On the heels of the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show, this week’s episode explores new and innovative concepts in the food and beverage industries as viewed through the lens of the annual trade show. As part of our conversation, BevNET’s John Craven, Mike Schneider, Jon Landis and Ray Latif discussed the event’s “Incubator Village,” which showcased a number of food and beverage incubators from across the U.S., including Chobani’s unit, The Hatchery and Commonwealth Kitchen, along with several of their respective portfolio brands.
Later in the episode, we feature an interview with Smári Ásmundsson, the founder and CEO of Smári Organics, a maker of Icelandic-style skyr. Earlier this year, the company introduced Kaffi, an innovative line of cold brew coffee blended with Smari’s protein-rich yogurt that is being positioned as a better-for-you energy drink. Ásmundsson spoke about how he assessed the opportunity to launch a beverage, the most challenging aspects in managing food and drink lines simultaneously and the unconventional path its coffee products have taken to profitability.
1:21: Important Changes to Your Account, Incubator Villages, and More -- We kick off the episode with an important note to our audience: going forward we’ll be posting new episodes of Taste Radio Insider on the same feed as our flagship Taste Radio podcast. The Taste Radio Insider feed will be phased out next month, so if you’re not already a subscriber of Taste Radio on your listening platform of choice, whether it be Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify, make sure you get on that.
Later in the show, the hosts discuss highlights and notable brands from an eventful 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show, as well as Jon Landis’ upcoming move to San Diego, why you’ll save money -- and get an amazing view -- by registering for BevNET Live and NOSH Live today, and a couple recent visits from the folks behind nitro coffee brand King’s Row Coffee, and jun kombucha maker Wild Tonic.
17:56: Smári Ásmundsson, Founder/CEO, Smári Organics -- Ásmundsson sat down with Taste Radio editor/producer Ray Latif for a conversation about the yogurt brand’s foray into beverages and how he’s navigated production and distribution challenges along the way. He also explained why the coffee drinks are made with non-organic ingredients, the process of selling food and beverage lines to a single retail chain, and how the influence of Nordic culture on the brand.
Brands in this episode: Smari Organics, MudLrk, Lil Bucks, Blake’s Seed Based, Seedly, Simply Soupreme, Jersey Barnfire, Straightaway Cocktails, Fire Brew, Superfrau, A Boring Life, Rind Snacks, Honey Mama’s, UBU, King’s Row Coffee, Wild Tonic, Steaz, Belgian Boys
In this episode, we’re joined by Sebastian Dreher, the managing director of Dohler Ventures U.S., the Los Angeles-based venture capital arm of Dohler, a global supplier of natural ingredients for the food and beverage industry.
Dohler Ventures is specifically focused on investment in early-stage companies and its portfolio includes stakes in a number of fast-growing consumer brands. As part of our conversation, Dreher discussed Dohler Ventures’ funding philosophy and why he believes that investing in emerging brands is more “art than science.”
“There is so much risk involved in every single deal that I need to have the feeling that this company has the potential to… have a $100 million exit,” he said. “It’s a lot of gut feel, [but] you can argue that gut feel is actually a lot of internalized pattern recognition and learnings over time.”
Dreher also spoke about how he evaluates scalable innovation, why category dynamics are crucial to Dohler’s investment strategy, and why great founders are also great fundraisers.
1:48: Wilde On B -- Post-BevNET events, the hosts chewed on chicken in chip form (thank you Wilde Brands), sipped on sparkling rooibos tea, snacked on salmon jerky and chastised Jon Landis for his beverage hoarding. Of course, CBD is also the mix.
10:43: Sebastian Dreher, Managing Director, Döhler Ventures U.S. -- In an interview recorded BevNET Live Summer 2019, Dreher spoke with Taste Radio editor/producer Ray Latif about the mission and focus of Dohler Ventures and how his passion for innovation has helped shape his role with the venture capital firm. He also explained why a brand’s potential to create a new category is a key component of Dohler’s funding philosophy, the average size of an investment and the number of investments that Dohler Ventures makes in a calendar year, and his view that “Investors don’t invest in products, but in businesses, businesses that get acquired.” Later he discussed his expectations for ROI, red flags that preclude him from investing in a brand, and how he manages relationships with entrepreneurs and other investors.
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This episode features an interview with Sisun Lee, the co-founder and CEO of More Labs, a next-generation maker of functional beverages best known for hangover relief supplement Morning Recovery. Launched in 2017 via an Indiegogo campaign, the brand was an instant hit; Morning Recovery pulled in $3 million in revenue in its first six months on the market.
Early success powered an $8 million Series A round -- based on a $33 million valuation -- in 2018 and new distribution at retailers like 7-Eleven and Urban Outfitters. In an interview with BevNET’s John Craven and Mike Schneider, Lee discussed the factors and strategic decisions that led to Morning Recovery’s rapid development, and how More Labs is attempting to create a platform for functional products.
1:16: Live from Live -- On location in New York City, the hosts discussed highlights from day one of BevNET Live Summer 2019 and the preceding NOSH Live conference, including the New Beverage Showdown along with presentations and stage talks with vitaminwater/BodyArmor co-founder Mike Repole, Presence Marketing founder Bill Weiland, Caluipower founder/CEO Gail Becker and Whole Foods Market co-founder Walter Robb.
