Gooder Podcast



Inspiring Innovative Initiatives with Audarshia Townsend

Audarshia TownsendContent Director, Food & Beverage Insider, Informa Markets

Audarshia Townsend is the Content Director for Informa Market and a veteran food and beverage journalist covering the latest trends and innovations across the food industry. As Content Director for Informa Markets, she oversees the development of quality content in various forms, from written articles to visual media. Her keen eye for industry trends and her passion for innovation propels her to keep an informed and insightful pulse on the ever-changing landscape of the food and beverage industries. In addition, you can often find her delving into initiatives that support everyone from food companies to founders to small business owners.Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn:

Key Takeaways

  • How Audarshia became a food and beverage insider.
  • The affect that the pandemic had on recent food trends across the country.
  • Innovation continues to push both the plant-based and big CPG industries toward product betterment.
  • Impactful women leaders across the food and beverage industry and community.


“Transparency in the plant-based narrative is crucial for improved taste and product quality. Companies are actively improving their innovations in plant-based products.” – Audarshia

“African cuisine is now available in mainstream grocery aisles, allowing people to easily enjoy African dishes at home. It’s incredible that it took so long for this to happen, it’s truly remarkable.” – Audarshia


00:00 | Introduction
03:15 | The Making of an Insider
05:02 | Informa Market
06:44 | Working with Naturally Network
08:48 | Becoming a Food & Beverage Insider
17:14 | Nashville’s Diverse Culinary Scene
21:32 | Plant-Based Innovations
28:47 | Current Food Trends
30:48 | Innovative Moves Coming from Ice Cream & Beverage
35:17 | Women Leaders
40:55 | What’s Next for Audarshia
43:26 | Links & Resources

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 set up a discovery call today.

Produced by Heartcast Media.


Diana: 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 Fryc here. I’m the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness industries about their journeys to success and their insights in all the categories. 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 the food, wellness and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, 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 and let’s talk. Okay. Today, I get to chat with Audarshia Townsend content director for Food and Beverage Insider. As a lifelong Chicago and Audarshia Townsend is a veteran food and beverage journalist who serves as a content director for Informa Markets, Food and Beverage Insider. She also appears regularly on local and national media to discuss food and beverage trends for us. And when Townsend is not on the ESB, she’s an avid yogi and meditation practitioner. Welcome to the podcast Audarshia


Audarshia: Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction, Diana. I’m thrilled to be here.


Diana: Oh, you’re so kind. So I am just thrilled to have you because I think before we are. Well, I know that before we started, I had done a little bit of homework and I got a sense of who you are personality wise, which is a little bit different than who I met when we were at Expo West. We’ll talk about that a little bit more. And a lot has happened since Expo West because you are one busy person. Cannot wait to hear about some of this. So. And you’re in Chicago today, is that correct?


Audarshia: Yes, That’s my home base.


Diana: Hometown. Okay. I love Chicago. My dad was my dad’s an immigrant. And the only place that I can get straight up check food that’s real is in Chicago and Pennsylvania. And Chicago, especially in the Southside, has some of the best Czech food. So I have really good memories.


Audarshia: Yeah. Yeah, I’m going to check it out. I definitely didn’t mean that pun, but I am going to have to check that out. Yes, you did. Yes, you did. I’ll send you.


Diana: I’ll send you the places that I’ve been to. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Okay. Well, let’s start at the very beginning. Audarshia I always like to hear about. I always like to introduce people and let them tell us about who they’re working for. The brands They are the organizations they’re associated with. So can you tell us a little bit about tell us a little bit about food and Beverage Insider? Okay.


Audarshia: So Food and Beverage Insider is a daily online news source and monthly digital magazine that’s focused on the back stories and of healthier food and beverage products and ingredients. Now, it also covers market trends and serves as a valuable industry resource. I wrote that myself.


Diana: You Good job, right? Yeah. And what is your specific area of coverage? Do you cover at all or do you have a space that you like to that you fit into?


Audarshia: So food and beverage insider it’s food beverage insider dot com it it’s comprised of three components so we have a daily the daily site which we update on a regular basis with all the trends and news and we have a quarterly we have a monthly publication fully digital magazine and that magazine covers everything. Each issue is themed, so it could be anything from beverages, which is the April issue to plant based, which will come out this fall to, you know, just a range of of of of of topics that people in this industry are very interested in and everything is very healthily focused. And then we also have monthly webinars where.


