like gender identity. Instead of relying on labels to define their personal identity, they actively craft their own personal brand through shared values.

This generation cares about transparency. They want to know how their beauty products are tested, who made the food they’re about to consume, etc. They will boycott a brand if the owner’s beliefs oppose their own or they don’t treat their employees fairly. Their money-conscious mentality makes them much more thoughtful about every purchase. If they’re spending their hard-earned money, they want to know exactly where it’s going.

With endless information always at their fingertips, anyone can be an “investigator” – looking for the truth behind veils of secrecy so prevalent in corporate America. When brands break their trust, they don’t forget that. Ethical and transparent brands that tell their story will resonate strongly with this generation.

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

The Millennials paved the way for Internet-based innovation. As Gen Zers have grown up with innovation after innovation, they now expect it.

That being said, they’re far less impressed and excited by technological innovation. They crave something more – experience. In-store virtual and augmented reality shopping experiences will define the customer experience in the next few years. This experiential, interactive technology physically connects this generation to brands – therefore building a much stronger bond.

It’s important for brands to offer value beyond the product offering itself. In other words, brands must offer a lifestyle. These price-conscious consumers want to spend on experience, rather than material.

Although this generation has yet to gain their own revenue streams, we can already confidently identify certain characteristics based on behaviors, culture, and history. This generation craves security (in every sense of the word), convenience, innovation, and brands they can connect with on an emotional level. The Recession made them cautious with their spending, but they’ll become brand-loyal when they’re offered what they crave. Educating customers on the value beyond the product itself and providing meaningful experiences will tap into this generation’s massive buying power.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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How to Use Form Factor to Powerfully Transform Your Brand and Disrupt Your Industry

Form factor can either be part of your brand’s selling mechanism or integral to the functionality of the products. In either case, it dramatically impacts how customers are attracted to and interact with your brand.

We can all recognize Coca-Cola’s signature glass bottle silhouette anywhere and can spot a Pringles can from a mile away. Coca-Cola’s glass bottle was created to sell. They wanted to disrupt on-shelf and throw off copycats. The company wanted to be so memorable, someone could feel it in the dark and instantly recognize the brand. The classic Pringles can, on the other hand, was born out of necessity. They wanted a resealable chip vessel to keep their product fresh and a cylindrical, structured shape so their chips would remain aligned and avoid being crushed.

Strategy-driven form factor does not always look this dramatic. Small, subtle changes can influence consumers on a large scale and revolutionize your brand or even your industry. The following examples of how brand strategy can translate into form factor show both sides of this.

Form Follows Function, Right?

Hilary’s Eat Well veggie burgers had a form factor problem the aisle audit revealed during our brand strategy work. Hilary’s veggie burgers were packaged in two-pack, freezer safe pouches. Once the customer purchased a package, the remaining pouches on the shelf fell over (often face-down). This posed a very large problem in terms of visibility on-shelf .

And while the company was aware of this issue, their previous attempts to remedy the situation were engineered too costly and received push-back from Whole Foods and other natural grocers.

The outcomes and goals identified during brand strategy drove the design of the simple recyclable box. This solution improved sustainability (after all, it is a vegan brand), shopability, flavor appeal, and provided room to tell the more compelling story of the brand’s true point of differentiation. The packaging educated customers about the product being convenient culinary and made free-from common food allergens. Who knew a cute little chipboard box could do all that?

Form Informs a New Way to Effectively Reach Your Target Audience

Reaching new audiences is all about understanding how consumers interact with your product. DRY wanted to be known as the go-to sparkling beverage for tastemakers but struggled to gain traction with key bartenders and chefs. This wasn’t because these culinary masters didn’t like the product or refused to use it, no. It was because of the limiting form factor. The small, non-re-sealable 12-ounce bottles made it difficult to work within a hospitality setting. To combat this, DRY created a larger resealable bottle.

Not only did DRY’s new form take off in the hospitality industry, but major retailers took notice as well. Now consumers who wanted larger bottles for parties or entertaining could purchase a re-sealable bottle as well. By changing the form factor, DRY reached new, powerful audiences and provided them with new ways to consume their product.