13:17: Interview: Sisun Lee, Co-Founder/CEO, More Labs -- In an interview recorded at More Labs headquarters, Lee spoke about how his background in tech and the influence of Korean culture played into the creation of Morning Recovery. He also discussed how a popular funding campaign on Indiegogo and a widely read article about the brand catapulted sales just a few months after its initial launch. Later, Lee spoke about the value of qualitative data and intuition as the company grew, how it sources consumer feedback and incorporates into its innovation strategy and why high-quality, minimalist content attracts more interest than communicating the science behind product.
Before teaRIOT established a multi-channel retail footprint that stretches across the U.S., and before its acceptance into the Chobani Incubator program, and before its recent $3 million Series A funding round, co-founders Laura and Steve Jakobsen were simply focused on building a brand.
“What does [teaRIOT] look like?,” Laura asked in an interview included in this episode. “How does it stand out on shelf? What are our consumers saying? How do we need to change it from the inside of the bottle to the outside of the bottle? We just stayed nimble for two years and made changes in our foundation to really tighten everything up.”
Throughout the process, teaRIOT, a brand of organic tea-based energy drinks, leaned heavily on social media to better understand its consumers and how they interacted with the brand and its products.
“[We] not only use social media to publish outward but also to listen and to interact and engage. We always focus on what consumers are doing with our product. If you look at our [Instagram content], it really portrays the vitality of the brand. But in some pictures we don’t even have the product. It’s really about how people are living, being energized on tea.”
That approach has been particularly effective on Instagram, where teaRIOT has gained over 121,000 followers since its launch in 2015.
As part of our interview, Laura and Steve expounded upon their approach to brand building and shared their perspective on the keys to a successful social marketing strategy. They also discussed their experience in the Chobani Incubator and lessons from the program, and explained why teaRIOT’s investors must also be consumers of the brand.
1:16: Cassava… On The Cusp -- Just a few days away from NOSH and BevNET Live Summer 2019, the hosts reflected on the New Beverage Showdown 17 competition, munched on cassava-based snacks, sipped on a few innovative new beverages and shared a few recommendations for eating and drinking in New York City.
16:35: Interview: Laura and Steve Jakobsen, Co-Founders, teaRIOT -- In an interview at teaRIOT headquarters in Venice, Calif., BevNET’s Mike Schneider spoke with Laura and Steve and engaged in a deep dive into teaRIOT’s branding, marketing and social media strategies. As part of our conversation, Laura explained her perspective that “influencers are kind of dead” and why brands should focus on aligning with “real, authentic people in your community.” They also discussed why it’s important to partner with investors whose lifestyles fit with that of the brand, and how their experience in the Chobani Incubator helped reinvigorate their passion for entrepreneurship and the brand.
In this week’s episode of Taste Radio Insider, we’re joined by Josh Zloof, the co-founder and CEO of Sudden Coffee, an innovative brand of specialty instant coffee. Founded in 2015, Sudden is attempting to revolutionize the $40 billion market for instant coffee by emphasizing its proprietary production process and by focusing on “scalable hospitality.”
As part of our conversation, Zloof spoke about Sudden’s mission of using an instant product to democratize access to speciality coffee and why it was designed to be “Grandma proof.” He also explained how the company has zeroed in on Gen X as its key consumer demographic, discussed the challenges of managing both manufacturing -- Sudden operates its own production facility -- and marketing as a small company, and why he believes that the product attributes of Sudden are more important that the brand itself.
1:42: A Few Sips of “Mud Water,” Canned Wine and Candy Milk — You know it’s a special episode of Taste Radio Insider when the host gulp Snickers-flavored chocolate milk and wash it down with chai and wine. There’s also discussion about people stealing John Craven’s Instagram photos, the emergence of the canned wine segment, how Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Calif. is the epicenter of food and beverage innovation, and why it’s a no-brainer for entrepreneurs seeking investment to attend BevNET Live and/or NOSH Live.
13:40: Interview: Josh Zloof, Co-Founder/CEO, Sudden Coffee -- Zloof was visiting from San Francisco to attend the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo and stopped by BevNET HQ to record an interview with Taste Radio editor/producer Ray Latif. Zloof spoke about the origins of the company and how prior jobs in supply chain logistics and hospitality fueled his interest in coffee. He also discussed how speciality coffee roasters including Intelligentsia have supported its development and reshaped its business model, how Sudden is attempting to create experiential moments for its customers, and why the long-term vision is about “branding the process.”
Brands in this episode: Snickers, Twix, MUD/WTR, Cha Cha Matcha, Four Sigmatic, Besa Mi Vino, Lila Wines, Oskar Blues, Sudden Coffee, Taster’s Choice, Folgers, Intelligentsia, Starbucks, Equator Coffee, Ritual Coffee, Spark Coffee, Keurig, Dunkin’
In the latest installment of Taste Radio Insider, the hosts discussed the fallout from a controversial profile of GT’s Kombucha creator GT Dave in Forbes magazine. Dave’s comments about competing brands ignited a debate on LinkedIn about production standards and the impact of strategic investment in the kombucha category.
