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Exploring Global Flavors and Culture Through Snacking with Sarah Wallace

CEO/Founder of The Good Bean & Benitos

In this episode of Gooder, host Diana Fryc engages in a conversation with Sarah Wallace, the founder and CEO of The Good Bean and CEO of Beanitos. They delve into the inception of The Good Bean and the unique challenges faced in introducing a new category of legume-based snacks. Sarah shares her valuable insights from her extensive experience in the natural and specialty foods industry, offering guidance to emerging brands, emphasizing the significance of cultivating customer loyalty and adopting a deliberate approach to growth. They explore the significance of multiculturalism in the realm of food and cooking, and the rising demand for authentic and diverse brands.

Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/

Key Takeaways

  • Cost Reduction and Advancements in Technology in Podcasting
  • Cultural Differences in Food Preferences and Pride in India and Central Europe
  • Sustainable Strategies for Business Growth
  • Authenticity and Sustainability in Food Brands
  • The Good Bean’s Plant-Based Mission
  • Challenges in Branding and Market Placement
  • Multiculturalism in Food Products
  • Empowering BIPOC Founders and CEOs in the Natural Products Industry
  • Spices and Ingredient Diversity
  • Branding and Celebrating Asian Heritage

Quotes

“When you’re launching a new brand, you have to be willing to take risks and carve out a new space in the market. It’s not always easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding to be a trailblazer and create a category that didn’t exist before.” – Sarah

“Traditional cooking is a way to learn about and appreciate culture and history. By offering authentic ingredients to immigrant communities, multicultural brands are innovating in the food industry and helping to advance diversity and access to more authentic cuisine.” – Sarah

Chapters

00:00 | Introduction
03:38 | Revolutionizing the Snack Industry: The Good Bean Founder’s Story
08:27 | The Future of Multicultural Cuisine in America’s Kitchen
14:06 | Creating a New Snack Category: The Journey of Roasted Chickpeas
18:56 | The Podcasting Revolution: From Expense to Accessibility
21:57 | Exploring India’s Culinary Fusion: Embracing Curiosity and Spice
24:23 | Merging for Sustainability: Transforming the Snack Industry One Bean at a Time
31:05 | Included: Amplifying BIPOC Founders in the Natural Products Industry
39:25 | Unveiling the Exciting Japanese Bean Snack
44:05 | Exploring the Enchanting World of Spice Merchants
46:54 | Conclusion

This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. A brand consultancy focused on building,growing and revitalizing brands in the food, beverage, health and wellness industries. If youare ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy thatgives your brand an advantage, please visit

https://retail-voodoo.com/contact set up a discovery call today.

Produced by Heartcast Media.
https://www.heartcastmedia.com/

Transcript

Diana Fryc:

 Here’s a quick disclaimer. The views, statements and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers. The statements are not intended to be product claims or medical advice. Hi, Diana Frank here. I’m the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage, and wellness categories about the business of consumer packaged goods, branding, and leadership. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm providing strategic brand and design services for companies in the food, wellness and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, Rai, PepsiCo, High Key, and many other market leaders. So 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. You can find out more@retailhyphenvoodoo.com. Well, I am very excited to chat with my guests today. Sarah Wallace is the founder and CEO of the Good Bean and the CEO of Bonitos. Sorry, I’m going to re record that. Sara Wallace is the founder and CEO of the good Bean and CEO of Benitos. She is a veteran brand builder in the natural and specialty foods industry. In her  year career, she has helped launch brands for Cliff Bar, Kashi, Osri Bakery did I get that right?

 

 Sarah Wallace:

 Osri ozeri.

 

Diana Fryc: 

Ozeri. Okay. And thinkthin she pioneered the whole bean snack category with her company, The Good Bean, Inc. And through the recent acquisition of Benito’s brand, Wallace now leads one of the largest bean-based brands in the country. Born and raised in India, Wallace has been dedicated to celebrating the diversity of food culture and sustainable agriculture and to nurturing female leadership in the food industry. Beyond her successful brands, Wallace is a passionate advocate for advancing BIPOC representation in the food, beverage, and the food and beverage space, and is a founding member of Included, a new membership collective for BIPOC executives dedicated to advancing diverse representation and amplifying BIPOC voices industrywide. Wallace hopes to continue her inclusive, global perspective on innovation and leadership and to help nurture those critical values within the food and CPG industries. Well, welcome Sara. How are you?