Diana: Oh my goodness.


Audarshia: Talk to various experts in the industry. Mm hmm. And then we have the shows where we also have sessions where we talk about we have the experts in person. Yes. About topics as well.


Diana: Oh, okay. So busy. Okay. Now, tell me a little bit about the relationship or explain to all of us the relationship between the Food and Beverage Insider and Informa. How do you guys live together?


Audarshia: Okay, so Informa is a parent company and is based in London, and so it has many divisions of it. And we are part of informa markets, North America. There is like four markets South America, Asia, Europe, etc. So we are under North America and then there are so many divisions. We’re part of the health and nutrition section and part of that, there are two parts. There’s New Hope Network, which of course what the natural product expose shows and then the supply show supply side shows. I’m part of that. And those are so new hope. Those are the finished products that you see in the stores and the retail stores. So we’re everything that you do before it gets to retail. So we talk about the ingredients, the sustainability, we talk about the issues, all the things you’re dealing with before it gets there. So formulations in the products and everything. So that’s food and beverage and cider.


Diana: I got it. Okay. Wow. Okay. Well, so speaking of New Hope and the big show, big Shows Expo, that’s how you and I met. We were at a they call it right now. Naturally, Network calls it the MO Fellowship. That minority owned Fellowship was a networking breakfast on Friday. I believe there were two. There was one Thursday morning as well. And then Friday I went, I only made it to one you did go to. Okay.


Audarshia: I would expect as much. Right. Okay. Okay.


Diana: So what was your take away from what’s happening with that kind of minority owned fellowship and what naturally network is doing there?


Audarshia: I think that is fantastic because one of the one of the issues I hear from a lot of the founders who are who are people of color and bio parks is that it’s really hard for them to raise money, to get money for their product or even just to get the visibility, get the marketing, get the exposure, all that good stuff. So naturally, network with this, this I guess this this arm of their organization, this is a way for them to amplify these groups. And so I think it is so awesome. And the people were fantastic. Hmm.


Diana: We’re it. Katrina.


Audarshia: Yes.


Diana: Is it. Yes. Katrina. Tell, tell and telling. Right. Her last name doesn’t always roll off my tongue, but she was the one that kind of pulled that all together. Yeah. Good. The work that naturally Network is doing to elevate women and then bio park owners and founders and just people in the industry in general. It’s been pretty phenomenal. I’m always excited to see what they’re doing next, and that was fun to be able to attend during Expo. It was great.


Audarshia: It was well, just to network with them and all in one space. I didn’t have most of them when they were at the actual show. They were spread out throughout it. But to have them all in one place and have their products there where I could just talk, yeah, all at once, that was great. So I love that they did that. Mm hmm.


Diana: Well, I want to step back for just a minute because we’re going to talk about trends. But as I was doing my homework, I noticed you have quite the interesting professional journey. You’ve worked at a number of places that maybe feel incongruent to somebody like me because I am not a writer. But I would love to hear a little bit about how you came to Food and Beverage Insider and what drew you to this publication and this this group.


Audarshia: Okay, so technically I will go all the way back, but technically, my food and beverage journey started the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Tribune magazine, where I worked for a number of years as a writer and a producer and also a television personality, because they had me do everything I learned. Everything was there. So they had me on. They had me do television segments featuring restaurants and nightclubs and cocktail lounges. They also have me doing radio segments. And then there was a lot of writing and then a lot of Internet editing, producing as well as writing. So I was there for for a number of years. And then once I left, I was a free agent pretty much until I briefly went into PR. And so, you know, some people are like, you’re going to the dark side, going to PR, but that actually helped me being there for two and a half years, just really in the sense that I learned how to do PR and marketing so that predated it. I don’t want to age myself too much, but it predated several years of social media. So before that time, social media came around, I knew how to market myself on social media, which a lot of journalists were not doing. And so I was able to do that effectively because I just thought of it as, you know, I did that for two and a half years with products and people like Magic Johnson, who we promote when I was at this PR agency. So why not just do that for myself? And we’re always told as journalists, it’s not good to promote yourself. But in this day and age, as you know, of course, if you’re not promoting yourself as a journalist, you’re not going to get gigs, especially if you’re a freelance writer. And I was doing that for about 20 years. And during that time when I was a freelance writer, I wrote for Esquire and I had a regular gig at Playboy. Again, The Tribune, Chicago magazine. The list goes on with some of the publications writing about food and beverage. So I did that for a number of years. It was fantastic. And then the pandemic happened. And so when the pandemic had. But as you know, things, the world just change. And the restaurant industry industry was decimated and the stories just started changing. I did a lot of Instagram lives. That’s why you see, I was so active on Instagram because I was doing so many different. I was doing almost daily interviews with chefs and restaurateurs. Some always. I mean, just everyone I was interviewing. It was.


