Diana: Hi, Diana Fryc here I am the host of the Gooder podcast where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage and Wellness CPG categories about their journeys to success and their insights on the industry. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm providing strategic brand and design services for brands in food, wellness and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind RCI, PepsiCo, Nike and many other market leaders. So if your goal is to crush the competition by driving growth and disrupting the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call or let’s talk. Or you can check out more at retail-voodoo.com. Well, today I get to interview Kim. Oh, Kimberly Lam, I didn’t put your last name in here. Let’s start that over.
Kimberly: Okay? Okay.
Diana: Okay. Today, I get to introduce you all to Kimberly Lam, who is in brand management and marketing professional with extensive experience in building lifestyle and CPG brands on a global scale. She has a keen eye for driving the bottom line. This will be important later on. As we chat, you guys will hear, okay. Kim has focused her career on driving iconic brands like Coca-Cola, Marriott, Delta and American Express through a multiple of changing landscapes, as well as growth brands like Chobani, which set out to create new categories in CPG. Kim currently leads the marketing department at Sanzo, where she’s proud to bring its mission of bridging cultures through authentic Asian flavors to life. I’m so excited about this. Really excited to talk to Kim. And before we start chatting, we want to send a really huge thank you out to Emily Mohr, who reached out to me specifically and asked me about interviewing a very specific set of folks in CPG. Kim being one of them. So thanks for the inspiration, Emily. I’m glad that I can make this happen and encourage any of you that want to hear from anybody else in the industry to reach out. I am welcome to do my best and bring and invite these amazing people onto the show. Okay, Kim, how are you? Welcome.
Kimberly: I’m good. How are you? Thanks so much for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
Diana: Oh, my gosh. Okay. Yes, I am excited because Sanzo and as of fast was a fast favorite in our household. Specifically, I’m going to say something super polarizing here. We drink the lychee flavor, not the lead playbook. Although I know those of you that don’t know what this flavor is. Lychee. Lychee, apparently. Well, Kim, it’s. It’s interchangeable. Is that right?
Kimberly: Exactly. So I grew up single each year, and it’s a big debate among everyone at our company as well. But both are correct, depending on where you’re from. Yes.
Diana: So I was introduced to this fruit fresh in Hawaii, gosh, back in my teenage years. And it was not anywhere available at the time and is so, so very excited to see it mainstreaming through this beverage. So thank you so much. Where are you? Where are you located today?
Kimberly: I’m in Jersey City today.
Diana: Jersey City. You don’t have enough bling on right now. That’s an oh, that’s an old stereotype, I’m sure. Oh, y yes. Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about Sanzo. So before we get into kind of your journey, tell us about Sanzo. What is this brand about and what does it stand for?
Kimberly: Yeah, sure. So Sanzo is the first Asian inspired sparkling water meal with real fruit, no added sugar. It was started by our founder, Sanzo Rocco, who is a Queens born Filipino American. And his inspiration, you know, he was walking through an Asian grocery store and he noticed that everything that he wanted to drink that reminded him of his childhood, these flavors were just full of sugar and preservatives and all the things that, you know, we don’t want to consume now. And so, you know, he thought he could bring this to the market in a modern, fresh way, and so thus was born Sanzo we, you know, are super excited to bring these flavors to the market. And, you know, over the last two years, our mission is really to bridge cultures, right. And to celebrate Asian flavors. For me, you know, similar to you so excited the lychee flavors on shelf. You know, I grew up loving lychee and, you know, I would have been embarrassed to bring a Lychee to school because it was different. So really about bringing those cultures. Introducing people to these flavors, but also being that taste of home for people who haven’t had it in a really long time.
Diana: Yes. And I also love so being we’re located in Seattle and we have a very, very large we have a large diaspora. I just I think I’ve seen that. Right. Of Asian culture and cuisine here, you know, Vietnamese. Filipino. I mean, I can’t even tell you how many different Chinese restaurants we have that are from like the entire country all over the place. So it was like it seemed to me like only a matter of time before we started really bridging the gap. And rather than having it be like this in the ethnic aisle like that, just mainstream America kind of part of the American diet and and a normal flavor offering. So very, very excited about that. Now, you have been with a prior to and we and I listed some of those companies prior to joining Sanzo, you were with some pretty big multinationals. I understand that because I haven’t gone through this myself, but from others I’ve heard that kind of going from a really big organization to something a bit more smaller and scrappy or sometimes can have a little bit of a culture shock. So I guess my question is, how’s it going? It’s been like six months, right?