 

Sarah Wallace:

I’m well, Diana. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Diana Fryc:

Of course. Where are you calling from today? Or where are you located today?

 

Sarah Wallace:

I am in Berkeley, California. A sunny day and spring has finally sprung. So that is just joyful all around.

 

Diana Fryc: 

Yes. Seattle. I’m in Seattle. And spring came. I don’t know what it’s like in the Berkeley area. I think it’s very similar weather, but we’re in that spring season where it’ll rain for three days and sun for three days.

 

Sarah Wallace:

Exactly.

 

Diana Fryc:

Allergy season is at its height right now, so it’s a little bit of love hate with spring.

 

Sarah Wallace:

Sure.

 

Diana Fryc:

Oh, my goodness. Well, listen, I really want to get into talking about your brand today, your brands today. You’ve got a couple of interesting and fun things coming up before we get into some of the nuts and bolts of it. Why don’t you give us the backstory on the Good Bean and what the brand stands for?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Sure, happy to. So I started the Good Bean over ten years ago. Believe it or not, seem to fly and crawl at the same time. It’s interesting how that is. And as you said, I’ve been in the natural foods and consumer packaged goods industry my entire career here in Berkeley. And when I was doing some strategic work with a very large CPG around plant based protein and believe it or not, in the   period, that was still sort of a nascent trend. It was just emerging and people were just starting to pay attention to it. And when I was doing this strategic work and I was actually leading an innovation session in Taos, of all places, and during this session, people kept talking about legumes as a great plant based alternative to other types of protein snacks and foods. And then it just hit me that at the time there were no plant based snacks that were made of legumes distributed at scale in the United States. I grew up in India, as you mentioned in the introduction, specifically in Bombay, which is a very large city on the west coast of India. And one of the things that is such a big part of my childhood is on the way home from school, actually, on the way from the school gates to the school bus, there was always this vendor or a series of vendors outside the school gates, and they sold a bunch of different snacks, including a vendor who had roasted chickpeas. So he would have this kind of almost like a cigarette candy girl kind of little glass like a little glass tray with a cold brazier and then chickpeas. And he would warm these chickpeas on his little portable device and then he would serve it up in a paper cone. So I grew up eating roasted chickpeas. And at the time there was no such thing really at scale here.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Right.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

