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Importance of Design Thinking in Innovation Featuring Snehdeep Brar, Lenny & Larry’s

Head of Technical Services and R&D at Lenny & Larry’s,

In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, host Diana Fryc is joined by Snehdeep Brar, the Head of Technical Services and R&D at Lenny & Larry’s, to discuss tips for promoting healthy and wealthy living. Snehdeep explains strategies to successfully work in different markets, the tools and tactics she uses to be successful, and advice to people working with different brands.

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Key Takeaways

    • Snehdeep Brar talks about Lenny & Larry’s and why it exists

    • Snehdeep shares some of the reasons that drew her to join Lenny & Larry’s team

    • Tips on how to perfectly work in different markets

    • What are the impacts of the pandemic on consumers’ behavior?

    • Snehdeep shares some of the challenges she faced that acted as stepping stones to her success

    • Tools and tactics Snehdeep uses to be successful

    • Snehdeep’s advice to people working in different brands

    • What’s next for Lenny & Larry’s?

    • Women leaders that are making a difference in the CPG food and beverage industry

    • Trends and brands that Snehdeep has her eyes on

Quotes

Chapters

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Transcript

Intro 0:05

Welcome to the Gooder Podcast where we talk with powerhouse women in CPG about their journeys to success. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm guiding mission driven consumer brands to attract new and passionate consumer base, crush their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. If your brand is in need of brand positioning, package design or marketing activation, we are here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com

Diana Fryc 0:43

Hi, Diana Fryc here, I am the host of the Gooder Podcast where I get to talk with powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness 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. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, PepsiCo, Highkey and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services for leading brands in the food wellness, beverage, and fitness industries. If your goal is to increase market, share, drive growth or disrupt the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk. To learn more you can find out, well you can find out more at retail-voodoo.com. Now today we get to meet Snehdeep Brar, head of technical services and r&d for Lenny & Larry’s. She is an r&d and innovation leaders with 20 plus years’ experience in consumer centric food and beverage brands involved from concept to commercialization establishing innovation and commercialization process and best practices, resource development as well as short and long term product pack pipeline development and commercialization. That is a really long title put on a business card but she does it, okay. So she has worked with developed and emerging brands like PepsiCo, Century Snacks and Mars. So a big hello to miss Snehdeep. How are you today?

Snehdeep Brar 2:17

Hey, Diana, that was a very long intro. I’m good. Thank you.

Diana Fryc 2:24

Yeah, good. Good. Where are you calling from? Where you at? Where are you recording from today?

Snehdeep Brar 2:29 

I’m in the beautiful northern California. So I’m based in Sacramento. But Larissa she headquartered in now LA.

Diana Fryc 2:37

Okay. All right. And now we missed each other at Expo. How did Expo go for you last week?

Snehdeep Brar 2:44 

We did. Yeah. No. So we were at the Expo last week. It was great. And I think it was a great turnout and some really amazing products on display. Yeah, I think it was fantastic.

Diana Fryc 2:57

Yes, so wish, I think if we both go to the next Expo, I’d love to walk the floor with you. Because I think I usually walk the floor with founder owners and marketing people. And we’re looking at brands in a particular way. But I think walking a floor with somebody that sees the products the way you do I think would be so eye opening for me. So maybe we can make that happen next time. Hey.

Snehdeep Brar 3:21 

Absolutely. Yeah, it’ll be it’ll be a lot of fun. Yeah, it definitely wouldn’t be boring.

Diana Fryc 3:26

I believe it. I believe it. Well, hey, I love it when the people that I interview get to tell us a little bit about their brand I should say. Can you tell us a little bit about Lenny & Larry’s and why it exists.

Snehdeep Brar 3:40 

Yeah, absolutely. So Lenny & Larry’s have got a very interesting story. It was created by two fitness freaks if you like Benny and Barry in 93. So Lenny and Larry, Benny and Barry. And they were just bored of getting their protein from kind of like the same sources. And they really wanted their favorite foods to be in a more kind of clean and nutritious format. And so that really was a simple reason why the company came into being. The company has a very strong purpose, which is human sustainability. or kind of like, sustaining people’s energy throughout the day with clean nutrition, while not depriving yourself of your favorite snacks like cookies. So, that’s really what is at the core and heart of the company.

Diana Fryc 4:39 

Well, now you have been with Lenny & Larry’s for about a year and a half now. What brought you there?