Form Informs Emotional Connections

Form factor can also be effective in communicating practical uses of products through storytelling. For example, Ruffwear’s mission was to create a deeper bond between people who love the outdoors and their dogs – allowing their companion to accompany them on their epic outdoor adventures. They made mountaineer-quality gear for dogs, but nobody knew this because they cost-engineered their packaging to be as thin and small as possible. It didn’t tell the story. Our brand strategy pulled at the powerful bond between owner and pet. Through emotion-driven customer education on the product attributes, we told their story.

Form Informs the Revolution of Your Industry

The wine industry notoriously feels stuffy – embracing exclusivity and the culinary elite. The beer industry’s reputation, on the other hand, feels more inviting and approachable. A large part of this is form factor of the two beverages. Canned beer is portable and seen as less sophisticated. Wine is known for being bottled and corked; saved for fancy glasses and sit-down dinners.

Underwood effectively flipped this norm on its head. The brand saw the craft beer industry beginning to infiltrate wine’s territory by becoming more of a gourmet, culinary experience – even paired with food on occasion. As the craft beer industry threatened to steal market share, Underwood decided to steal it back by canning their wine – subsequently making it approachable, portable, and unstuffy. Younger audiences can now have quick, adventurous experiences that involve wine without the barriers typically preventing them from consuming wine conveniently. Underwood used form factor to completely upend the industry.

Califia revolutionized their industry as well through form factor. Any shopper can recognize their signature bottle shape with just a quick glance. Their unique, elegant plastic bottle shape disrupted the milk category because the product no longer lived in just the paper carton anymore. The brand wanted to move into the natural, organic, alternative milk category, so their form factor emulated characteristics that would communicate those qualities and shared values to customers. The graceful and iconic shape feels reminiscent of glass milk bottles – evoking a feeling of farm-to-table and reminding customers of the benefit of organic farming. The brand elicits this emotion right from the aisle. Now, customers can find everything Califia (from cold brew to almond milk to juice) in the same form – building a brand connection between completely different areas of the grocery store.

We often get so caught up thinking about graphic design or digital experiences that we forget about the engineering of products and the vessels they live in. Form factor plays just as large of a role – if not more – in influencing consumer’s purchase decisions. It provides the canvas for storytelling and the correct mechanics to optimize performance. Shape, structure, and function can revolutionize an entire brand and even an entire industry.

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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Outdoor and Fitness Brands Ripe for Investment

Last month, we shared which food and beverage brands have potential to make it big. These brands have that something special, but have not quite made it “big.” This month, we’re going to do the same thing, but focusing on another category we work with – outdoor and fitness.

Let’s face it: if you eat healthy, you likely play healthy too. It is the reason why Retail Voodoo works in the intersection of outdoor, better-for-you food and beverage, and health and wellness brands. You’re not likely going to see a runner’s pantry filled with Cheezy Puffs and soda. On the flip side, healthy foods don’t typically sit on the shelves of couch potatoes and slackers. Ask the next teenager you see what they snacked on the last time they played a marathon session of their favorite first-person shooter game. Pretty sure Brad’s Kale Chips isn’t on the list.

The following brands make active lives fun, easy, and approachable. They don’t make you feel like you need to be scaling the Alps or running ultra-marathons to be healthy. They’re not just cool products, no. Each one addresses an unmet need in the market and has the potential to make it big. With private equity and the right strategic help, these brands can really shake up the outdoor and fitness industry.


I was immediately fascinated with this brand when I first saw them in the back tents of Outdoor Retailer a few years back. Their Kangaroo logo grabbed my attention and differentiated them in the category. Their products easily stuff into a pouch-like pocket – making a memorable brand association. Their hammocks are made from lightweight stuffable material and python straps – but that’s not what makes them stand out to me as a leader in the industry.

Growing up, my family lugged around a heavy, military-grade canvas hammock when we camped. It required a degree in engineering to figure out where to hang it and the strength of an ox to actually tie those 100-ton ropes in a way that not only held us in the tree but didn’t destroy the tree in the process. But during my first camping trip using the Kammok hammock, I noticed a fascination by the adults at not only the ease of use, but also the joy and glee of this “cool swingy thing” that the kids could nap and relax in. It’s now a necessity for every future outdoor trip. If we go too long without an adventure, I end up strapping it up on our porch for an extended weekend of relaxing, where it brings the memories of camping home in the few short minutes it takes to set up.