What I decided to do then is go back to India and actually visit a number of kind of small, family owned, cottage industry type operations on the west coast and just to see how they processed beans, because I didn’t really know at the time, and I had quite a lot of experience in food development and development just in my career, but had never been in the bean space. I mean, this was all really new to me, but I was curious about it. I also want to say that a lot of my passion up until that point was also around farming and agriculture and trying to figure out ways to have a response to big AG and figure out how to take away some of that land from the big five of big subsidized crops.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Right.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Give it to anything that would be regenerative and sustainable. Yes, and beans obviously bring nitrogen back in the soil. They much less water. They are a crop rotation item to bring nutrition back to the soil. They are literally regenerative in their actual being. So that was something that was in the back of my mind as well. So all of this kind of coalesced, essentially with me coming back from my little reconnaissance store in India and then convincing these large manufacturers in the Central Valley of California to retrofit their tortilla chip lines and defunct nut lines that they weren’t really using to make a manufacturing line that would be able to manufacture my roasted chickpeas at scale. So we literally built the machinery from the ground up because at the time, no one was doing that in the United States. And that is how the good bean was born.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Wow. Now I love this. My parents are immigrants, and I have interviewed a number of people who are first generation. I’m trying to think of if I’ve interviewed any other immigrants. But that connection to the food is so close to us as humans. And I love the fact that you were able to kind of invest time going back to India. Now, your professional experience also helped you understand that that was a really great way to go as I was doing my homework. I know you’ve worked on this side of the industry, on the marketing and brand side of the industry, and so you probably had some instincts and then professional experience kind of going, okay, this would be helpful information for me to know. But the fact that you went back there because of that personal connection, I think, is the reason why you’re seeing the kind of success that you’re having. Does that resonate with you?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Certainly. And I think that’s true for all immigrant diasporas, and that is what makes the American pantry, if you will, the American kitchen so global in nature today, because that is a reflection of the multicultural demographic that is the future of America. And so the need for this multicultural perspective on the grocery store shelves, in the menus of quick serve restaurants, and obviously the bigger, more expensive restaurants, is critical, because it is a reflection of the demographic that is in this country. And so having that reflected is so important. One of the things and this may be a little bit off topic, Diana, okay. But one of the things that I want to mention is that I’m an incredibly passionate, some would say obsessive, home cook. So I love to cook, and it’s kind of my only hobby. I’m a bit of a monomaniac with that. And as such, what I do is I really try to cook in a very traditional way. I mean that I try to be as respectful and as kind of nerdy as possible about the food ways of any given country, because I believe that the way to learn about culture is through food and to really respect it and understand history. And so I think that a lot of the diaspora of immigrants who are in this country miss the foods of their home and miss the foods of their lands. And when you look at it, I have a huge collection of cookbooks that I’ve just amassed over the years. It’s kind of a library. And you’ll see it the cookbooks, even as recently as the certainly the so on, you have all of these substitutions being made for kind of the traditional ingredients of different. And with the beauty of today’s brands and today’s multicultural brands and first generation and third culture brands that are coming out is that they’re solving for that particular need of these immigrant communities who want that authentic taste of homesickness. Part of innovation and the food industry today.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah, I even go one step further. One of the things I think of, like, Protit over at IO, and there’s a couple of other brands that are bringing in new flavors, new ingredients, introducing the general Americans to a new palate, so to speak. And I think when you have a product like yours, that is easy. There’s no prep, it’s not scary. I don’t have to find something. I think about adoption and this so you’ll see where I’m going with this in a moment. I think the adoption from people who are Americans, maybe multi general generational or just people from other countries outside of India can get a taste of authentic Indian food in these kind of bite sized moments and start the conversation of, like, look, you don’t have to spend because sometimes the Indian dishes that I’ve made, they’re a little labor intensive. They can be the ones that have all the flavor, and that can be intimidating for a lot of people. But if I can grab a snack on a shelf, oh, this is interesting, then I’m not worrying about having to invest in $ of spices that I don’t know on that first bite. Do you know what I mean?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think one point that I also want to make about the portfolio offerings that we have, bonitos and the good bean is that my background is Indian. And certainly chickpeas and roasted bean snacks are very Indian in nature, although other countries also offer them like turkey and so on.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Sure.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

But the portfolio is not particularly Indian. I mean, what it is, is truly kind of a global, multi palate flavor profile flavor. Yes, because like I said, I’m truly passionate about food and cooking, but on a global level, not just although I love to cook Indian food. And I think that that also goes back maybe to being a first generation immigrant. My family isn’t here. I came here as a college student. And so in some ways, being having that kind of outsider mentality, I really had to grow myself up in this world as a new person. And as such, my curiosity about the world was just as intense as my interest in connecting to my own ethnic roots.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Exactly.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

So that’s something else that I think is also interesting about the multicultural space today is that I’m not necessarily a believer that you have to be of a particular culture in order to bring that forward and celebrate it. But I do think that you have to celebrate it, respect it, truly understand and be educated about it, be curious, and do not co opt it. Those are the guardrails in my mind for being able to bring forward a culture or a cuisine that may not be by biology.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Sure, yeah, totally understand. Well, tell us about the early days of not the bonitos, we’re not there yet. The good bean. And mostly I’m interested in kind of what the adoption looked like, how were consumers and retailers responding to it and maybe that combination of experience that you had of the product and then being an immigrant. What were those first days like, first couple of years like?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Sure, I can start with different pieces in terms of the retailer and the marketplace. Right. So, like I said, we really invented or brought to the table the first ever roasted chickpea in the United States. And if you look at a lot of, whether it’s natural stores like Whole Foods or mass markets like Target or Walmart or conventional stores like Kroger and things like that, at the time that we launched the product, there were not too many of these kinds of alternative snacks on the market at all. I mean, there were kale chips. That’s kind of it. That was sort of it. Maybe some corn, and that was sort of it. And so it wasn’t just a matter of creating this subcategory of bean snacks, which no one had ever heard of, literally, but it was also about trying to figure out from a form factor perspective, like, where does this stuff even go? Popcorn retailers knew where the popcorn went and they knew where the tortilla chips went, but they were like, we don’t know what. And of course now those kinds of snacks proliferate the stores. So I remember having conversations with Target and having conversations with Walmart and them, the buyers, literally asking me, where do you think we should put this? And I remember at Target, when we first got into Target in a handful of stores, they put us in the canned bean aisle and they said, folks, it was actually a successful experiment. It didn’t last, but they said, well, the people who are shopping this aisle like beans and maybe they would like something more convenient. And it turned out to be true. It’s one of the most successful items to be sold in that aisle in the time that it was there. So it was an interesting period of really trying to kind of strategize about how to create the category. And that’s always something that I’d like to speak more about, and it was a big lesson for me, is when you come into a space and you’re creating both a category and a brand, and you’re a small company with limited resources, it’s a tough job. And sometimes you might be successful in creating the category, but not getting credit for it as a brand, and you’re not able to create the category and just your brand is out there, but you’re not really able to get that groundswell of education.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Right.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

