Mercedes: Today we were flipping the script and interviewing someone you all know very well. Diana Fryc is a partner and chief growth officer at Retail Voodoo and host of The Gooder Podcast. Gooder is a podcast where we get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage, and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights into the industry. This episode is brought to you by retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm providing strategic brand design and marketing services for brands in the food, wellness, and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, REIT, PepsiCo, Essential Water, and many other market leaders. If your goal is to crush your competition by driving growth and disrupting the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk visit retail dash voodoo dot com or email info at retail dash voodoo.com to learn more. Today I’d like to introduce you to Diana, who believes that business should be a force for good. And she uses her networking superpowers to drive change in the food, beverage, and wellness industries, specifically in the areas of employment, diversity, food equality, and the promotion of a sustainable supply chain. Founded and hosted the Gooder podcast, where she interviews the powerhouse women leading every level in food and beverage among us. Diana is a marketing industry executive with 20 years of experience advising brands from Fortune 50 to startups on how to address their toughest growth challenges. As partner and CEO of the creative branding firm Retail Voodoo, she uses her expertise in brand development, innovation, consumer markets, marketing, and packaging systems to help clients generate meaningful and sustainable growth. Tireless and determined, Diana is obsessed with the world of food, beverage, and wellness and has been building long-standing client relations because people trust her to put the right combination of people and business assets together to move mountains. Welcome to the show, Diana.
Diana: Hello. How are you?
Mercedes: I’m good.
Diana: Fun to be on this side.
Mercedes: I bet. Totally different.
Diana: Yeah, I know. Okay, so what’s going on? We’ve got some fun stuff to talk about today, right?
Mercedes: Yes, absolutely. So as many of our listeners likely know, you are just in Anaheim, California, last week for Expo West. Yeah. And we wanted to talk about your experience and just a little bit about Expo and why it’s so important to you and retail voodoo. So my first question is what is Expo West and why isn’t it an important event for retail Voodoo?
Diana: Sure. So Expo West is, I believe, the largest food and beverage trade show in the industry. But it’s Genesis is really natural and better for your space. It still sort of is in there. There are. But there are, you know, the boundaries of natural ones better for you are a little bit squidgy right now. And so the show is gigantic. I think there were well over 80,000 people and it was in Anaheim, California. If anybody has ever been to that show, they know that that is a squeeze for a lot of people, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Those are big Friday mornings, too. But, you know, retail voodoo has been working with natural and better-for-you brands since 2011. And that was a decided shift for us because when we came out of the 2008 recession and David and I were trying to determine, you know, we wanted to use the opportunity to say, okay, what is retail voodoo? What are we going to stand for? And I joined David in 2006. Retail Voodoo, in its previous incarnation, was called Lemley Design, and it’s been around since the early nineties we’ve worked with some of the largest brands in the world, including Starbucks and Wal-Mart, and PepsiCo. And we said you know, what do we want to do? And what at the time, natural and better for you in 2011 was still growing. I mean, it wasn’t the organics industry of the nineties where it was like a little corner of weird-looking products. It was starting to modify and it was growing rather rapidly, but big CPG had yet to really glom onto it and consumer trends were only just starting to move that way. Now it’s not really a trend. It’s mainstream and better for you as a category definition, but it just depends on who you are and how you want to use it. So bringing big CPG thinking, big, big CPG marketing thinking, and brand strategy thinking and innovation into this category in 2011 was really important to us and we’ve just been part of the community ever since. And now here we are 12 years into it, and really sophisticated marketers and multinationals are playing in this space. We’re kind of looking at naturals in every way, shape, or form, and there’s a big difference. We still bring a lot of expertise to the table and we have friends, really long-term friends there. So some of it I’m going to be honest, if I’m going to be really honest, some of it is more on the social side and there’s a lot of business. We had three brands that launched there this time, and so many former clients on the floor that we got to visit a couple of people that we’re working with now that we haven’t exposed yet that we wanted to chat with. So it was cool.
Mercedes: That’s awesome and very exciting to see all of the brands that we have been working with at last. So awesome. Well, speaking of the social side and how well-connected you are, were there any special events that you attended while you were at the show?