Snehdeep Brar 4:47 

I think, to be honest, and candidly speaking, I think it was the first thing that actually stood out for me was the female leadership. So we have the CEO of the company, Jolie Weber, is incredible leader with a lot to learn from. Megan Crossland, she’s the head of marketing and again, amazing person to work with. So those were like the key things for me. And it said, I kind of felt that it was a company, it’s a company with a really good and a very strong purpose at the core of everything that they do, whether it’s plant based nutrition, which is kind of like the complete platform to the whole kind of like theme nutrition. It was an opportunity for me to kind of like make a difference if you like.

Diana Fryc 5:33 

Well, I love that because I know that, well, we’ll talk about it in just a moment, right? This kind of transition from these multinationals to a place where you can have a more direct impact in a very straightforward way. But let’s step back a little bit. Now, you’ve been with companies like Mars and PepsiCo over the years. Can you share a little bit about the journey that brought you to today and just kind of like those pivotal moments of like, well, yeah, I’m going to ask that question over again, scratch. I’d like to step back a bit. Now, you’ve been with companies like Mars and PepsiCo over the years. Can you share a little bit about your journey about what you brought? What brought you from there to here?

Snehdeep Brar 6:27 

Yeah, sure. So I work with Mars in the Australian New Zealand markets. And I worked with Pepsi for about eight years in Asia, Middle East and North Africa regions. And if I kind of like look at, and I think people that are in STEM, I kind of feel like their journeys can be, I’ve seen that the journeys can be really fascinating and adventurous. I mean, personally, I’ve lived and worked in four countries, which I think is great, it’s given me some great opportunities to be exposed to a lot of different cultures and learn from a lot of different cultures, right. So in addition to that, obviously, I had the opportunity to be launching some incredible products in a lot of international markets, very diverse markets, and also implementing innovation processes and best practices across a lot of different r&d functions. So I think it’s definitely been a very enriching journey for me. And obviously, along the way, I’ve met some amazing leaders, you know, female leaders, innovators, business women that have really inspired me a lot. So yeah, it’s been great.

Diana Fryc 7:37 

I want to ask a question on that. Now, you talk about having worked in different marketplaces, and with some of the guests that I’ve had in the past, and I’m thinking in particular, Carol Smith with GoGo Squeez, and ASHA. And they talked about the fact that the American market or the American consumer, at least in the CPG space, we tend to have a type of flavor palate, do you feel that having come from different marketplaces, when you are working with r&d, do you bring a different perspective to the table on how to introduce something that might be outside of the norm? From a flavor perspective, or a texture or ingredient perspective? Does that make sense what I’m asking?

Snehdeep Brar 8:22 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. No, it does. So especially if you worked in a lot of different markets with a lot of different palates, I kind of feel like there were similarities and there are differences, right. So there are similarities. So you have flavors, like vanilla flavor, chocolate flavor, all the flavors are kind of very similar in all of the markets. But there are definitely a lot of nuances and there’s a lot, a lot of layers, for example, if you look at the Asian markets, you would see all of these flavors would be very similar. But then maybe there’s a little bit more, there’s a highest threshold for things like sweetness, things like salt. And if you look at the European markets and Australian markets, I kind of felt like those thresholds were much lower. And you had the base flavors were similar, though. I think American markets is diverse in a lot of different ways. And it’s complicated as well, because it’s very cosmopolitan, in terms of the palates. There’s a lot of different races, different populations, which kind of makes it very tricky to be innovative, because the spectrum has to be kind of like very wide, as opposed to if you look at some of the other markets. So I think some of the experiences that you bring from other kind of like diverse markets, definitely you can sort of bring them in and apply them and see how you can get something that’s applicable for a wider spectrum.

Diana Fryc 9:56

Have you seen a little bit of adjustment over the last maybe few years, particularly, it might be hard to even know this now, because it’s such a short time frame. But I’m just thinking over the last four or five years, are you seeing consumers tolerance changing? Because they’re at home more and they’re cooking more? And so they’re open to more things? Or is it too short of a timespan to really?

Snehdeep Brar 10:20 

Absolutely. I think the changes, especially that we’ve seen in the last two years, they probably kind of equate to how about 10 years? The food industry and the differences I mean, the differences, the changes in behavior, the changes in consumption, right? Thinking patterns are kind of like the whole attitude to things. I think it’s changed a lot in the last couple of years. And so some of the trends that you kind of see emerging immunity has been a really big trend in the last few years with COVID. And everything, people are kind of like really actively and kind of like, very consciously including them, these things into their diets and stuff. So I think it’s definitely changed a lot in the last few years.