So it’s kind of a two headed beast and one that you have to be super careful about in your kind of conceptualization of your product or service.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah, well, I know that culture, we talked about culture earlier, but culture, world culture, your personal culture is very much part of the work that you’re doing and the brand that you’re doing. Why do you feel like it’s more important now to make those cultural connections than before? Or do you think it’s just the same and people are just open to it?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

It’s always been important to embody your culture because as much it’s always been important to embody who you are. And that’s part of the mix. I do believe I have seen in my personal experience a massive shift in the interest and understanding of culture and cultural roots, particularly in the last, I want to say three years. Yeah, it’s really shifted and the pendulum, if you will, has swung massively to the other side. And I think that’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to be able to finally sort of acknowledge the diaspora that is this country or the, you know, kind of the diaspora of diasporas.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah, exactly.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

To be able to acknowledge that and not to have products relegated to the ethnic aisle. I mean, my passion in life is to make the ethnic aisle extinct and to make the entire store a global marketplace because that is who we are. That’s how we should exactly. We should be shopping. And it’s wonderful to see major conventional grocery stores also lean in, in a big way into that kind of perspective. So I do think that the culture is really important and I have seen that shift and in some ways, I think another reason why there’s been this kind of massive shift and brands are so much more able to come to the front with themselves and their expression is because of the internet. I mean, when we launched the good Bean and obviously prior to that, there was no such thing as instagram. Right. Ability to kind of showcase and TikTok and the ability to showcase yourself in kind of a multifaceted way and to show the people behind the product is something that without massive resources, like brands did not have access to this type of tool. So that, I think, has probably been the most game changing technological advance that has changed culture, even more so than political or socioeconomic perspectives on race and culture.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah, I agree. This podcast is a prime example of how being able to create content and to help consumers and retailers and just people connect has changed so much. I would say that when I first started looking at podcasting ten years ago, the expense was unfathomable. It was just not something that I could do. And three years ago, it reduced down to a much more manageable rate. There’s still expenses related to it, but it’s probably maybe % of what it used to cost. Just the technology allows you to do that, and then that’s the same with all of those platforms, the cost of producing it and then the cost of producing the content on your end. So I think it’s great that we have all of these tools to be able to share the stories, the back stories, through multiple channels so that we can resonate with people the way they want to be connected with. Yeah, I think that’s great. I also have the story. I don’t know. You’ve been to India. Of course. You grew up in India. I went to visit my family in Central Europe, and I remember being there and them and me saying, let’s go get some. My parents are from Slovakia. The Czech Republic in Slovakia? And I said, can we get Hungarian food, or can we get Austrian food? And they looked at me like I was insane, like, well, you’re here in this country. Why on earth would you eat somebody else’s food? And I’m like, well, I do that every day. It was just such a different mind shift. Is it like that in India as well? Are there external cultures coming in the same way? Or is it still very much like more Indian pride, for lack of a better description?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

That’s an interesting question with a fairly complex answer, and I think it’s in two parts. So first of all, I don’t know how familiar you are with India, but it’s large. But it’s a country of  states which essentially speaks its own language.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Oh, my goodness.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Culture. They have their own kind of variety of dress. They have their own rituals around weddings and religious ceremonies. I mean, they’re incredibly different. They’re different cultures in every state. Language. I don’t mean dialect. I mean actual language.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Wow.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