This brand has what it takes to grow so much bigger then it currently is. The versatility and portability of their products meet a gaping need in the marketplace. The ease-of-use makes them approachable to the average Joe and high-tech aspects make it desirable to the avid adventurer. The brand’s rock-solid mission, money-back guarantee, and superior quality make it prime for take off.


This brand takes camping to a new level – literally. When I look at these suspended tents, I immediately think tree forts. If you look at their website, you see amazing images of multiple tents stacked like apartments in the trees, allowing groups of people to share sleeping quarters in the sky, sort of like Ewoks or the creatures in Avatar.

So, let’s talk comfort. Back in my backpacking days (pre-kids), I would have loved this option mostly because no matter how amazing the pad, sleeping on the hard ground after a long hike sometimes just didn’t cut it. I imagine the feeling of being suspended in the trees without the rocks and bumps as near nirvana. I could see my kids finding these fun sleeping quarters incentive to go camping and hiking with great frequency as well.

Again, this brand looks really cool, but it also solves one of the biggest issues with camping: sleeping on the cold, hard ground. It eliminates the need to find a flat surface, opening the world up to all sorts of adventures and possibilities. When you’re no longer confined to a flat space on the ground, the options are virtually limitless. If this brand gets a bit of strategic help, it can easily become a household name.

Tiger Tail

Every active person I know has been to a physical therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor to either fix an injury or correct a problem. Sometimes they just need general relief from their activities or life stress. This use-at-home, complete set of massage tools is easy to understand and not terribly expensive. It enables people to self-treat in the comfort of their own homes and on their own schedules.

As I’ve been watching this brand navigate a very convoluted market, it reminds me lot of compression socks and how those have become the go-to product for athletes and exercise fans. It fills a hole by bringing affordability and convenience into the marketplace. Physical therapy becomes less daunting and scary. Athletes and busy-bodies alike enjoy feeling empowered and independent (especially when something is out of their control) – Tiger Tail provides just that. It won’t be too long before everyone and their sister needs to have a set of these tools to help with body recovery when they can’t get to a therapist.


I’ve been following this Northwest brand since I met the founder on the floor of Outdoor Retailer a few years back. This brand has much stronger positioning than the others I’ve mentioned. They anchor themselves in sisterhood first, then a running brand second. The brand focuses on the needs of women athletes – but not in a dainty, “this is the ‘girls’ version of a masculine brand” way. However, despite their strong positioning, they fail to actively leverage it in their communication. This brand has the legs to compete heavily against the lululemons of the world. It’s almost there – it just needs that extra push.

Outdoor and fitness brands often suffer with brand positioning. They want to be coolest, hard-core-est, intense-est, or planet-loving-est brand in the market. Everybody looks, feels, and sounds the same in this industry and newer, smaller brands all default to the same positioning. But this strategy feels easy, safe, and ultimately, not ownable. Not every brand can be an Arcteryx or Leatherman, nor should they be. In order to truly stand out, brands need to not only make category-defining products – they need to stand out from the crowd in a meaningful way.

All of the brands highlighted here have fallen into the trap of buying into the default position – and they don’t need to. Their products are awesome and unique. The brands should take a stand and own it. To be clear, I’m not saying they shouldn’t feel like an outdoor or fitness brand and go completely off-track. But I am saying those are table stakes. Look to brands like Patagonia who started with table stakes and then went one step further to create something that people want to be a part of (or don’t). From there, with a little brand adjustment and maybe additional capital infusion, I see significant growth potential for these brands.

Diana Fryc

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

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If I Owned an Equity Firm, I Would Invest in These Food Brands

The current marketplace is filled with darling brands – like KIND, Plum Organics, and Patagonia. People expect something new and innovative from these brands because of their consistent success over the years. However, we forget that most of these brands started out at the kitchen table or in the garage – all on shoestring budgets.

One of my early roles here at Retail Voodoo was in client development. I have walked many a tradeshow floor and seen many interesting products and brands over the years. I enjoy watching unknown brands that started off as one person in the back of a tradeshow grow into household brands (EPIC, FitBit, Applegate Farms and Justin’s being a few favorites). As you attend enough of these shows, see enough products, and talk to enough founders, you get a good sense for who’s about to break out.