Diana Fryc 11:09 

Well, going back to that story of how did you get here? What led you here? When you think back to some of the jobs that you’ve had in your career path? Were there any challenges that you had to overcome that you felt were part of your success? And part of why you’re here?

Snehdeep Brar 11:30 

Yeah, absolutely. Look, I think the biggest challenge for, especially when you’re working in STEM, I think the one of the key challenges, one of the tricky things, and I’m assuming that it’s going to resonate with a lot of people in STEM, you have to kind of see the vision of the business leaders and kind of, like, help them achieve that. And I think a lot of us, personally, I kind of feel like a lot of us do it really well. But then the other side of the story is that you have to sort of bring them along and give them visibility to a lot of different things such as technical challenges, such as the resources that are going to be invested into a project or, so just to be kind of, like, giving them that visibility. So things are then kind of like, if something’s making sense at the business level, at the strategic level, but giving them that the full picture. So it’s still kind of like making sense. So I think that can really be tricky in terms of giving them that understanding of the full picture. And so that, it goes into decision making, especially at the business level, I think that’s something that’s really can be challenging, when it comes to how to like, technical leadership, and I kind of feel like that’s something that we need to do more of as technical leaders.

Diana Fryc 12:58 

That’s true. We work with our fair share of founder owners and their creators in a different way than the type of creative that you do, where kind of anything is possible. And some time a little bit of pragmatism is hard to swallow, and we often see that tune in the way that information and what’s possible needs to be presented to them in a language and in a style that resonates with them. Otherwise, it’s not sticky for them.

Snehdeep Brar 13:35 

Absolutely. I think that’s spot on. Yeah, so make making it kind of like relatable, that translates easy into sort of the business language, it’s really important. So it’s understood by a wider audience.

Diana Fryc 13:46 

So you’re feeling that folks that are in your role, sort of have more challenges with that then maybe in different areas of an organization? Or is that just something that you’ve run across with other folks as you’ve been on this journey?

Snehdeep Brar 14:05 

Yeah, no, I agree with that. So I think it’s a specific kind of challenge that people have in this stem, because yeah, you kind of dealing with scientific information, a lot of technical information. And obviously, how do you sort of connect the dots back to the business strategies and the business plan? So it translates well for people to sort of wider audience to sort of understand that it’s very specific due to people in STEM?

Diana Fryc 14:33

What kind of tools or tactics do you use to be successful in this specific situation that you would recommend?

Snehdeep Brar 14:43 

And some of the tools that have been really kind of helpful in the innovation side of things have been, innovation design thinking, which is kind of like how do you bring consumers into the whole kind of innovation product development process early on, to kind of get their input so you I’d kind of like investing resources, you’re working on a project. And it’s really late in the day when we, if you look at the traditional innovation process, when you bring consumers into the process, you have developed the product, you pass the product development stage, it’s, it’s almost too late, right? So some of the tools that I’ve actually seen have been really powerful, in terms of the innovation journey is to bring that consumer feedback, the consumer input into the innovation process early on. And that’s where design thinking sort of comes in, you have like this design thinking process, really, at the front end of Innovation, you bring in consumer touch points, you put something tangible, you use techniques like 3d prototyping, making sort of quick and dirty samples, even if it’s not sort of, full-fledged product, but just giving something tangible to the consumers to react to, because that’s what they react to best instead of, traditionally, how we used to put the written kind of concepts in front of consumers. And the kind of reactions to get to those versus the reactions, you get to something that they can touch and feel, who’s a phenomenal amount of difference. So that’s been a really powerful tool, the whole kind of design thinking process. How do you bring it to the forefront or really kind of early stages of innovation? I’ve kind of seen that that’s been the whole kind of like in terms of innovation, success, and stickiness of innovations, the market, it’s really helped with that.

Diana Fryc 16:38

So what I think I heard is instead of bringing them so far, and bringing them in so early, that you’re thinking conceptually, which consumers are horrible at. And so you’re finding that middle point between that whole conceptual thinking to avoiding the perfecting of the wrong idea, bringing them in the middle somewhere, and getting them to respond to something before you go to market and see a market failure. Right.

Snehdeep Brar 17:09

Right. And I think the key there is that it’s really quick. Doesn’t have to be perfected. You don’t have to have a lot of resources going into it, but it’s not a paper concepts.

Diana Fryc 17:22 

Yeah. Well, along the line of giving advice, now, you have come from these multinationals, very large organizations, you’re now Lenny and Larry’s considerably smaller than Mars and PepsiCo, there are a number of people that are following behind you in this footpath, whether it’s in a STEM based job, or marketing, or ops, or you name it, what kind of advice do you give these folks, as they’re thinking about moving into these organizations? How do we prepare them to be successful early on in this transition?