The folks in a state like Kerala in the south will find the language of the people in Gujarat in the northwest, incomprehensible. They will not understand each other, really. Right. When you think about it, each of these states has a very distinctive cuisine. It’s much more like Europe and a country than it is America as a.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Country in terms of interest.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Okay, so from that perspective, all the different folks from different parts of India are very curious about each other’s food. So there’s a lot of experimentation that’s happening that’s not the food you grew up eating. But it’s a lot of it is other states. So people in the north love to eat the dosas of the south or the people from the south love to eat the paratas of the north and so on and so forth. So there’s that element, for sure. And then the other piece of it is that India is also one of those countries because of its incredible sort of heritage of spices, where Indians love spice, right? So Indians are very curious about other countries food, but they will Indianize everything. So, for example, I grew up eating a lot of Chinese food because there were a lot of kinds of Hakka Cantonese immigrants into India, I think, from then onwards. But the Chinese Indian, it’s called Indochinese. Like, there’s even like a moniker for it. And it’s basically Chinese kind of Cantonese classics with spices. So it’s kind of a whole subset of cuisine in and of itself.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

That’s very fascinating.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Same thing with pizza or even I mean, there’s a lot of fast food happening right now. There’s a lot of, unfortunately, Burger King or McDonald’s or what have you, but the offerings in India are spicier different. They don’t have a lot of beef because beef is the Hindu bias against beef. There’s not a lot of pork. There’s a lot of chicken. There’s more lamb. There’s a lot of Indianization, if you will, that comes in even when it’s kind of a global Western item. So, like, a McDonald’s burger, as it’s served here in the United States would seem incredibly bland to an Indian. So you would want to put some stuff on it, some spices, sauces, make it just liven it up a bit.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

So, interesting, I’ve not had India described to me that way before, and I have friends that are from India that thank you for that description. Gives me a new understanding of the country. And I suppose it’s like that everywhere. China to really large countries probably have that sort of % state within a state thing. Okay, well, tell us a little bit about this acquisition of Benitos. How did you decide on it, and then how does the acquisition expand your mission?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Sure, yeah. So Bonitos, interestingly enough, was founded in Austin, Texas, right at the same exact time as I founded the Good Bean in Berkeley, California. So that was just an odd coincidence, a kind of cosmic coincidence there. And as you probably have heard, there’s this sort of real relationship between Austin and Berkeley. I mean, they’re both very progressive towns with very particular points of view, et cetera. So there are synergies in terms of our ethos, I think, without even having known it. But of course, being in the Bean space, I had followed Bonitos and I’d followed its rise for many years, and the opportunity came up to acquire the brand . And one thing that I do want to say is, when I started the Good bean. It was never my intention to launch a chickpea snack company. That just happened to be kind of the gateway drug into the world of beans. And it was also kind of a low barrier to entry. So snacks, my goal was always to have a platform brand, to be able to have beans essentially be in any part of the store where people wanted nutrition and protein, fiber and deliciousness. That was the goal. And so when Bonitos came along, I was like, wow, well, I can finally realize this goal. I can finally bring in a major from the original Bean chip company and marry it with the original chickpea snack company and have these OGS come together, make eleven around, really kind of focusing on that Bean platform and in terms of how it sort of furthered my mission. Again, there’s so much to be said about the purchasing power that we have as providers of food to the consumer in terms of agriculture, right? So one of the values that’s very central to the Good Bean from day one, which has also happened to be a Bonito’s value, is the domestic supply chain. So we have always committed to sourcing from domestic farms, specifically in Michigan and the Dakotas, in Minnesota, eastern Washington. And so good. Bean and Bonitos are both Bean companies. We buy beans from the same places. We both process whole beans. We don’t buy franken foods of any kind. There was a ton of synergy in the way in which we made our food, how we purchased our food, and how we went to market. But I think that specifically also the whole kind of tex mex Austin roots of Bonitos. Austin is one of my favorite cities, so I love that. Anyway, going back to the point that I was making earlier, Diana, about how I’m really interested in it doesn’t matter which culture, as long as we can go just deep and really celebrate it for its authentic self. And so Bonitos for me was about Austin, and it was about Xmex and it was about style experiences and it was about Queso and it was about Tortilla chips and it was about the Shiner, Bach and Macaria it’s all and those colors and that kind of that vibe. So it’s really exciting to have two brands, one with this very global immigrant perspective, and another that’s all about, but to be able to kind of somehow contain them around this broader mission of being authentic, being culturally respectful, and focusing on sustainable agriculture.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