Diana: Great. Yeah.


Audarshia: But sometimes, you know, it just starts getting redundant. And then, you know, some of the some of the stories I was I was reading from other journalists, they weren’t so sunny. So many people left the restaurant industry during that time. And a lot of them, interestingly enough, came over to the CPG industry side of the business.


Diana: Oh, really?


Audarshia: That was starting to really, really grow for food. And that, of course. And so I suddenly found my my way following them. And here I am. Absolutely. Beverage Insider.


Diana: But I you know, a lot of people that I talked to on the on the PR side sorry to bring up the dark side. A lot of them are self proclaimed foodies. Do you would you call yourself a foodie? Are you super adventurous or do you just this is just another thing that you love in your life?


Audarshia: I would never call myself a foodie because I just kind of think I don’t really like the word. I call myself a food and beverage enthusiast. I’m very.


Diana: Enthusiast.


Audarshia: I was excited about it. Wherever I plan my vacations, my actual vacations, not the work trips. Yeah, based on the city with the best food.


Diana: And get out.


Audarshia: Yes. Instead of going to museums and hikes and all that stuff trails, I find like the hottest restaurants with the best chefs and that sort of thing, you know, plan. Where is it in relationship to the best hotels? Does a hotel have a really good restaurant? Well, yes. Everything around where the best restaurants are going to be in that city. And so so, yes, that’s that’s that’s what I do. And then in Chicago, I just happen to be in a world class city when it comes to fine diets, when it comes to dining and so and so forth. You know, you cannot go anywhere in Chicago without getting a great meal, whether it’s high or low, you know. So I’m just in the best place for food. So it’s just it’s just always around me.


Diana: I love I agree with Chicago. So there I haven’t traveled all across the United States, but there are two cities that I believe that are my favorite so far of the ones that I visited. Chicago, Chicago’s number one.


Audarshia: New.


Diana: And New Orleans is number two. And it has to do with accessibility, food, food, variety. And the people in Chicago, for those people that haven’t been. First of all, where are you been go? Because it’s so easy to go to. But it’s that kind of cross of a little Southern Midwest hospitality a little bit in New York in when it comes to architecture, I just feel like it’s a nice mosh pit of all of the things that are great about America in many ways. Of course, there’s a lot of not great things there as well. But I just feel like you’re right. You can’t you trip over good food. There’s just, you know what the art is? The art is public, which most of the country you don’t have access to art and it’s just super accessible city. And the people are, for the most part, generally very kind. And I’ve always had a great time then. And the same thing with New Orleans, except for it’s hard to do business in New Orleans because everything’s a little you still a little shady there, but I love it anyway. Unless I was there, I don’t know if you’ve seen a sidebar. I don’t know if you’ve seen recently. I was there a year ago, and the amount of new construction down there, the growth in New Orleans is pretty remarkable. If you haven’t been recently, go.


Audarshia: 2018 was when I was there.


Diana: That was the last time. Okay, So.


Audarshia: Remember.


Diana: Lots of.


Audarshia: Oh.


Diana: So lots of things have changed since 2018. And it’s really kind of nice to see because they’ve really needed the upgrades for a while. Anyways, I digress. Wayside bars. Let’s not at all.


Audarshia: Let’s go back. Yeah, there were a lot of restaurants I did not get to visit on my last trip and I have a ton of relatives there and I just don’t get. Do you? Oh my God. My mom’s like half of her. Well, I’ll say a quarter of her. Her family. Her side of the family. Oh, really? New Orleans. The national. Oh, another great food city.


Diana: I you know what? Never been to Nashville. Wonderful. Sounds like you recommend.


Audarshia: Absolutely.