Later in the show, we feature an interview with entrepreneur Suzie Yorke, the founder and CEO of Love Good Fats, a fast-growing brand of keto-friendly snack bars and shakes. Leading with a message of “fat is back, sugar is out,” Love Good Fats launched in Canada in 2017 and has emerged as one of the leading brands in the keto space. As part of our conversation, Yorke discussed the company’s fast start and how Love Good Fats is attempting to become the “beacon brand” for healthy fats.
1:31: Hipster Taste Test — The episode begins with a discussion about an odd Vita Coco tweet and why it became one of the brand’s most popular social media posts ever. Later, the hosts offered their take on a profile on GT’s Living Foods founder/CEO GT Dave unsettled some in the kombucha community, including Health-Ade co-founder/CEO Daina Trout, who posted a response to the article on LinkedIn.
15:55: Interview: Suzie Yorke, Founder/CEO, Love Good Fats -- In an interview with NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg, Suzie spoke about her decision to launch the brand following a 25 year career as a marketing executive and how Love Good Fats got off to a fast start. She also discussed evolving consumer perception of healthy fats, the importance of staying on brand and why the two-year-old company has invested in TV advertising.
In this episode, we sit down with Darren Marshall and Ravi Kroesen, the CEO and Head Teamaker, respectively, of specialty tea company Smith Teamaker for a discussion exploring how a small company can influence an entire industry.
Portland, Ore.-based Smith Teamaker was founded in 2009 by Steven Smith, a legendary figure in the tea world best known as the creator of Tazo. The company is renowned for its expertise in blending and commitment to high quality sourcing, as well as its contribution in defining world standards for the tea industry.
In our interview, Marshall and Kroesen discussed how Smith Teamaker has continued to grow based on the principles of “craft, creativity and origin” laid down by its founder, who died in 2015. They also explore how the company has continued to drive innovation despite its relatively small size.
“As a small business, we have not only an opportunity but an obligation to push the envelope and to create things that others might not have the ability to do,” Marshall said.
As part of our conversation, Marshall and Kroesen spoke about their unique career paths to Smith and their roles as stewards of its founder’s legacy. The pair also explained why the company is taking a patient approach to growth and why becoming a billion-dollar brand is not in their plans.
1:18: The Watertown Cooler -- The hosts chatted about a steady stream of visitors to BevNET HQ over the past week, including those from the founders of Nitro Beverage Co. and Rind Snacks. They also shared their thoughts on a new flask-bottled cocktail mixer brand and recalled a time when BevNET’s “product cave” looked very different than it does today.
14:35: Interview: Darren Marshall, CEO & Ravi Kroesen, Head Teamaker, Smith Teamaker -- In an interview recorded at the 2019 Speciality Coffee Association Expo, Marshall and Kroesen discussed their respective career paths to Smith Teamaker, along with the origins of the company and its mission. They also spoke about the current state of the tea industry, how Smith attempts to differentiate itself and why they look “outside the tea world for a lot of inspiration.” Later, they explained the company’s approach to consumer education and what trends they see as guiding the future of the industry.
Getting into the food business was a “no-brainer” for Patagonia.
That’s according to Birgit Cameron, the managing director of Patagonia Provisions, the food and beverage arm of the environmentally-focused apparel company. Launched in 2013, the brand markets a variety of responsibly sourced products, including bison jerky, tinned mussels, seeds and even beer.
In an interview included in this episode, Cameron explained that “if you think of Patagonia as this overarching environmental company that’s been dealing with agriculture for many, many years... food was such a natural progression for us.”
“Because agriculture as it relates to food is one of the biggest contributors to climate change,” she said. “It felt like a natural segue to say, ‘we know what we know on the apparel side, what are the other things we can do to really shift the supply chain, shift the thinking around climate issues and agriculture?’”
Listen to our full interview with Cameron, who spoke about the origins and development of the brand, opportunities and challenges derived from the brand’s alignment with its parent company and why an uncommon innovation strategy is critical to its overarching mission.
1:23: San Diego Shandy -- Back at BevNET HQ after a few days on the West Coast, Ray spoke about his visit to San Diego, where he recorded interviews with Mamma Chia founder and CEO Janie Hoffman and Boochcraft co-founder/CMO Adam Hiner (to be featured in Taste Radio Ep. 162). Meanwhile, John, Mike and Jon munched away at some savory snacks sent to the office in recent days and chatted about La Colombe’s new Cherry Shandy coffee.
8:35: Interview: Birgit Cameron, Managing Director, Patagonia Provisions -- Cameron met up with BevNET editor in chief Jeff Klineman and NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg at Expo West 2019 where she discussed Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s initial concept for a food brand and how it was developed. She also spoke about how Patagonia has incubated the Provisions brand and why the company takes a multi-prong approach to its retail strategy. Later Cameron explained why “everything [the brand] makes has a deep reason for being,” how Patagonia is attempting to position its food products for broad appeal, and how its work with documentary filmmakers is helping to connect consumers to their food sources.
When assessing funding opportunities for early- and mid-stage companies, First Beverage Group, an investment and advisory firm that works with and invests in brands across the beverage spectrum, has a category-first mindset.