I love that I interviewed, her name escapes me now with eight track foods. Have you met her? She used to be a food engineer and she said she lost her way after she’d made some engineered, some been part of some engineered foods, and said, I’m going back to beans. And this concept that you’re talking about regenerative agriculture and supporting the domestic supply chain and giving power back to farmers who have been kind of reliant on the subsidies from the government. I’m finding that many bean brands have similar missions. It’s very curious. I might introduce you. Her name will come to me soon. Interviewed her a couple of years ago. But I love the platform that you’re using. And who would have thought that at some point bean based snacks would need to be bookended? Like, you’re going to have this kind and this kind and this kind and this kind. It’s fun. Yeah.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

And it’s also good for you. I mean, it truly is. It really is the better plant protein.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yes. Now, I know you are passionate about advancing BIPOC representation in the food and beverage space. And those people that have been listening to my podcast know that that’s really what I’m using this platform to do is really elevate the different ways of thinking about business, being leaders in this business, because we’re just going to get stronger when we see the wider perspective. I’m curious what sort of gains you’ve been working on this for years. What sort of gains have you seen in recent years? And then on the flip side is where are you focusing your efforts? Where do we need a little bit more love?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

It’s really interesting in terms of gains as far as what we’ve been seeing. As I mentioned earlier, there’s been this incredible sort of focus and highlight on third culture or gen immigrant brands in the specialty and natural food space in recent times. That’s wonderful. And that’s really bringing a really important conversation, I think, to the fore, not just around representation of minorities, but around culture. Right. Really what the dialogue should be about. It shouldn’t be about minorities. It should be about multiculturalism, which is a different thing.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Exactly.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Diversity is different from minorities. Right. So there is that. I think that it’s incredible to see all of that happening and just because I think I’m just old enough kind of to be a little bit cautious, wanting to make sure that there’s not, like, kind of tokenization that it doesn’t sort of get relegated in that sort of particular communication stream and that we’re able to really keep to identity and keep to scale and keep this consistent moving forward. And I know that there’s retailers who are doing some incredible things around celebrating diverse brands in this space, whether it’s Walmart or Target. I mean, they’re both retailers who’ve done great things around this.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Exactly.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Which is wonderful. And I hope that that continues to grow and these brands deliver. But specifically in terms of what I have been focusing in on is alongside a few other really amazing founders from our space, we created an organization called Included, which you can find an Includedcpg.com. And essentially it is a collective that is a volunteer led collective and volunteer based collective that is trying to amplify and showcase BIPOC founders and CEOs within the natural products industry. And I can just kind of. Quickly recap for you what please. So essentially the goal of Included is to offer BIPOC CEOs and founders a seat at the table early in the journey so that they have the opportunity to avail of the same benefits and opportunities that their more privileged counterparts have historically had. Because the thesis is that when everyone is on the same playing field bypaw brands will bring the quality and excitement needed to win on shelves while bringing needed diversity and multicultural offerings to the shelves and to consumers who have pent up demand for these kinds of products. So the thesis is obviously around social justice, but it’s really around business as it has to be. And so the role of Included is not to we’re not going to sit here and make your business incredibly successful because that’s not our job nor something that we can make happen. But what we can do is to provide you the amplification and access to the decision makers, whether it’s retailers, whether it’s capital in the form of private equity and so on. So what we’ve been doing for the past couple of years, like I said, it’s volunteer led. So this is all kind of but what we’ve been doing is we’ve been partnering with New Hope Association, the New Hope Network and the Specialty Food Association specifically because relationships myself and co founders and we have been creating partnerships where we are giving away free exhibition space to emerging brands and them with PR and marketing opportunities that are free of charge to them. These are the kinds of things that many of these brands have really interesting products and offerings. I recently met Patit who’s incredible.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

She’s such a darling, isn’t she?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

She’s doing amazing stuff and brands like that to really be highlighted, a lot of it for us is paying it forward. We’ve been here a long time, we didn’t have these opportunities when we were coming in and so we’d like to be able to make that happen for the future.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah, I know. One of the challenges that these emerging brands have, and I wonder if you’re tackling this or not, is distribution. You have these small and emerging brands, you have retailers that are interested in the product but getting it from the manufacturer to the retail store. Are you guys also finding clever, innovative ways to help them in that regard or is that kind of just a side issue that you’ll be taking or need other people to help take care of? Do you understand what I’m asking?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Yeah, I think it’s the latter. Other people need to take care of that. There’s only so much we can do, but what we are trying to do along those lines is, as I mentioned, retailers like Target, like Home and other retailers, they want to showcase, they should do their own initiatives. And so we are actually connecting those retailers and that part of their programming with our included membership.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Excellent.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