Diana: Okay. Okay. I heard that. It’s a I’ve heard it’s become a destination party city. A little bit like New Orleans, but not quite as large, you know, in in a slightly different way.


Audarshia: Is the the. Well, pre-COVID, I know that Nashville was the top bachelorette city in the country. Get it. Beat it. Beat out Vegas. I couldn’t believe it. That’s shocking and I.


Diana: Mean shocking to me. But I live on the West Coast, so I have no like connection with Nashville. I couldn’t.


Audarshia: Believe it. But it’s true. And I witnessed it because we went and it was the last time I was there, I think it was 2013 or 2017 or 16. And it was it was around this time. So it’s bachelorette season right now and it was insane. Oh.


Diana: Of course. Of course.


Audarshia: Awesome. It wasn’t mine. Blessed to have five.


Diana: Yeah, of course. But yeah, I, I wasn’t so. Okay when it comes so let’s talk a little bit Nashville in food. So when you say it’s a great destination for food, what are we talking about? Is this Americana or is it pretty diverse?


Audarshia: It’s pretty diverse when it comes to cuisine because you’ve got the southern food. Of course, it’s the yeah, the hot chicken. And they have grill flying great biscuits everywhere. But at the same time, you’ll have like some world class chefs. Don’t ask the names right now because I don’t I wasn’t expecting them to. I don’t have them in front of me. And, um, downtown Nashville, it just has some very contemporary, very good restaurants. And there’s a lot of high and low. It’s some of these fine dining restaurants. So you’ll have Southern cuisine and they amp it up, and then they have a lot of traditional restaurants that have been, um, how do you say the restaurants have been around since the 1920s? They have been upgraded, I know. And then what I really love was that they, um, someone bought the old Woolworth’s, which was the site of the 1960, during the early 1960s, during the civil rights movement, when there was all the sit ins, a lot of the cities bought that one. Yes, bought that one where all the sit ins took place when black folks could not eat the at the counters. So they had to get their food to go. They it’s totally renovated and modernized. It was so cool. The food. Well, this is again, like I said, pre COVID. So I’m not sure if it’s still there, but I hope so. But the food was great. They had old, old clips of Soul Train plan on these these these these screens. And the food was fantastic and as well as the cocktails. And that was is really hip and it was a diverse audience. And I’m like, wow, 50 years ago, most of us could I could not even be in here. Wow, That’s great. Wow. Oh.


Diana: Okay. Well, now I have a location, so now I know one place to go in Nashville, at minimum. Have to get that from you.


Audarshia: Oh.


Diana: Oh, speaking of biscuits, there is a place up here. I don’t know if you’ve been to Seattle. There’s a place up here called June, baby. Yes.


Audarshia: I know, Eduardo.


Diana: Eduardo’s biscuits. There’s just no words. I’m telling you, I will. I will go. I’ll go to the mat for one of his biscuits. They are so good. And he sells out every day because they’re pretty labor intensive. Apparently, by the way, he makes them so good.


Audarshia: So good. So he has a new restaurant.


Diana: He reopened. He reopened June, baby. And then the other one that he had, he had to shut down both of his restaurants. Both of his restaurants got hit by COVID and there were some other shenanigans that went on as well. And there’s been a little lesson learning this. My understanding it.


Audarshia: Took him a while to reopen.


Diana: Yes. You know what he’s doing on his Facebook that I really appreciate. I follow him on Facebook is he’s doing a lot of experiment recipe experimentation and he shows all the experiments on his Facebook page. So not everything makes it, of course, into the restaurant. But what’s really cool is to have him go, I’m trying this and I’m doing this with it now. I’m trying this and I’m doing this with it. So you get to go along for part of the ride of the journey of what is it that a chef goes through before they actually put something in their restaurant and it’s not something that’s typically visible to the rest of us. It’s pretty great. I like.


Audarshia: It. I love how you keep it real, Diana. I love it so. Oh.


Diana: Yes, I like him a lot. Okay, So let’s go back to what we’re what we’re talking about here. Okay. So I want to go back to Expo for a moment. I know that in your role trends, that’s part of what everybody wants to know. What’s the trends? What’s happening next? What’s happening tomorrow? I’m curious your thoughts. I want to talk about plant based because I’m hearing a lot of rumblings, nothing formal, but saying that plant based is kind of softening. It’s not going away per say. But that that the overall sentiment is that it’s not quite as popular. I’m just not buying it. And I’m curious about your opinion on what you’re seeing and what your thoughts are.