Diana: Yeah, there were some special events, but I do want to shout out to those three brands that launched at Expos in case nobody had a nobody in case some people didn’t get to see them. So the first one is called Henrietta Said, which is owned by tropical fruit Nuts out of the Southeast. And that, I would say, was a ginormous hit. It was very fun to launch this nut brand snacking brand went into a space that we hadn’t seen before, and then Unbound kind of had a 02.0 launch after we got some supply chain issues tackled out of last year and they were in the arena this year. Walnut snacking brand. That family is really, really amazing. And then we also got to see the launch of a plant-based cheese spread called Simply V, which was in the breezeway between Hall A and the arena. And it was so great to see the crowds of people at those booths. So there’s just want to shout out to those three brands. And if you don’t, if you don’t, if you haven’t heard of them, you know, just take a look at them online. And then what events that I went to, Oh, my gosh. Okay. So I got invited to more events that I could attend. The ones that I did go to were it was there was one on two on Wednesday nights. One was hosted by women on boards, and that was called Women in Consumer Packaged Goods. So that was a really fun event to go to. Met a lot of women that are on boards of food and beverage brands and aspire to be on board, brand owners. I believe TMG sponsors it in some way, shape, or form. Just a really well-connected, amazing group of humans at that event with some really yummy food. Can I say that was a group that was a super fun, yummy event to go to? And then on the heels of that was the natural network reception welcoming reception for Expo, which was at least 100 people. There were so many people at that event and we got to see some pitch slam products up on the wall floor with some people that I hadn’t seen in a while, and that was really fun. Then on Thursday, what did I do on Thursday? Oh, there was an event that I missed, which was a startup CPG event, and I was super bummed to miss that. I had a private meeting that night that did not allow me to attend that one. So that was a good one and I’d recommend that one, that event to anybody. Then on Friday, I attended in the morning a minority-owned business. What if we call it reception? It was a breakfast networking event. Naturally, Network is really working to kind of build the community of minority-owned business owners and brand owners within the community of naturals simply because. There’s a lot of under-representation in general. Kind of building that network to let people work with each other is really great. And then that afternoon I went to the Project Potluck Luncheon, which is not affiliated with Naturally Network but is also really an organization. People of color who work in CPG. I don’t believe it’s just food and beverage. I believe in it. It’s in other categories as well. It’s connected for anybody so they don’t have to be a project potluck. It’s not about nature, it’s about all CPG. I think it is food and beverage. Shame on me. But it’s this community of people. Mentors and advocates for Project Potluck. And that was a really amazing lunch to go to. And finally, I missed the Jedi Collaborative networking event on Friday evenings. There are just so many people to see in general. I could have gone just for events and been completely busy as well.
Mercedes: Well, that I definitely believe. All right. Well, that was awesome. It was great to hear some of the things you’re able to do and the people you were able to connect with while you were there. So speaking of the show, what products were you most surprised or intrigued by as you started to actually do more than just the social events?
Diana: Yeah, that’s so funny. I took lots of pictures. I’m going to say there’s one product and there’s a handful of categories that I was eyeing. So first of all, the product that I was most interested in, what was it called? It was called Wild Good. And this is an extra virgin olive oil ice cream. So nice creamlicious. Yeah, it was really good. I tried the mango. It’s sort of like a sorbet. And they had other flavors there as well. To my understanding, it took seven or eight years to formulate it. The mouthfeel was good, and the fat was good. There’s about half of a millisecond where you can tell there’s olive oil, but not the green part of the olive oil. And it’s only because you’re looking for it when you know that it’s olive oil. Otherwise, no way would you know. There’s just like no entire way. Love it. It has good fats in it. And the flavor profile was super yummy. So I would say from a product standpoint, that one and then another product, which is in a category that I think is really interesting, is the seafood analogs. I saw a lot of plant-based seafood, so I just wanted to say that conscious seafood, which is a sushi brand out of Canada, is really, really cool. And all the fish analogs that were there, I was really particularly surprised at the number of brands that were there. And I’m not saying there were like 100. There were at least half a dozen, and I don’t remember seeing them before. So I thought that was pretty interesting, too. Plant-based is definitely well, if Plant Based is going out with a trend from a trend perspective with consumers, nobody told the industry the amount of plant-based is huge. But I would say moving back towards the kind of real foods. So I saw a lot of bowls, rice and beans and corn and peas and that sort of thing with all of these different flavors and textures in it. And there was also, what else a real push on. Kind of it was sort of Quito-ish, but it wasn’t pointed through the Quito lens, which is that sugar reduction, but sugar reduction through actual reduction of real sugar, not by replacement of alternative sugars if that makes any sense. So there’s a little bit of noise out in the marketplace with consumers apparently around stevia and some of these other types of sweeteners. There’s a number of people, consumers, that are kind of moving back into real sugar but just looking for less sugar overall. So they don’t want the big sugar syrup punch to feel anymore. They just want enough to give it a little bit of sweetness. And I think the last thing that I was really excited about was additional. The additional international flavors. So we’re not just looking at our traditional Asian cuisines, we’re not looking at our traditional South American or Mexican cuisines. We’re seeing continued further stretch into Africa. I think the African continent is woefully misrepresented, and it’s nice to see that we’re starting to push a little bit more, bring in new flavors, bring in new ingredients, and then bring those ingredients into traditional American products as well as pretty exciting. So that’s what I saw that was interesting to me to watch.