Kimberly: Yeah. So it’s going really, really well. I would say every day is an adventure at no, but it’s super it’s super fun. And so I would say, yes, that culture is really different from a big giant organization. But I think I hope kind of looking back in my career, I was intentional about that. I really wanted to learn from powerhouse marketing organizations and then be able to take everything that I could learn from those experiences and bring them to places like like Sanzo. And, you know, the goal is the same. You just have to be a little bit scrappier on how you do it. A little more creative. Yes. Yeah. It’s been a blast so far.
Diana: I can imagine. So I’m curious, was Sanzo on your radar, like? Yeah, you know what? I guess I want to know. What about Sanzo? Had you excited to join them at this time?
Kimberly: Yeah, so I would say, and it’s so interesting now I had Sanzo before the pandemic. Like, I found it at a quality, like a fast casual restaurant. And I was like, I was just so excited to see, like, similar to you. Like, I was like, oh my gosh, this is so cool. And so I had been following the brand for, you know, 2 to 3 years. And yeah, opportunity came up and I was like, I have to go for this, right? And I think it was a very intentional moment for me to go back into CPG and I’m sure we can we can chat about this. Yes, the industry has changed and all those yes, I joined because I just and I’m, I’m sure you can tell from my excitement, I just so truly care about the product and its mission to create those Asian flavors and success to bridge that gap. Because I didn’t have that growing up. And so to make my impact in that space in this way is just so meaningful to me. And so I’m like, I have to get this job.
Diana: That’s really awesome. And I can tell you, you know, my parents were immigrants. I was first generation. And I know what it’s like. Feeling awkward or strange about bringing the food from home to school for lunch? AT Yeah, it was. Or if I would have and have sleepovers and my friends didn’t want to eat it, you know, we didn’t eat American food for the most part, for a long, long time. And so it was like there were times where I was like, Mom, can you just make spaghetti? Yeah. But as an adult, I crave those flavors, I crave those foods. And I can understand how, like, seeing one of your favorites show up, like, could be so exciting. I completely understand that. Yeah.
Kimberly: Yeah, for sure.
Diana: Oh, my goodness. Okay, so now let’s step back a little bit. We know about why you’re at Sanzo, and. And I’m seeing Sanzo. So is it Sanzo.
Kimberly: We go with Sanzo. Sanzo-Sanzo Lychee
Diana: Know, let’s not start it. Let’s get it right. Okay. So Sanzo Okay, so tell us a little bit about how you got here, right? So how, how does somebody kind of get on the path to where you are right now?
Kimberly: Yeah, I would say I probably didn’t have the most linear path, but I mean, just to start from the beginning, I was a neuroscience major and then my goodness said at Wesleyan. And so I obviously don’t do neuroscience now, but or you.
Kimberly: Or I may never know. You never know. But I started my career in health care PR, where I was helping pharmaceutical companies really distill down that hard science. And it made me culpable for the media and for and for consumers. And quite honestly, I, you know, just got switched over to the Coca-Cola account. And so, you know, they just needed you know, they needed more manpower and the Coca-Cola account. And, yeah, I got switched over and I would say that’s where my love for consumer. I was just like, Oh my gosh, this is so much more fun. There are no FDA regulation approvals and all that stuff. And so, yeah, I, you know, was at the agency, we were managing Coke’s image within the health and wellness space and it was really fun and exciting. I learned a lot, but just felt far removed from the business decisions that were being made. AT Yeah, yeah. Executing on the strategy. So wanted to go back to business school, wanted to really learn brand management specifically, specifically in CPG. As you know, you’re told in business school that like in CPG, the marketer owns the PNL, they really own the business in that space. And so.
Diana: Interesting. Okay.