Audarshia: I agree to the part where you said that it’s softening only in the sense that the people don’t want the same old things because vegans, you know, being in those plant people are plant based food enthusiasts. They want what they want, however, they want it more variety. So there are always going to be innovations there. So whether it’s meat, whether it’s dairy, cheese, dairy free cheese, right now, it’s so hot. It is.


Diana: Yes, it.


Audarshia: Is so hot. Ice cream. The cheese and sour cream at the expo had some that I was just like, I did do a double take. I was like, wait a minute now. And so. Right. Are still trying to perfect, of course, that chicken nugget. Yes. A lot of companies have moved on to other innovation because there’s so much when it comes to plant based and I just did a segment recently on the Fox affiliate in Chicago, and that was when we were talking about plant based and was saying, you know, if people hear plant based, they automatically like, oh, you know, that’s you know, that’s not going to taste right. And you have to understand that plant base also means that you’re taking a lot of stuff that people are sneaking in. Because I remember distinctly this one company got into some trouble because they were promote themselves as a vegan product, a vegetarian product, I mean, a vegan or plant based product. And they were sneaking in. I’m not going to say what, but they were nuts sneaking into something just so it had that that velocity and that flavor profile in it. If you were like all the. Yeah. And it turned out that they had something in there that was a meat product. It was a no and it was people were getting a lot of people were getting allergies because they were like, what is this? What’s going on? It’s possible to have any allergens, any meat. So what is happening? And so that’s why it’s important. The plant based narrative is really important because you have to when you say it has, it does. They have certain things in it, it better not. And so companies are getting better with that and it’s also tasting better as well. The product. Yeah, cranking out. So I don’t think it’s necessarily softening. I think that there are better innovations.


Diana: Yeah. And I also wonder. I also wonder. There’s a lot of information now coming out in the marketplace related to food. The food technology around these plant based trends and in many instances were taking elements of a particular vegetable or fruit and stripping it down to, you know, those basic elements and including it, because, you know, we’re sort of Frankenstein ing and some of it is I don’t really like that word, but effectively that’s what’s happening, where we’re putting a bunch of things together and creating something new in order to simulate something that we’re comfortable with. And I’m wondering if that is having an impact, that kind of blurring definition of plant based. Some people feel maybe afraid of what those maybe meat analogs are looking like or the animal based analogs, or do you feel like I’m just too deep in the industry and I’m overanalyzing what I’m hearing?


Audarshia: I, I think it’s, again, innovations. People are out there. They want to make the next they want to make the next they want to create the next big thing. And so, of course, I see these experiments and all these different analogs, as you said, are coming out for the next few years. There’s so many things I’ve heard that, you know, we’re doing this, We’re we’re going to make this I’m not going to say what they are because they’re all over the place. But I’m sure people are projecting doing some of these things up until 2026. And so because they’re still expensive experiment and they’re like, we’re almost there. And sometimes it may look like it and feel like it, but they also want to get that smell of it or, or and then always, no matter what you do, in the end, it better tastes good. It better. It doesn’t necessarily have to taste like the real thing, but it better taste good. And so that’s the mission.


Diana: Yeah, I would say not in the end. I would say.


Audarshia: First. Right. Exactly. No. Hmm. No.


Diana: And speaking of also, I remember one particular innovation that I saw Expo is in Hall E bottom floor. I remember exactly where it was because it was just. Just a thing. Did you see the ice cream and gelato that was made with olive oil?


Audarshia: No, I did not know all the.


Diana: Energy.


Audarshia: Cream.


Diana: It was creamy. It tasted exactly like the real product. Took the man seven years.


Audarshia: See? Mm hmm.


Diana: Seven years. I’m going to. I can’t remember. I’m going to go look for it. And I’m going to send you the link. You will fall on the floor. Ready? Set to taste like all of us. It taste exactly.


Audarshia: What’s.


Diana: Like ice cream? I tried a mint flavor, but, yes, I tried a mint flavor. And then I tried a lemon sorbet. And the lemon sorbet was on point. It was not just a lemon sorbet. It was a it was a legit ice product that I would purchase at a restaurant. Even scooped and with a little I was gobsmacked.