Snehdeep Brar 18:05

Yeah, and that’s an interesting month. So to be honest, I don’t think there’s the whole traditional big brands and small brand kind of like concept anymore. Especially when we and the reason I say that is, as we look at the whole startup scene, and, you know, the businesses like around us, I mean, there’s brands and businesses that didn’t exist five years back. I own a billion dollar businesses, right. So I can think, like, if there’s a brand or a business with a simple and a key purpose that gives especially technical people, I’m kind of like talking from that background, that gives us a great platform or a good platform to make a difference. I think that’s what people are looking for. That’s what people kind of, like choose in the end, for me, for example, Lenny & Larry’s was kind of like doing something that a lot of big companies aspired to do. So, they have a strong nutrition portfolio, they want to do cleaner labels and all the innovations. They have a strong plant based platform. So personally, I grew up as a flexitarian or vegetarian I mean, that really resonated with me so that’s what was the key thing for me.

Diana Fryc 19:27 

Got you. Okay. Well, so what’s next for Lenny & Larry’s or what’s next for you? I mean, what can you share with us?

Snehdeep Brar 19:37 

Yeah, so I think a lot of exciting stuff as we kind of like think of technical innovation, especially with Lenny & Larry’s, we kind of like looking at expanding more into the plant based space. Kind of it’s getting into new usage occasions, expanding across the snack space, generally in the next couple of years. So definitely a lot of good stuff and a lot of excitement for me as well as an innovator and as a technical person.

Diana Fryc 20:08 

Yes. Good. Okay, I love it Snehdeep. I’m really enjoying our conversation. I know that our time is tight today. So there are a couple of questions I for sure want to ask you before we wrap it up. Now, first of all, the first one is, are there any women leaders or rising stars in our industry in the CPG food and beverage industry that you would like to elevate or simply admire for the work that they’re doing right now? And why?

Snehdeep Brar 20:40 

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. As I kind of look around, I think there’s been some phenomenal people that are making some, huge differences in the industry. And I was at the Expo West last week, and I was really, the miracles had a killer booth. And, you know, it’s such a great product. So, inspiring for me, because they’re making huge difference. Some of the few female leadership, obviously, and Lenny & Larry’s are incredible and, again, very inspiring. I had for a brief period of time, when I was working at Pepsi had an opportunity to be mentored by Karin Rotem. She’s currently at Live Kindly. Again, amazing, incredible leader and a very kind human being. And then yeah, as I think of a lot of international markets. I work with some great female leaders and innovators that have kind of inspired my journey along the way.

Diana Fryc 21:38 

Interesting. Okay, fine. And then what brands or trends if you can share do you have your eye on and why?

Snehdeep Brar 21:48

I think currently, if we look at trends, it’s really all about clean and tasty, human nutrition. Planet sustainability, I think those are like the key biggest trends. But as I kind of like go, kind of like, in through my day to day kind of activities, there’s a lot of like brands that are doing simple things, and a lot of great ways. I mean, there’s a brand, by the way, I’m a working mother of two kids. So you know, always a lot of simplicity in life. So there’s, there’s a lot of brands like, I came across a band called Valley Fine Foods there, locally based brand in California. And they do all these great, amazing pastors and ravioli and stuff that you can kind of like, turn into good meals in about a couple of minutes for kids. And they kind of like doing simple stuff, but making people’s lives easier.

Diana Fryc 22:44 

Yes. Wonderful. I love it. Planet sustainability, I think should be something that we all have. It’s not a special initiative. And let’s hope that we can get there sooner. Hey. Well, we’ve been talking with Snehdeep Brar, head of technical services and r&d for Lenny & Larry’s. Snehdeep, where can people learn more about you and your company?

Snehdeep Brar 23:13 

Yeah, absolutely. So Lenny & Larry’s is on all social platforms. We are on Instagram, we are LinkedIn, you can Google us and you can basically just search for Lenny & Larry’s and you’d see the you know, some of the amazing products like complete and boss and some really, really tasty, clean, healthy nutrition that’s been delivered by the company.

Diana Fryc 23:40 

Excellent. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I’m so happy to have met you. I’m sorry we didn’t meet last week. But next time and I’m looking forward to see what’s next through the work you’re doing. And I want to thank all of you listeners 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.

Outro 24:09 

We hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you haven’t already, be sure to click subscribe and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.

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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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