So when you talk about distribution, this is one way for an included member company to get into Target or get to Walmart or get some amplification from their marketing free of course to them because they are BIPOC brands that otherwise wouldn’t get it. So that is part of what we’re doing is really sort of being the connector and creating those partnerships in all parts of the ecosystem. Be it at the trade show level, at the retailer level, at the private equity level and just being connecting the dots, making it all available. And then after that it’s kind of up to the brands to be successful and win.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Sure, totally. Yeah. Interesting. We’ve covered so many different things here. I wonder what sort of advice you find yourself giving people, other brand owners probably on a regular basis, they come to you say Sara, how can I build a brand and follow in your footsteps? Is there one or two pieces of advice that you tend to give out more regularly than not?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Yeah, and the thing that I always preface any type of advice that I am solicited to give is to say that the only reason I can give anyone advice is because I have probably made that mistake and that is why I know better. So when I give advice it’s not because I somehow am an expert, it’s because I’ve just made all the mistakes.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah, understood.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

I would say that the most important piece of advice that I would give to brands and this is based on my own experiences with the Good Bean, but also my extensive experience with other brands in previous life as a brand person, as a brand builder, is to really ensure that you create that kind of core segment of people who are loyal to your brand very early on and keep them and grow them. I think that there’s so much competition now. I know there is a gold rush around CPG at the moment and certainly in the past couple of years I think it’s calmed down a little bit today but certainly it was that gold rush. I think people are just kind of gunning for the big investment and the distribution. Everything’s about scale, scale, scale and as we know that scale is like by definition not going to be sustainable for everyone who’s trying to get it right. So to be able to be measured and to be able to be disciplined and starting slow and testing and growing is almost kind of paradoxical to today’s culture in our industry. And I guess what I would say is trying to slow down is the best piece of advice I could give to emerging brands: slow down and pay attention. Rather than kind of running for the next point in that relay race.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Some people might say quit throwing spaghetti against the wall, seeing what sticks. There’s a little bit of that that needs to happen but if you’re not paying attention, if you’re not looking around, then you just are continually throwing spaghetti, so to speak. Tell us what’s next for the good bean. I know you’ve got some innovation. I don’t know if it’s in the market now or if it’s coming in.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Yeah, just launching. Yeah. I’m super excited, actually, to talk to you about another bean snack that we’re just launching.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Okay.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Just like I had said that we brought chickpeas and roasted chickpeas to the United States from India. This is actually a new bean to this American market, and it’s a black edamame. It’s like the green edamame, but it’s black. And originally it’s called kuromame, and it originated in Japan, and it’s actually used excessively in Japan, in Taiwan, mainland China, and in South Korea. And it’s used in, believe it or not, in kind of a powder form as kind of a thick, smoothie beverage type of thing. And they also make food with it. But I looked at this black edamame product, and what I realized is three things. Number one, it was incredibly high in protein. So it has  grams of protein for  grams serving. Crazy. It’s very, very low in carbohydrates from a net carb perspective because it’s very high in fiber. And because the black edamame has a black skin, unlike the skin, and that has so many antioxidants. The pigment itself is antioxidants and polyphenols. It has as many antioxidants as blueberries in an equivalent serving.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Kidding.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

So it’s an incredible bean that no one knows about yet in this country. And once again, I’m trying this kind of uphill battle of saying, let’s educate you on this product, and so really excited about it. But again, just to kind of stay with our values, even though it’s a Japanese bean that’s mostly used in Asia, we’re able to find the US. Producer. So there are farms in Fantastic that are growing these beans. We were able to keep with our values while bringing kind of a very new bean to the market. Between the health and nutrition benefits, the taste is fantastic. Tasting sunflower seeds and then just kind of the newness of it and its application. I mean, it’s all very exciting to bring it to the table. And what I want to say about it is that because it comes from Asia, what we wanted to do with the branding is, again, be respectful of and celebrate its Asian roots without co-opting it. So you’ll see that the packaging itself has a little bit of an Osumi ink cool heritage. And the flavor profiles are very Asian. So we’re doing, like, leaf and chili one. So it’s more like a tamiyam soup flavoring. We have a really good wasabi, and we have some other flavors that are kind of down the line of Asian flavorings. So, again, trying our best to kind of celebrate those cultures in as respectful of a way as possible and hopefully get people a really interesting global new snack that they haven’t seen before.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Interesting. It’s in the market now.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