First Beverage believes that “the tail winds of a strong category -- no what that dynamic might be -- can always help a business as it’s starting to get off the ground early,” according to vice president Joe Angiuli, who, along with managing partner Jack Belsito and managing director Bob Nakasone, joined us for an interview included in this episode. That approach has guided the firm as it has made investments in fast-growing brands, including Essentia, Health-Ade Kombucha and Q Drinks.
As part of our conversation, the trio spoke about the about the First Beverage’s portfolio and investment philosophy and how they evaluate synergies with entrepreneurial brands. They also discussed the current funding environment for the food and beverage industry, which categories might be best suited to weather a potential downturn, and why CBD is not the only cannabis-based ingredient that’s caught the attention of First Beverage.
1:18: The New Way To ‘Gram Your Pepsi Lime — It’s a brave new world out there: PepsiCo is putting lime juice in its flagship cola and perfect Instagram posts are a thing of the past. The hosts break it all down in the opening minutes of the episode.
8:39: Jack Belsito, Bob Nakasone & Joe Angiuli, First Beverage Group — In an interview recorded at Expo West 2019, Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Belsito, Nakasone and Angiuli about their backgrounds and roles with First Beverage and discussed how the firm’s mission has shaped its portfolio. They also explained why they value entrepreneurs that are “coachable,” and why they believe the energy category will continue to grow and evolve. Later, they spoke about the firm’s perspective on CBD and THC, what growth stage First Beverage usually invests in a brand and what entrepreneurs shouldn’t say in a pitch meeting.
You might have put time, money, blood, sweat and tears into building your brand, but at the end of the day it doesn’t belong to you.
That’s the perspective of Christian Krogstad and Thomas Mooney, the co-founders of Westward Whiskey, which helped establish the rapidly growing American single-malt whiskey category. As part of a wide-ranging conversation included in this episode, Krogstad and Mooney explained that consumers, via their palates and wallets, are Westward’s true owners.
“We share a belief that it’s Westward, not either of us, that should be famous,” Mooney said. “And that we want our whiskey to do the talking. Ultimately, brands belong to the people who enjoy them, not to the people who make the products.”
Originally founded as House Spirits Distillery in 2004, Westward was one of several brands in a broad portfolio that included Aviation Gin -- since acquired by actor Ryan Reynolds -- and others. Following an investment from Distill Ventures, the venture capital arm of beer and spirits conglomerate Diageo, in 2018, the Portland, Ore.-based company shifted its primary focus to Westward, a single-malt whiskey that draws inspiration from Oregon’s deep-rooted craft beer culture.
As part of our conversation, Krogstad and Mooney spoke about Westward’s origins and explained why it was important for them to develop a personal relationship prior to formalizing their professional one. They also discussed the company’s alignment with Distill Ventures and how they determined it was the right partner, what the notion of a “better whiskey” means to them and why compelling innovation means giving people something they “never realized they wanted.”
1:46: John at Kon, DragNet & a Whole Lotta Protein -- John and Mike returned to the studio after a week away from the office and discussed their trips to L.A. and Vermont, respectively. John also spoke about his experience at KombuchaKon, an annual trade show focused on the business of kombucha, where he presented on a panel and sampled a wide variety of products, including one from Iceland. He also explained the concern among KombuchaKon attendees in how some brands are marketing and promoting their products. Later, the hosts bantered about the development of the market for CBD in L.A. and chatted about a few notable products that came into the office over the past week.
19:25: Christian Krogstad/Thomas Mooney, Co-Founders, Westward Whiskey -- Krogstad and Mooney joined Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an interview recorded at the Westward Whiskey distillery in Portland, Ore. Krogstad spoke about his background in craft brewing and how it led to him to launch a distillery and Mooney discussed how his experience with CPG conglomerates provided him with both a foundation and thirst for entrepreneurship. Later, they explained why partnership with a strategic investor has long been part of the company’s business strategy and how they developed a relationship with Distill Ventures long before its investment in Westward. They also spoke about Westward’s “beer-philic” approach to distilling and why a limited marketing budget means that they “can never be complacent in product development.”
Brands in this episode: Nutty Steph's, Alchemist Beer, Kombucha Iceland, GT’s Living Foods, Brew Dr. Kombucha, Humm Kombucha, Boochcraft, Dosist, Cha Cha Matcha, Smashpack, Muscle Milk, OWYN, Smarties, Protes, Lemon Perfect, Westward Whiskey, McMenamins, Fiji Water
August Vega is a “go big or go home” kind of entrepreneur.
The founder and CEO of MALK, a super-premium brand of organic nut milks, Vega cut her teeth in the beverage business selling her wares at farmers markets in Houston. From the outset, Vega had lofty ambitions: she wanted to develop MALK into a billion-dollar brand.
“I believe that we are in control of our own destiny, and why shoot for a low bar?” she said in an interview included in this episode. “It is a high bar… but we’re seeing a pretty big evolution in the plant-based space, not just from a dairy perspective, but in meats -- it’s everywhere. And I think there’s potential.”
Since launching the brand in 2014, Vega has maintained that focus and made strides toward her goal. MALK is sold nationally at Whole Foods and carried at a variety of mainstream grocers and mass retailers, including HEB and Target.