Kimberly: That’s kind of what led my path there. And then after business school ended up at Chobani. And so that kind of catapulted my love for CPG, my love for product. I spent four years there and then decided, you know, as I was approached or kind of thinking about my career, I’ve really approached it as that, you know, for me, I want to be a CMO one day and so I need to gather all the pieces of marketing. And as you as you know, there’s so many of these, so many. And so how do I start gaining the experiences, those pieces so that I can bring it together, bring it together one day? And, you know, again, you look back and you’re like, hopefully it was intentional. But I feel that, you know, I’m just kind of the perfect place now marrying my partnerships, experience a little bit of digital from Amex, Chobani with the CPG and growth. Yeah. And it just kind of it’s all working in the moment.
Diana: Yeah. Well and so let’s be honest what I mean it’s not real. I don’t think luck is real in its truest definition. I mean, I know there was a lot of hard work that went into getting the opportunity at Chobani, because I really think that, you know, they’re really known for being innovative. I think their go to market strategy, they’re not afraid to try things. And if it fails, the yank it off the shelf and they’re always do like from an R&D and a trial methodology. I think they’re an amazing CPG company to be involved in and then they just have such a giant heart on top of that. And so how could you not fall in love with CPG having that be like your first experience? Do you know what I mean? Like that pretty. I want to I’m saying I’m pretty lucky. I know you earned it. You worked hard for it, but wow, not everybody gets that opportunity, right?
Kimberly: Yeah, for sure. And I think for me too, it was just again, maybe my personality, I don’t know. But it was just so important for me to just be a part of a yes. BRAND.
Kimberly: And, you know, I had interest also in like corporate social responsibility. And just being able to drive this business and do good. And so, yeah, like that really drew me to Chobani too, to be mission driven and technical in my work.
Diana: That’s awesome. Now, I noticed and doing a little bit of sleuthing about your background that you have done some really amazing work around partnerships. And I have so many questions to ask that could be probably a whole different show. But the one that I want to ask about, the one that I want to say is like, is there one? Is there one partnership initiative that you worked on that really had an impact on you and maybe changed the way you look at partnerships or marketing or brand management?
Kimberly: Yeah. So the biggest one that comes to mind, which I feel like I learn the most about myself and how I approach my career and partnerships. Definitely one we did, I did with Marriott. So Le Meridian is a is a brand that’s owned by Marriott. And we partnered with Le Boucher Rouge, Paris, which is a small boutique beauty company in in France. And so just to kind of paint the story, make the story for you. Meridian is a brand that was born out of Air France, and that whole brand is about living the French Riviera lifestyle. And you can see it through all their programs, their coffee program, their champagne program. Like when you go there, you, you know, you live this you live this European coastal kind of vibe. And so.
Diana: I’m starting to breathe it in.
Kimberly: Right? So for Valentine’s Day, we did a partnership with publishers Paris, where we developed the first ever exclusive lipstick color for Le Meridien. And the idea behind it was that, let’s say if you’re a French girl getting ready for a date, you would take a bath. But in New York, if you’re getting ready for a date, you would take a shower. But what these two women together is that bright red lip, right? So just kind of being able to live that lifestyle. But, you know, for me, that really just opened my eyes to like working with smaller brands, working in an international environment where I just felt so comfortable adapting my communication style, adapting my work style. And it’s just like funny when I’m talking about it now, really bridging those cultures. Oh, wow. And know able to capitalize on, I guess, what I felt comfortable with and what I’m good at. And, you know, I also lived in France when I was in business school. And so just being able to work in that environment was just so thrilling for me. So I’ll say that was personally what was great about it. And then the second piece business wise, was that I just saw, you know, what big organizations need from small organizations. So the value that a small business can bring, whether it’s who, who they’re targeting or how they’re reaching consumers. And so as I started to do more partnership work, really trying to flip that on its head and show the value that like small brands can bring to the table. And so, again, something also that I feel so beneficial in my in my job today because at stands we have so much to bring to the table. Yeah. Just knowing that, you know, is really helpful.
Diana: Yes. That’s so that’s wonderful. In a previous life, I used to work with people from France and and when I go to the fancy food show in New York, I love going down the chocolate aisle.
Kimberly: But, you know.