Audarshia: Is it finished? I mean, it’s so it’s out there. It’s it’s finished.


Diana: The deck is clean. The ingredient deck is short. I, I is close to miraculous.


Audarshia: Especially when you say, no.


Diana: I’m.


Audarshia: Not. I’m going to say my favorite flavor.


Diana: Is it now. Okay. I think five SKUs. I’ll send let me look through my notes. I’ll send you the link and you can go and check them out. I was literally I was like, olive oil, olive oil, ice cream. I could eat like it because it doesn’t have any of the saturated fats. It’s got all of the good he was somehow it was I don’t remember the founder’s name, but he was able to somehow retain a bunch of the the new nutritionals that olive oil has and create this brand new product that does not taste like olive oil. The mouthfeel was legit. The flavor was good. It was. I’ll send it to you. You’ll have to go try it. Exciting to try. Okay. All right. I was able to show you something.


Audarshia: That you hadn’t heard of. Why?


Diana: That’s a win for me for the day. Okay.


Audarshia: All right, All right. No way. You could see possibly. I know everything at that show.


Diana: It was not even rain.


Audarshia: And I went down to that floor two times, and I don’t know how I missed it, but there was so much to see.


Diana: Oh, well, that’s so bad. I mean, I know, I know. That’s okay. Next time. Hey. Yeah. Okay. All right. All right. So now you cover all of food and beverage. I’m curious what you where you see food trends moving. What are you seeing? Eating out, staying in international flavors, comfort food. What do you see in.


Audarshia: All of that? You named everything I love. But what I am most excited about is you name global trends, global flavors. I love that we have more than ever. We have so much to choose from. When you’re in the grocery aisles, you’re not just seeing the same things, but you’re seeing you’re seeing foods and you’re we’re being introduced to foods, flavors, spices, seasonings, sauces, all sorts of things that we’ve never seen in the grocery store before that we can make it whole. We don’t necessarily have to go out to a restaurant because at home on the cover of our home. And that all started during Colgate trends because we had no choice. And so I love dining out as much as possible, but I love that my spice cabinet is just bursting literally with Yes.


Diana: Yes is so funny.


Audarshia: Yeah.


Diana: My husband told me at one point he said, know, you know, I don’t know, 100 years ago before kind of mass commercialization of food, he said you would always know the people who were rich by the number of spices that they had because spices were so expensive and hard to come by way back in the day. And so every once in a while when we’re when we’re feeling goofy, we open up the spice kept we’re rich.


Audarshia: Well, it oh, my God, I get a lot sent to me because so many people want me to try them. So it’s I don’t even really have a spice cabinet anymore. I just have a spice closet. Closet. Yes, exactly. I came in, put them in there, and I’ve even tried them all. I but it does make food interesting because it changes a filet or a fish or meat and. Yeah, awesome. Yes.


Diana: Yeah. Well, so then can you speak to what do you wish you were seeing more of in that kind of those finished consumer packaged goods. What’s what are you wishing there was more of right now.


Audarshia: More ice cream. So we expect more more innovations in ice cream, more innovations in dairy, particularly ice cream. I kid you not. I could not. Ice cream is my favorite food. I’ve covered some of the best restaurants in the world. And yes, and I’m not saying that to brag, but, you know, at the end of the meal, you know, you get people bring out they want to brag with a pastry chef. And sometimes some people set out the cart with all the fanciest stuff. I gravitate immediately to the ice cream I love is really all the flavors. All the flavors. So okay. But at the same time, you can’t have ice cream every day. So I love the new innovations and making it healthier, as you said. So I am loving that there’s a possibility I could have it every day because people are making it cleaner, healthier, less sugar, but they’re still creamy and it’s still taste like the ice cream I’ve always loved. So that. Absolutely. And also beverages, as I told you before, as we as I told you when we first started, I covered I have covered the whole nightclub nightlife scene pretty much my entire career. And I’m still covering it in the sense I cannot drink every day. I cannot drink every night I go out or no. Sometimes I go out three or four times a night a week, and sometimes a night I may go to a few and one night. So I can’t drink at every place. So I know that there are more innovations in nonalcoholic beverages that don’t feel like us. You know there aren’t. Yeah. Sugary sweet and are just cool to drink. They look cool. They taste cool. People really put their heart in them instead of like, Yeah, throwing something together and it’s all, you know, syrupy.