In an interview included in this episode, Vega spoke about the origins of MALK and why she envisioned it as a billion-dollar brand from the outset. She also explained why data has been critical to the company’s development and the variety of ways it sources sales information and consumer feedback. Vega also discussed how MALK considers innovation and investment and talked about how she navigated the company through a particularly challenging period.
1:09: Steeped in Specialty Coffee -- The hosts kicked off the episode with a discussion about innovative and interesting coffee brands featured at the recently held Specialty Coffee Association Expo. Among notable brands viewed at the annual trade show, hosted in Boston from April 11-14, were Steeped, a maker of bagged coffee grounds, and Elemental Beverage Co., a manufacturer of commercial appliances that chill fresh-brewed coffee in 60 seconds. The hosts also chatted about the latest issue of BevNET Magazine, which includes feature articles on the premium water category, powder beverages and craft beer as well as a comprehensive listing of functional beverages marketed in the U.S.
14:59: Interview: August Vega, Founder/CEO, MALK -- Recorded at Natural Products Expo West 2019, Vega spoke about the coincidental ties between MALK and a fictional brand featured in “The Simpsons” and how dairy allergies in her family and dissatisfaction with nut milk brands led her to create MALK. She also explained why MALK doesn’t use the word “milk” on packaging or marketing, why data drives much of its business and innovation strategy and why Boulder Food Group is the right investment partner for the company. Later, she discussed the controversy surrounding MALK’s use of high pressure processing as a safety step and how she addressed concerns about the products, and what she views at the near future for the brand.
As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words." When evaluating investment opportunities, Chris Hollod, a venture capitalist focused on early-stage consumer brands, takes the adage to heart.
“I tell every brand: ‘I judge you within the first two seconds of looking at your Instagram page,’” he said in an interview included in this episode. “I think it’s the most important piece of the puzzle aside from the actual packaging itself.”
That perspective has helped shape Hollod’s portfolio, which includes stakes in a number of lifestyle brands, including Matchabar, Dirty Lemon, Know Foods and Recess, among others.
Listen to our full interview with Hollod, who spoke in depth about his investment philosophy, how he identifies bleeding edge trends and categories, and what an examination of “signal to noise ratio” can reveal about a brand’s prospects.
1:28: Receptors, Randy's and Roscoe's -- Early into the episode, Mike pops some CBD mints to (hopefully) address a few ailments, and the hosts discuss the difference between early-stage venture capitalists and angel investors. Later, they imbibe on some non-alcoholic beer from London (it’s pretty tasty stuff) and chat about why it makes sense for successful and sometimes wealthy entrepreneurs to seek outside capital for a new company. Last, but not least, Ray expresses his love/hate relationship with donuts.
14:14: Interview: Chris Hollod, Founder/Managing Partner, Hollod Holdings -- In an interview recorded in Los Angeles, BevNET’s John Craven and Mike Schneider spoke with Hollod about his background and investment philosophy and why digital strategy is at the top of his list when evaluating brands. He also explained why he believes that his job requires him to not only to follow and facilitate innovation but to predict it.
Brands in this episode: Pur 7, Lucent Botanicals, Black Medicine Coffee, Infinite Session, O’ Doul’s, Founder’s Brewing, Spudsy, Buff Bake, Kane’s Donuts, Union Square Donuts, Voodoo Doughnut, Dunkin, Randy’s Donuts, Roscoe’s, Recess, Dirty Lemon, Matchabar, Know Foods, JuneShine, Blue Bottle Coffee, Four Sigmatic, Tenzo Tea, MUD\WTR, Verb Energy
In this episode, we examine brand-building and retail strategies for center store grocery in interviews with the founders of two category-leading brands: Katlin Smith, the founder and CEO of fast-growing baking mix brand Simple Mills, and David Eben, the founder of Carrington Farms, a leading brand of organic seeds, grains and oils.
Smith is the founder and CEO of Simple Mills, a brand of natural baking mixes, crackers and cookies, that she launched in 2013. Over the past six years, Simple Mills has become one of the leading natural brands in the spaces in which it plays. Its products are distributed in over 13,000 conventional and natural grocery stores including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target, Kroger and Safeway. Smith was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017 and based on what you’ll hear in our interview, it’s easy to understand why. Smith spoke about the origins of Simple Mills, how she assessed the opportunity for a better-for-you baking mix brand, what her first year was like and her definition of entrepreneurial commitment.
Carrington Farms, a leading brand of organic seeds and cooking ingredients, actually started out as a tea company. Founder and CEO David Eben discussed the brand’s evolution and how its portfolio has grown over the years. Entrepreneurs would be advised to take note of David’s advice on working with retail buyers and why it has been and continues to be a key part of the company’s business and innovation strategies.
1:34: New Kids on the Block -- The hosts chatted about new team members at BevNET HQ including those in marketing, sales and with our NOSH vertical. They also riffed on a bunch of new products sent to the office this week and how some are advancing the categories that they participate in.