Diana: My one takeaway is I never saw anybody not look immaculate in their business attire. And when I started working with them, I learned their secret, which is they just tailor everything they don’t like. They just buy whatever they buy, and then they go get it tailored. And that’s the reason why it fits. So. So I would go and get I started getting all of my stuff tailored to fit me and me and a person just looks like 900% better just by it fitting your proportions so I can buy anything now. That’s my that’s my one tip for today. Buy whatever you like and then take it to a tailor who will make you look amazing in anything.
Kimberly: I love that. And I’m going to do that.
Diana: Worth every penny because you walk out of the house feeling like 1,000%. It’s so great. Anyways, it it’s weird what you take away from experiences, but that was my, that was my experience from working with the French people and then you bringing it up just brought it straight back. Thank you for that.
Kimberly: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. So.
Diana: One of the other questions that I like to ask a lot of people is, is around learning experiences, kind of those ones that in the moment was not great. It was a lost opportunity or a complete flop, something that had an impact on the way you manage yourself or the way you lead in business right now. You have one of those that you can share with us that you were like, Well, this didn’t fail over here. There’s no way I’d be doing blank.
Kimberly: I think I’m a I’m a huge believer in fate. So I think all of those experiences, right, like every single job that you didn’t get was hard. Right? And you’re always questioning yourself and your experience and and why. But, you know, for for me, all those experiences have led me to where I am today. And so, like, for me, it’s really about trying to stay true to yourself, to be honest. When I went to Chobani, five people in my graduating class from for my MBA, we all got five of us got got offers for our giant CPG company. And I was the only person who didn’t take it. And I was told by one of my friends, like, you’re probably making the worst decision of your life, right? And so those moments are really hard. And I was I was an active decision. Right. And so the moments that aren’t active are even even harder than that. Yeah. But things, you know, have a way of of working out if you just to me, like, stay true to yourself and, and have a clear vision of what you’re aiming for and you just, like, keep going at it and keep trying. And I don’t know. Hopefully, hopefully, with luck and hard work, it works out. But I am someone who I feel maybe again in retrospect I like tend to go against the grain a little bit.
Diana: I like you. We we get along great.
Kimberly: Yes. Those moments are hard in the moment. But then you out, you know, when you get over the other side, it’s it’s I hope or I feel it’s more rewarding or meaningful.
Diana: Yeah. Awesome, awesome. Well, talk to me a little bit about mentorship. Like, how are how did you use mentorship? Or is there anyone that was really instrumental in kind of getting you to here at Sanzo?
Kimberly: Yeah. So I would just credit I feel so thankful and so lucky to have the people that I do around me. And it’s it’s more of my community and kind of my network versus one individual person.
Kimberly: Yeah. Like, I feel like I’m very, again, like intentional about who I ask questions to and which questions I ask too. But I do feel like I have a person for each of those questions and in each of those moments. And so it’s my network has been super, super supportive and helpful, helpful of me. And that’s kind of how I’ve approached kind of that advice. Like, you know, what do I do now? Yeah.
Diana: Yeah, my get it sent out. Instead of reaching out to one person, you might reach out to a network of people.
Kimberly: Yeah. Or like different and different times and opportunities.
Diana: Yes, for sure. Tell me a little bit or tell us a little bit about something that you’re really proud to have participated in or have have participated in over the last few years.
Kimberly: Um, participation wise, I mean, one project that I’m really proud of was a project that is still going on today at Chobani. So less of, less of a project now and more of a product. But okay, it was our first Ms. mission driven SKU, where all of the proceeds went to Operation Homefront, which is an organization that helps military families. And so everything behind that SKU from, you know, it’s flavor innovation. It was the first time we were doing a flavor on the bottom and, you know, mixed berry on top to celebrate red, white and blue to really honor our veterans to the fact that that was the first time we were launching in a multi-pack and then giving all of our proceeds to go to a charity. And it was meant I think it was meant to be in and out. And I kind of left the organization and it’s still going on today. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. And so it’s always great to see that, you know, my work had an impact in the future of the company. And so, yeah, that’s something that I’m super proud of. And just being able to again be a part of mission driven companies or projects is just meaningful.
Diana: And what was that SKU called? I don’t know that I’ve heard of it.