Diana: Yeah. Grown up. Grown up. Beverage of.


Audarshia: Yes. Grown up nonalcoholic beverages. Yes. Yes.


Diana: I absolutely. I love that. I there is a proliferation. You know, we worked with Cheryl Klaus over at Dry Soda years ago. I don’t know if you’re familiar. She’s one of the OGs in this space. And she started it because she was, believe it or not, A Do you know Cheryl?


Audarshia: No, I’ve heard of the product.


Diana: Okay. So she started the brand cash it spent. I think the brand’s been around for at least 15 years now, maybe almost close to 20. And she was pregnant and she said. I don’t want to drink milk and water. She loved her wine and so she couldn’t have wine, couldn’t have juice and was relegated to water and milk. So that’s how she came up with dry soda, this very subtly flavored epicurean, subtle epicurean flavors that could be paired with food, the grownup beverage. Right. So it’s and she was one of the first few in the very beginning. And now, of course, we have all of these people that have followed behind her and it’s just exploded. Love it. And it’s so fantastic. I love that.


Audarshia: Hmm.


Diana: Well, you know, Audarshia, I. I’m loving our conversation. I’m feeling like I need to fly out to you, have a drink and maybe some ice cream.


Audarshia: Right, Exactly.


Diana: Although I will tell you, I’m a pastry girl. Really? If I was to be really honest, I love myself. A good pastry chocolate chip.


Audarshia: I like some brownies. I love those. Really? Oh, yeah. I mean, I like chocolate cake. I like pie. But it’s like if you put ice cream on the menu, as I see it, Ice cream? I actually have chased that ice cream truck down the street and four inch stilettos. And I’m like, No, I mean, and I don’t care how it looks, but I want my ice cream cone. I love ice cream. I always have. Like I.


Diana: I can 1,000% respect that. That is it. You know what you want and make sure you get it because nobody’s going to take care of it but you. That’s the way it rolls. Absolutely. Oh, my goodness. Okay. I have a question for you before as we start kind of wrap in this whole thing up here, one of the questions I ask absolutely everything, because this podcast is about elevating women leaders, particularly in this kind of CPG space. Are there any other women leaders or rising stars out there in this industry that you’d like to elevate for the work that they’re doing right now?


Audarshia: Absolutely. The women who put together the who created Dine Diaspora, Nina and Mame. Mami. Yes, Nina and Mami, they’re based in D.C. and or the D.C. area. And dying diaspora is is a firm that amplifies black women all over the globe in the food space so they could be chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs in the CPG space, both scientists, farmers, activists. Okay. Okay. Everybody who has a part in the food space. So they have this annually. They have this event called not of that. It’s they have this awards ceremony called Black Women in Food, the Black Women Food Awards, where they recognize some of the top black women who are doing it all over the globe. And they’re originally both of them are originally from West Africa. And so you’ll see names from there. You’ll see names of black women who are living in Europe, South America and the Caribbean, North America. So they don’t just look at the United States. And I think they’re doing a great job. And food and Beverage Insider just happens to be their media partner. So I was very happy to help put that together. Good.


Diana: Now, so I am just stepping into West Africa. I think a first of all, fabulous that they’re incorporating from around the world. But I would say that America has not done a very good job at all of exploring this ginormous continent of food. And I know like Petite Spencer is like one of the first to kind of start to mainstream some of those flavor profiles and ingredients into the United States. And I see others following behind her. Thank you, petite and. I. It sounds like an exciting opportunity that these women are creating. Just kind of elevate it here, bring it into the states and start it. Because there’s we’ve we’ve not that we’ve tapped everything in the whole wide world, so entire continent that we’ve not paid any attention to. And it and I’m super excited for that. Yeah.


Audarshia: And what’s crazy about it, if I can just say for a second, it’s worse. There are so many people from all over the continent in the United States. They have their own restaurants, but they never really have their own stores as well. As far as retail stores, that does it. So they can get those products from home. They can still make those at home. But as far as, you know, mainstream CPG, you don’t until Petite and her and Frederick, her husband started ali0 foods. You did not see any African cuisine in the grocery aisles so you could just pick up and say, Oh, I think I want to do some fufu or some jollof rice tonight. You couldn’t do that until they started. Yeah, it’s amazing that we that all these years it took all these years for that to happen. It’s just it’s insane.