16:51: Interview: Katlin Smith, Founder/CEO, Simple Mills -- In an interview recorded at Natural Products Expo West 2019, Smith spoke with BevNET CMO Mike Schneider about her background in management consulting and how it played into the development of Simple Mills. She also discussed the day-to-day grind of her first year in business and how she stayed motivated, how she learned to most effectively present and communicate to investors, retailers and consumers and explained why leadership is about being "willing to change.”
34:09: Interview: David Eben, Founder/CEO, Carrington Farms -- Also recorded at Expo West 2019, Eben spoke with Taste Radio Editor/Producer Ray Latif about Carrington Farms’ evolution from a tea manufacturer to a stable brand for natural and organic ingredients. Eben also discussed the importance of retail buyer relationship, why product development is an “up and down” process that involves both suppliers and retailers, how a crispy quinoa puff was reborn as a crouton, and how to stay relevant with consumers. Finally, he spoke about the company’s charitable arm, Carrington Cares.
Bend, the small, yet fast-growing city in Central Oregon, has become a haven for entrepreneurship.
Although the local economy had been driven by the lumber industry for over a century, Bend has in recent years seen an influx of innovative companies -- from tech to food and beverage -- launched within its borders. According the office of Oregon’s Secretary of State, Bend registers more new businesses each year than any other city in the state.
Entrepreneurs often point to the Bend lifestyle, which is steeped in outdoor sports, snow activities and craft beer, as part of the city’s appeal and why a variety of business and consumer publications have ranked Bend as one of the best small cities to live and work in the U.S.
In a recent visit to Bend, we met with a few of its food and beverage entrepreneurs and community leaders to learn more about the reasons behind its emergence as a business capital on the West Coast.
Note: a few of our interviews were re-recorded via phone due to an unfortunate loss of the original audio, hence a slight variation in sound quality.
1:24: Sweetening You Up With... Shots? -- The hosts tested out a product called Nature’s Wild Berry, which claims to make “anything sour, tart or acidic taste extremely sweet” after chewing on it 30 seconds. They also discussed the deluge of new functional shots coming to market and what brands are doing to stand out.
10:34: The Business of Bend -- We explored the city’s evolution as a hub for entrepreneurship in a series of interviews with founders of several Bend-based food and beverage companies, including Picky Bars, Humm Kombucha, Riff Cold Brewed, Deschutes Brewery and Jem Organics.
This episode features interviews with two entrepreneurs that are advancing the conversation for cannabis-infused food and beverage brands: Jonathan Eppers, founder and CEO of Vybes, and Kristy Knoblick Palmer,co-founder and COO of Kiva Confections.
A tech executive-turned-beverage entrepreneur, Eppers joined us for a discussion about the launch and development of Vybes, a CBD-infused water brand that leads with the tagline “Mind + Body Function.” Eppers discussed why he’s embraced CBD, why “borrowing brand equity” has been key to Vybes’ marketing strategy and what’s in store for 2019.
Our interview with Palmer focuses on her budding business of Kiva Confections, a maker of cannabis-infused chocolates, mints and gummies. Launched in 2010, Kiva products are sold at cannabis dispensaries in five states, including its home market of California. In our interview, she spoke about the Kiva’s origins, its branding strategy, how the company differentiates its products and how it drives trial. She also discussed the evolution of the cannabis industry and the mainstreaming of cannabis products, while also offering advice to entrepreneurs looking to break into the space.
1:34: WTF is Smoobucha? -- The hosts riffed on a bunch of new products sent to the office over the past week, including Odwalla’s new smoothie and kombucha blend, and how food and beverage brands are attempting to educate consumers about responsible use of cannabis-infused products.
11:14: Interview: Jonathan Eppers, Founder/CEO, Vybes -- In an interview recorded in West Hollywood, BevNET’s Mike Schneider and John Craven spoke with Eppers about his career prior to the launch of Vybes, which included work with eHarmony and Google and the launch of a startup called RadPad. He also discussed Vybes’ branding and marketing strategy, the company’s thoughtful approach to distribution, and offered his take on isolate vs. full spectrum CBD.
27:10: Interview: Kristi Knoblich Palmer, Co-Founder/COO, Kiva Confections -- Palmer sat down with BevNET’s Mike Schneider and Jeff Klineman at Natural Products Expo West 2019 for a conversation about Kiva and its development as one of the leading THC-infused food brands. Palmer spoke about Kiva’s mission to offer consumers a better edible experience, the rapid growth of the cannabis industry, how the company infuses its core values into packaging and why she believes that food will help expand opportunities for THC consumption. She also discussed effect-based marketing, why “budtenders” often guide consumer decisions, and made a prediction about federal legalization of cannabis.
If you want to get the attention of Boulder Food Group (BFG), a venture capital firm that recently launched a new $100 million fund, having a memorable package design is a good way to start.
Launched in 2014 by industry veterans Tom Spier and Dayton Miller, BFG has made early-stage investments in several innovative and socially conscious food and beverage brands, including Chameleon Cold-Brew, Caulipower, Birch Benders and MALK. In an interview included in this episode of Taste Radio, Spier explained why visual appeal is a key factor in BFG’s investment criteria and paramount to the success of young brands.