Kimberly: It’s just a it’s a mixed berry with with vanilla on the bottom. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Diana: Oh, and do people know when they’re buying that product that they’re participating in that it’s is there some front of pack?
Kimberly: Yeah, the whole package is a camouflage and it has like the operational K button. And I think the company has definitely expanded it to other SKUs, having other.
Kimberly: Other missions and things like that. But yeah, it’s nice to have been a part of it.
Diana: Yeah, I can imagine. Okay. I have not seen that here on the West Coast. And I’m super geek. I don’t know if you do this when you travel, but every time I go into another city, I take a half a day and just do grocery tours, even if I’m on vacation. So I but I haven’t been far I haven’t been on the East Coast since before the pandemic. So I’m going to I’ll have to put that on my list to hunt down. And I want to see that live.
Diana: I bet. So tell me a little bit or not tell me, but like what kind of advice do you or do you give to somebody who’s following in your footsteps, whether it’s somebody who maybe is not a traditional marketer like you or wanting to transition? I’m going to tell you, I we work with a lot of people that transition from big CPG to small CPG and we offer a lot of advice. But coming from somebody in your shoes where you’re actually doing it, like what kind of advice do you give people?
Kimberly: Yeah, I think from an advice standpoint, I think just even the opportunity to tell people my story. So thank you for for this opportunity, you know, tell my story and kind of tell people the path that I took because I don’t think, in my opinion, it’s very linear that things will will work out right. And so I remember someone who I spoke to from Georgetown. He was an alumni. I had never met him before. But we shot and and I heard his story and I heard, you know, you know, this the not I don’t want to say like missteps, but the things that he he did or the choices that he made that don’t seem very conventional. Yeah. That led him to be, you know, one of want one of the leaders at Nike right now. Right. And just to hear from him and going from sports to where he is now was really inspiring to me. And it’s just this this this feeling of like, if you do the hard work and you just kind of keep on your own path, it doesn’t have to be someone else’s path. It it will work out. And so just like hearing that for me was so helpful. And so I hope that I can kind of share that with other people as well, that if you stay true to yourself, things, things, things will work out.
Diana: Yeah. Okay, good. And then for those folks that are maybe more on the that nonlinear path, which as I’m interviewing more and more women, I’m finding a lot. And you would be gobsmacked at how many women I’ve interviewed that have come from STEM and are now marketers in the in food and beverage. It’s unbelievable to me and I’m kind of like, want to elevate that a little bit more. Like, was it scary? Was it just an opportunity that you took? Do you think you would have gone in this direction had there not been a switch from in that in the one agency, you know, or is it even possible to tell? I mean, looking backward, it’s hard to see.
Kimberly: Yeah, looking backward. I would just say I have no idea or like I have no, no idea. I probably knew I was going to go to grad school, so. Okay, I did have the opportunity to shift, but kind of similar to staying true to yourself. It’s also telling your story, right? Yeah. Being able to craft, craft and navigate a linear communication of your story, even if it doesn’t feel linear. And so being able to take all my analytical skills from science and apply them to marketing in an ROI driven environment, you know, like that, right? Stuff has been really helpful.
Diana: By that.
Kimberly: And you know, so, so it was this arc and we can. That’s right.
Diana: Yeah, that’s okay for sure. You know, the question is just really around. The question is this. You know, if you when you are thinking about somebody who’s taking our thinking of that nonlinear approach, like when you’re looking back, what what do you remember working when you’re thinking about that and giving that to somebody else’s some advice? Now, I have to say that all over again, but let’s start over. Okay.
Kimberly: Okay. Okay.
Diana: So when you’re looking back at this opportunity and and wanting to give advice to somebody who is possibly considering this non-linear approach, like, oh, my gosh, I went to school to be a blank. And now I feel like this is my calling. What? When you’re looking back at your own experience, what do you what do you say to those folks?
Kimberly: Yeah. So I think it’s about, I think, really understanding, like, what your interests are. Right. And, like, you know, understanding who you like. Your strengths are areas of opportunity and trying to tell the story that you want to tell in a linear way that might not be so, so linear. Right. Yeah. You know. You know, making sure that you’re honing in on you, on your skill set and something that someone told me, you know, in those moments of doubt, no one can take away your education. No one can take away your skills. No one can take away your personality. Right? All the things that you own and you just have to use them and leverage them in in in the way that will get you from point A to point B. And so that has been really helpful advice for me as I’ve navigated my career. Yes.