It’s just starting to be in the market. I think you can find it on Amazon now.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Okay, all right, sounds great. Sara, I am really enjoying our time together, but we’re needing to start to wrap up. I have one question that I’d like to ask everybody, and that is it’s kind of non related to what we’ve been talking about, and that is are there any women out there, leaders or rising stars that you’d like to elevate for the work that they’re doing right now? They can be in our industry or not.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Sure. Yeah. When I think about women in this business, if we were to stay with this business, sure. Thinking of two women who are interestingly on two ends of the continuum in terms of their experience and life cycle, but have done really interesting things. Kind of bookending, at least my arc in this industry. And the first one is a woman named Cheryl O’Loughlin, who used to be my boss at Clif Bar. So back in the day, she taught me a lot of what I know about brand building. And I launched Luna Bar together in the early, late s, early two thousand s. And she then went on to become the CEO of Clif Bar, founded a company called Plum Organics.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yes.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

And then led a company called Rebel, and then is now sort of doing more kind of board level things. But what’s interesting about Cheryl is that she just brought so much discipline and rigor to how I thought about brands and how I thought about brands. And it was kind of that CPG, classic training, but adapted to a very non corporate, really rich and culture type of organization. And I think that marriage has been something I’ve really taken to heart as I move into more corporate cultures, not to forget that you need the creativity and agility and innovation of small business, but you need some discipline of that corporate thinking. It has to be a mix, not too much of one or the other.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Right.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

And then at the other end of that continuum, somebody who I really am so impressed by every day is Sana Javeri Cadre, who is the founder and CEO of Diaspora Co. Which is a spice company that is kind of an equity based, social justice based spice company that only brings in South Asian spices. And everything that she’s doing, from her mission to her branding, is phenomenal. And just hats off to her skill and her passion and what she’s getting out there. I don’t really need to amplify her because she is majorly over, like every possible food media, but really incredible in terms of being somebody who’s bringing in that global perspective and uncompromising about getting all the credit back to its place of origin and to the people on the ground who made that kind of food happen.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

That’s amazing. Thank you. I actually had not heard of her before, so I need to go do a little homework, apparently. Maybe my head’s in the sand, but that sounds amazing. We used to have here in Seattle a number of places that you could go and get. They were spice merchants where they would get spices from all around the world and then right. Well, uwajimaya. Yes. But we actually have I think it closed down during COVID which would make total sense. But there was this place in Pike Place Market that they were literally that’s all they sold was spices. And you could go in there and ask them. They provided spices for all of the chefs in town, and they built the blend so they would be the roasting they would source. And it was just this magical you go in there, and just as you can imagine, super fragrant. But it was in downtown Seattle, and not necessarily, and it was a little bit more of a special destination, and I would love to see that come out into the communities a little bit more where we can have those. I really think spice merchants or spice stores should exist everywhere. I mean, based on the American palate and how it’s growing and the acceptance of all of these flavors around the world, why do we need to limit it to the rack, you know what I mean? And we can order things from Amazon, of course, but spices are the type of thing where you want to know how fresh it is, because anything that’s a year old starts to lose its flavor.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Diaspora spices are incredible because they are harvested typically in the year that you buy them, and the flavor difference is phenomenal.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yes. Right. Fresh. I mean, I learned that in my s. It was like a wake up, like, the difference between even something as simple as fresh pepper versus you’re. Like, wow, this is just completely different. So I could talk about that for a while. Sorry. Okay, well, thank you so much for your time. We have been talking with Sara Wallace, founder and CEO of the Good Bean and CEO of Benitos. Sara, can you tell people where they can find out more about you and your brands?

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Yes, you can find out more about our brands and me@thegoodbean.com, and you can also go over to Bonitos and find out all about that brand’s incredible history and its portfolio. So, yeah. Looking forward to having you guys visit us online.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yeah. So thank you so much for your time today.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

Thank you, Diane. I really appreciate it.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Yes, I’m happy to have spent time with you. I really look forward to seeing I cannot wait for this new snack to come out. I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for that.

 

Sarah Wallace:

 

And it’s on our website, so you could check it out.

 

Diana Fryc:

 

Okay, great. That’s perfect. Okay. And then I just want to thank our listeners for your time today. If you like 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 produced by Heartcast Media.

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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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