“If you can deliver the right visual representation -- and then also the taste and the price -- you can steal a disproportionate amount of category share with that combination,” Spier said. “But if you’re lacking the visual appeal, that gets to be a lot more difficult. So we really do try to identify brands that really are beautiful, unique, memorable -- brands that are going to get a consumer to stop in a store, take a look, pick it up and, hopefully, buy it.”
Also in our interview, Spier and Miller discussed their backgrounds in food and beverage, how BFG curates its portfolio and what they view as the value-added nature of the firm. They also spoke about why BFG likes “to scale into [its] investments” and shared their perspective on innovative concepts and what brands need to bring to the table in an investor meeting.
1:40: Post-Show, Now Is The Time for More Expo-sure -- The hosts reflected on Expo West 2019, and discussed the importance of brands to maintain momentum from the show, particularly if they launched new products at the event. Also: Mike re-enacted a spicy adventure and spoke about a couple new cascara products featured at Expo West.
10:03: Interview: Tom Spier & Dayton Miller, Managing Partners, Boulder Food Group --- As part of our interview, recorded at Expo West 2019, Spier and Miller spoke about Boulder Food Group’s investment philosophy and how it evaluates and identifies synergies with entrepreneurial brands. They also discussed the environment for food and beverage investment and how it has evolved in recent years, and the data that can make or break an investor pitch.
Just three and a half months since its debut, Recess, a sparkling water brand infused with CBD and adaptogens, has generated an incredible amount of buzz. Profiled in mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes and CNBC, Recess has been dubbed the “LaCroix of CBD” and within days of its launch the products were backordered for weeks.
So what’s behind the hype? In an interview included in this episode, Recess founder/CEO Benjamin Witte spoke about the brand’s creation and how he set it up for a fast start. He also discussed the company’s long-term mission, why Recess is marketing a solution rather than an ingredient, and why he believes the best way to succeed as a beverage company is not to think like one.
1:36: A Sea of CBD (and Investors) at Expo West -- On location in Anaheim for Natural Products Expo West 2019, the hosts discussed a significant shift in how entrepreneurs and investors interact at the annual trade show. They also spoke about new CBD products exhibited at the annual trade show and confusion about how the ingredient is promoted. They also riff on a few notable food and beverage brands featured on day one of Expo West.
21:44: Interview: Benjamin Witte, Founder/CEO, Recess -- In an interview recorded Recess’s office in New York City, Witte spoke about his relationship with CBD and how it got him into the beverage business. He also discussed why he views Recess as a “recreational wellness brand” and plans to expand with digital and physical versions. He also explained why he believes that today, “brands are built on your phone,” how Recess “designs feelings” and the lessons from the brand’ pop-up show in Manhattan.
Brands in this episode: Recess, Wilde Brands, Revive Kombucha, Brew Dr. Kombucha, Rowdy Mermaid, Olipop, Wonder Drink, Humm Kombucha, Hella Cocktail Co., The Maple Guild, Sunwink, Waku, Goldthread, Fatworks, Q Soo, Sol Cuisine, Shrooms, Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, Kitu, Spudsy, Riff Cold Brewed, Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar Energy
Over the course of his career, Ryan Lewendon, a partner with influential CPG law firm The Giannuzzi Group, has worked with hundreds of CPG brands, including Vitaminwater, Krave Jerky, Vita Coco and BodyArmor. His experience has provided him with a window into how successful entrepreneurs think and operate. In an interview included in this episode, Lewendon offered his perspective on the elements of a winning brand and what it takes to succeed.
As part of our conversation, he discussed how to avoid some of the early mistakes that can haunt entrepreneurs down the line and the keys to effective networking, plus tips on considering the valuation of your company and working with celebrities. He also shared why he believes next year may be the wrong time to launch a food or beverage company.
Also in this episode: BevNET’s Martín Caballero and Brad Avery take us inside the latest issue of BevNET Magazine, which includes feature stories on the coffee category, flavors and functional ingredients and the spirits industry.
1:44: From NYC to Cabo to Expo West: The hosts chat about Ray’s recent visit to NYC, where he recorded several podcast interviews, including with Fever-Tree North America CEO Charles Gibb and Boxed co-founder/CEO Chieh Huang and made a visit to Recess IRL, an experiential pop-up shop launched by the CBD-infused sparkling water brand. Later on, John Craven spoke about his visit to BevNET’s San Diego office and meeting with a couple hard kombucha entrepreneurs. The hosts also encouraged attendees of the upcoming Natural Products Expo West 2019 to follow @bevnet, @noshdotcom and @bevnettasteradio for pics of new products and brands featured at the event.
15:09: Interview: Ryan Lewendon, Partner, The Giannuzzi Group -- Lewendon has been with the firm since its inception in 2010, and has helped hundreds of companies navigate growth at every stage of their development, and advised entrepreneurs from initial launch through to a multi-million dollar exit. In a wide-ranging interview recorded at The Giannuzzi Group office in Manhattan, Lewendon discussed his background in the food and beverage industry and why the firm’s “business model is to get fired every year.” He also offered his perspective on why networking is all about building relationships, the dangers of treating equity “as too much of a currency,” why there’s no magic formula for valuations of small companies, how to approach celebrities about getting involved with your brand and why he thinks that if you’re thinking about starting a food or beverage company, you should not wait till 2020.