Diana: And and we could maybe even say that it’s okay if you don’t pursue the path of what you originally thought. Like that is probably it’s probably more normal to not follow that path than maybe it is to follow the path. Would you see it that way?
Kimberly: 100%. I don’t. How are you supposed to know what you want to do when you’re 20 years old?
Diana: I don’t know what I want to do now and I’m 50, you know. So I’m like, okay, I still got another 30 years figuring out what I want to do when I grow up. So I totally get that. Okay. Well, can you share what’s what’s next for you and what’s next for Sanzo? And can you give us a little peek at what the next several months might look like?
Kimberly: Well, what’s next for me is continuing to grow since. So I think I have a lot ahead of me. Yes, the brand have a lot ahead of us now. I mean, this might be new to some people. You know, we are focused and so on. Retail expansion. And so just in the last four months that, you know, five months we are national and Whole Foods were national sprouts were in 200 targets. And so we’re continuing on that journey to expand in retail just to try to ensure and make sure that everyone can try our product and enjoy our Asian flavors. And so more to come on on that. But pretty new. Pretty new to date.
Diana: Love it. Love it. Okay, Kim, I’m I’m enjoying our conversations. We’re coming up on those last questions that I like to ask absolutely everybody. And the first one is, what trends are you following? It could be in our industry and category or not. I’m just curious what what you’re following.
Kimberly: Yes. It’s something that has been so intriguing or so interesting to me, especially as I’ve stepped out in CPG and gone back in is the integration of retail and digital. Oh my goodness. I feel like this world has evolved over the last three or four years and I’m like, you know, trying to trying to keep up. But I talked to a company the other day that, you know, they can take a billboard that’s on a truck. Yeah. And then they can attribute who has seen that and then who’s walked into the target and and purchased a product. And so the.
Diana: Geo location.
Kimberly: Or. Exactly.
Diana: My goodness.
Kimberly: And so yeah, that integration between technology, retail, digital is so fascinating to me and and I’m trying to keep up keep up with it.
Diana: That is freaky. I mean, like so hard being a marketer because as a marketer you’re like, that’s so cool. And then as a consumer, you’re like turning everything off on your phone, in your car.
Kimberly: Isn’t that.
Diana: Wow, wow, wow, wow. Okay, great. I’m going to have a moment. And then, of course, then we’ve got the whole metaverse that’s happening. I know people are trying to figure out what that may or may not look like from a marketing and a retail perspective. That will be fun to watch as well. Now, tell me a little bit. Oh, and the last question, which is always my favorite, which is what women leaders or rising stars out there in our industry or not? Are you are you watching or do you want to just give a shout out to and elevate for the work that they’re doing?
Kimberly: Yeah. So someone who, you know, I really look up to is Heidi Crouse. She is the CEO of Bass Culture. You know, I didn’t mentor mentioned any mentors earlier, but, you know, I really look up to her. You know, she has a very similar path to me like, yeah, you know, she was at Danone stepping out of CPG and and going back into CPG. So yeah. And you know, I really admire her and her work and also the person who introduced me to her, which is Roger Margolin and she’s at Square Roots or manager at Chobani and now she leads, I believe, sales and marketing as ever. It’s and so. Wow, I would love to shout out both of them. Woo hoo!
Diana: Yes. All right. I love that. Okay. Well, we have been talking with Kimberly Lam, marketing director for Sanzo, Kim. If people want to learn more about you and or Sanzo, where can they find information?
Kimberly: Yes, you can go to our socials, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter at drinks. And so and then you can certainly learn more about our company and me on LinkedIn.
Diana: Great. And Sanzo, for those of you that are not familiar with the brand or the name is spelled exactly how it sounds. S-A-N-Z-O, check them out there. So thank you so much for your time today. Kim. I, I’m so happy to spent time with you and I’m feeling like we are a little bit more kindred spirits than maybe I might have figured the first time we spoke. So I look forward to future connection and watching what you do. It sounds so wonderful. And then I want to thank all the listeners today for your time. 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.