Mercedes: Yeah, that sounds like it was really fun to see and probably try a lot of those things.
Diana: Yeah, I had a little trade show called I’ll be Honest.
Mercedes: Well, outside of our current clients, are there any brands that really stood out to you as you were walking through the show that you would absolutely love to work with, and any sort of reason behind that?
Diana: Well, there’s a couple that I would love to work with. One is bossa nova because Neil Kimberley is there Neil Kimberley is somebody that we worked with at Essential Water and we really respect him. So we know wherever he has gone. So his left ascension is now at bossa nova. That means amazing things are going to happen. We certainly would love to participate with him and his team and get along for the ride there. And I’ll also throw in Rudy’s bakery because Jane Miller is there and I just think she’s all that and three bags of chips. I would love to work with her and build amazing things. I’m sure she’s probably taken care of, but on the off chance that she’s not, boy, would I love to tag along with her. That could be really, really fun. There are a few other brands that I think would be really fun to connect with. I think DIA is an interesting brand that I would love to work with for a few reasons. I don’t want to spill too many beans, but I think there might we could give it a little bit of love and maybe modernize it. And essential bakeries because they’re a Seattle brand and I eat so much of it that I need to get paid back. Man. Come on. Well, joking, joking, joking. I’m joking. I would love to work with them. They’re a Seattle institution and they’re doing some fun innovation I would love to work with them for sure.
Mercedes: That is awesome. That’s a great list and I hope that we can get all of them very close.
Diana: Well, if nothing else, it’s just to kind of admire the fact that those are great brands.
Mercedes: Yep, absolutely great brands. All right. Well, those were the questions that I had prepared for you. Okay. Is there anything else about XPO or about what we do here that you maybe want to throw in one last time?
Diana: One last little thing.
Mercedes: One less.
Diana: Thing. One last little thing. What I’m going to say about Expo West and Expo East because Expo East is the next one. It’s going to be in Philadelphia. And everybody knows Expo East has really suffered because of COVID in regards to the number of people attending. I love the difference between Expo East and Expo West. Expo West. I feel like I’ve just run 1214 marathons and I need a week off afterward. It feels super productive, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I got time with all the people that I really wanted to. And Expo East last year. Because of the size I was able to be there for, I think a day and a half was enough time for me. And what I liked about it was I got real-time with people and I had a chance to connect with people and do some deep thinking and talking in ways that just weren’t possible at Expo West. So I really would love to see some of y’all come to Expo East and visit with me, especially because naturally the network will be doing their pitch, slammed there. And some really amazing products were shared last year. And it looks like this year we’re going to have a pretty nice mix of brands as well. So I really would encourage those of you all to come to Expo East, if nothing else, than to try to grab a drink with me because, you know. Drinks.
Mercedes: Exactly. Drinks. Everybody wants drinks. Awesome. Well, Diana, it was such a pleasure having you today. I really appreciate your time. And we’ve been talking to Diana Fryc, partner and chief growth officer of retail Voodoo. Diana, where can people learn more about you and your company?
Diana: Oh, my gosh. Well, we listed it earlier. Retail hyphen, voodoo dot com. You can also find me on LinkedIn a lot. I am there a lot. You can always reach me there. Diana F.r. wiki. And on all the socials you can find it on retail voodoo or good or podcast on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. And I even think we’re doing Twitter.
Mercedes: Yeah, we are on Twitter.
Diana: All on Twitter.
Mercedes: Well, thank you for your time today, Dana. I am so happy to have spent this time with you and looking forward to seeing what’s next through the work that we’re doing here at Retail Voodoo. And thank you to our listeners for your time today. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time on the Gooder Podcast.