Let’s talk biohacking. A fairly new trend, it turns natural, health and wellness on its head while the marketplace emerges from an era where raw diets and clean foods were the hot new “front pagers.” Biohacking takes healthy living and food one step further than these trends. It breaks down raw, clean foods into a mineral or even molecular level, and then designs a regimen that captures all those “best items” to shape the perfect diet. We all know people who geek out over this – they are the ones that tell you the antioxidants from this specific plant combined with the minerals from this specific animal, fused together in a blended drink with caffeine, is the best way to do X, Y, and Z (from jump-starting your brain activity, allowing you to focus better, grow your muscles faster, etc.). For control freaks (we know who you are) this is the diet lifestyle du jour.

The brands leading the way have made biohacking far more approachable and so much easier to understand and adopt.


This darling brand leads the way in the biohacking movement. Dave Asprey – part nutritionist, part life coach – truly walks the walk. He is committed to making sure his product connects with the lifestyle of an active biohacker or the atypical overachiever. With purposeful mission and passion, this brand stands on the precipice of massive growth.


Who else thinks of the funky 70’s movie, “Soylent Green,” your college sociology professor probably made you watch? Thinking the brand named itself after this movie weirds me out a bit, but I see what they are doing by leaning into the science fiction nature of their product. It’s risky – if played wrong, it could be a failure of a gimmick. However, since the brand doesn’t shy away from the scientific nature of their meal replacement products, it works. In fact, they’re unapologetically GMO. This brand has legs, but it needs more time to get over the hurdle of “what is this.” While the company received a recent investment/capital infusion, I have yet to see them making the marketplace impact that they have the potential to do. A little brand strategy love could really crank their engine and set them up for takeoff.

Eating Evolved

Many of us aren’t a target for biohacking, until we are. We love our food, and stick with our regular eats. That’s why Eating Evolved takes a food I already love (like chocolate) and changes the conversation by making it functional. This type of product will have a harder time being taken seriously because, come on, can chocolate actually be good for you? Apparently – yeah it can. It’s just that most giant candy brands have hijacked the good-for-you ingredients, watered them down, and turned them into junk. Eating Evolved flips that on its head and gives consumer permission to take a new look at “forbidden” favorites with new eyes.

The biohacking space is still in its infancy. I see entrepreneurs and investors very excited about the possibilities in this space. However, for many Americans, these brands are a bit far away from something they’re willing to try – yet. Early adopters (and control freaks) jump headfirst into this new space, while the rest of consumers are simply looking for life to be a little easier (particularly when on-the-go).

These next brands make eating yummy food easy and healthy without too much of a learning curve. Foods in a bottle, on a stick, in a tube, or injected (you know that’s coming…) are not new concepts – but the caliber of product and ingredients are changing and improving quickly.


I LOVE this product. I first found them at Outdoor Retailer about four years ago. It’s essentially natural Gatorade in Otterpop form. Are you kidding me? Why isn’t this product exploding? With some solid research, they could identify their future brand evangelists. Get this in front of the right audience, and this product will explode. Someone needs to buy this brand and give them the nudge they need.


I met this founder sitting on the floor at EXPO West a couple years back. This guy hustles – handing out samples and talking to everyone that will listen. Not only does he have passion, but he also has a near-perfect product. Drinkable, cold soup is healthy, easy, and portable. It just needs some brand strategy and financial backing to see great success in the marketplace.

Bonafide Provisions

This brand seems to have the traction Tio hasn’t quite yet by leveraging the bone broth craze. Not only is it healthy, but it makes the concept of bone broth very approachable by adding vegetables and creating flavor profiles that consumers easily recognize. The Bonafide brand is ready for the big leagues and I believe this drinkable soup should be picked up by one of the House of Brands.

Here’s the real reason why I am watching these guys: they don’t just have an innovative product; they have a brand. Yes, some of them could use a little more TLC to go big time, but there is legitimate opportunity for these brands to grow. The brands have passion for the product and consumer, not just the sale. I think they have the DNA of brands that could become the next Wheaties under the loving guidance of the right parent.

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