43:11: Inside The Latest Issue of BevNET Magazine -- Published last week, the January/February 2019 issue of BevNET Magazine includes articles penned by BevNET’s Martín Caballero and Brad Avery, who shared insights and additional analysis about the content.
In this episode, we explored the evolving landscape for plant-based foods through conversations with Ben Mand, the CEO of coconut beverage brand Harmless Harvest and Michele Simon, the founder and executive director of industry trade group the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA).
Mand, who joined Harmless Harvest last year, spoke about the company’s recent revamp of its dairy-free, coconut-based yogurt drink and how lessons from its initial launch have shaped the company’s innovation strategy. He also discussed how Harmless Harvest is exploring opportunities to extend its brand platform while maintaining the integrity of its flagship product.
Later in the show, Simon, who launched the PBFA in 2016, spoke about a shift in how consumers perceive plant-based foods and how brands are responding. She also addressed the growing debate about the proper use of the words “meat” and “milk” and why she believes that lobbyists advocating on behalf of animal-based meat and dairy industries are fighting a losing battle.
1:43: The Ill Subliminal — The hosts discussed Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha’s recent $3.5 million funding round, Landis’ unfortunate illness, GT’s Living Foods’ line of adaptogenic beverages and a visit from cannabis innovator Adam Terry.
11:42: Interview: Ben Mand, CEO, Harmless Harvest -- A veteran CPG executive, Mand took the reins of a company that has faced a few challenges to its business in recent years, most notably in the use of its former processing method, HPP. Nevertheless, the Harmless Harvest brand has maintained a loyal following, particularly among consumers in the natural channel. ow the coconut water category has evolved in recent years and the most pressing challenges facing companies in the space.
27:35: Interview: Michele Simon, Executive Director, Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) -- Since launching the PBFA, Simon and her team have lobbied for companies innovating with plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products. NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg caught up with Michele at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show for a conversation about the development of the trade group and work on behalf of its member companies.
Blue Bottle Coffee CEO Bryan Meehan is well aware of the increasingly competitive landscape for coffee. Yet while some companies are racing to expand and innovate, Blue Bottle, one of the most admired coffee roasters and retailers in the world, is taking a patient and restrained approach.
“Our way is not the right way if we want to be the most commercially successful company in the country. Meehan said in an interview included in this episode. “There are companies ahead of us that are doing more innovation. But I think our way is the right way if we think about the long-term value of the brand and what taste we deliver to our customers.”
That perspective is embraced by Blue Bottle’s majority owner, Nestlé, which in September 2017 paid approximately $500 million for a 68 percent stake in the company. Meehan remarked that Nestlé views Blue Bottle as “doing something very unique and should not be touched.”
“Throughout the whole culture of Nestlé, there’s support to just (let) Blue Bottle be,” he said.
As part of our conversation, we spoke with Meehan about how Blue Bottle’s new line of whole bean coffee in pressure-sealed cans fits into its purposeful innovation strategy. He also discussed the evolution of Blue Bottle’s cafe and beverage business and the company’s efforts to enhance consumers’ experience with coffee and his perspective on the future of packaged coffee drinks and the industry as a whole.
Also in this episode: an interview with former N’Sync star Lance Bass who recently introduced a line of cocktail mixers called Just Add X. Bass spoke about the launch and development of the new brand and how his experience in the CPG business compares to that of his music career.
1:39: Cannabis, Canned Cocktails & Freeze-Dried Ice Cream -- Mike spoke about his visit to the Seed to Sale cannabis conference held this week in Boston and what it was like to interview Lance Bass. Later, the hosts imbibed on canned cocktails and tea-infused beer, munched on freeze-dried iced cream and remarked a recent visit to the office by Dan & Genevieve Brazelton, the founders of cocktail mixer company Improper Goods. They also discussed the construction of a new studio for our new weekly video show, Taste Radio Now.
15:23: Interview: Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee -- Since he Meehan took the helm of Blue Bottle in 2012, Meehan has overseen three major funding rounds and executed a significant expansion of the company’s cafe business and its foray into ready-to-drink beverages. He also guided Blue Bottle through Nestle’s acquisition of a majority stake in the company. In an interview recorded at Blue Bottle’s booth at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, he discussed the recent launch of its innovative cans of coffee beans and expansion of its cafe business. He also explained why Nestle views Blue Bottle as “precious” and why “over time (it) can be a company for everybody.”
30:55: Interview: Lance Bass, Founder, Just Add X -- If you grew up in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s you’re probably familiar with Lance Bass, best known from the wildly popular boy band N’Sync. Since hanging up his headset mic and dancing shoes, Lance has begun a new career as a beverage entrepreneur with the launch of cocktail mixer line Just Add X. At the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, Lance sat down with Mike Schneider and NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg for a conversation about the launch and development of Just Add X and how his experience in the CPG business compares to that of his music career.
Brands in this episode: MedMen, Cocktail Squad, Shipyard Brewing Co., Tiesta Tea, Owl’s Brew, Cosmik Ice Cream, RAFT, The Bitter Housewife, Smashmallow, Blue Bottle Coffee, Intelligentsia Coffee, Stumptown, Just Add X, Chef’d