Diana: Yeah, I agree. And, you know, as a brand developers we have I talk with companies of all sizes startups through Fortune 50 and I’ve spoken with a couple, I want to say maybe less than a dozen companies over the last five years that are African inspired, but it was never necessarily country inspired. It was just kind of more all of African. And every time they want to talk about their product, I felt like they wanted to talk about their brand and kind of like an expected like what Americans expected from the African flavors. And I say, Why don’t you own it? Like, you don’t have to pretend to be something. Just own it. You have your own cuisine. Let’s let’s be legit about this and turn you into something that will have Americans excited and not be in not kind of further what’s the word? Characterize it and turn it into like a caricature of what? The whole entire. Continent is a food. And it was very hard when you’re small startup, particularly those that are cottage, you know, they’re making ideas out of their kitchen. They’re not professional chefs, they’re not professional manufacturers. And it’s scary kind of saying, Oh, I can’t have an influence. People want me to behave in particular ways. You’d only get those people to move so far outside of their boundaries and understand what their potential implication is to the general population. But I’ve seen kind of fits and starts. And so when Petite and and her husband stepped out and said, We’re going to own this, that was extra exciting.


Audarshia: And again, it’s all about funding and a lot of people just don’t get it. So it’s good that they’re leading the pathway. And a lot of people are following, following. They’re inspired, they’re totally inspired by their success and think they’ve done a great job. MM And they’re nice people now. Oh, and they give back so much.


Diana: Super nice. Yeah.


Audarshia: Liberia, which is was where her family’s from. Mm hmm.


Diana: Let’s talk a little bit about what’s next for you. What’s on your plate? Where can we expect to see you in the next few months?


Audarshia: Well, the next few months are constantly uploading new videos, interviewing food scientists and other people who are creating products for food and beverage on. You’ll see those interviews on Food and Beverage Insider. We have a section, new section called Ask the Scientists the Food Science. Oh, we asked them just different things about what’s going on in the industry and get their point of view. Also, as you know, we have the shows coming up. We have supply side West, which is going to be this fall. So that’s where I’m going to be moderating and my team as well. Several quite a few sessions on beverages, innovation, on global flavors, fermentation. And we have great panels. We are now creating those those expert panels. Who’s going to be on those panels, the discussions that are going to take place. So and then the end of the year, you know, there’s always Europe. We have our big show. It’s going to be in Germany this year, and that’s when we go to that annual show to see what Europe is doing and what with the innovations coming out.


Diana: Fantastic.


Audarshia: Should expect in the United States soon. Last year was in Paris and that was my first food Ingredients Europe show. And this year, like I said, in Europe, I mean Germany. So I’m always excited to see what happens at that show because it’s so big and, you know, you really get that international flavor and so many people from so many countries go there who we might not necessarily see at our shows. So those are just a few of the things that I’m always on, you know, local TV as well as Chicago, talking about innovations, trends and what people should be eating and drinking right now. Mm hm.


Diana: Okay. Well, when am I going to be in Chicago next? So I’ll have to turn it. Turn it on. I’ll take you to a Czech restaurant. Oh, I will.


Audarshia: Look, like I said, let’s check it out. Okay, Let’s check it out. I’m sure you haven’t heard that before. You’re horrible. All right, all right. No, it’s okay.


Diana: I’ve heard it my whole life. Okay, well, hey, listen, we have been talking with Audarshia Townsend, content director of Food and Beverage Insider. Audarshia, Where can people learn more about you? And a food and beverage insider.


Audarshia: Food beverage insider dot com is the site and that’s the daily website. And it’s also a monthly digital magazine where you’ll find all the great content that we put out.


Diana: Excellent. Thank you so much for your time. I’m so happy to have met you. It’s just I haven’t laughed this good for a long time. Thank you so much.


Audarshia: It’s it’s nothing new as well. Thank you so much for. I was nice meeting you and I’m so glad that you followed up and we were able to connect here. This. This was great. I, I needed the change of pace, too. So thank you so much, Diana, of course.


Diana: And thank you listeners for your time today. If you like this episode, would you 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.


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Chief Sales & Marketing Officer
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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