Mainstream brands are known for their commitment to training their teams. Those skills are the driving force behind their brands. What if you could leverage those skills to build a natural brand?- It would be like pouring rocket fuel on your growth.

Today’s guest and I had a similar start in our careers. We both began in mainstream CPG. In fact, we were both direct competitors at one time. Today’s story is about how he leveraged what he learned working in mainstream CPG, and was able to leverage those insights and that experience to build two iconic brands. Inspiration can be found anywhere you look for it. In this show, I’m continually talking with thought leaders that share share their insights with you. 

One of the key things that you can learn from this show is that mainstream CPG has a lot of great resources and abilities. The training that those of us who had the privilege of working with some of the largest and most conic brands in the world was second to none. That education helped pave the way for me to bring this show to you, as well as several of the other thought leaders and guests that we’ve had on the show. The point is this, there’s a lot to be learned from the big brands. Many of the skills that the big brands rely on are simply not taught in natural. 

Let me frame it this way. When I started earlier in my career, things were exactly the same in mainstream as they are in natural today. We called on every store, we relied on distributors, and most of the selling was done at trade shows. And then a little retailer called Walmart came along and we had to rethink our go to market strategy. Retailers began consolidating to compete effectively, and we were forced to adopt a new way of doing business. The changes that I’m talking about force us to weed out a lot of the wasted spending, which helped us get our product on more retailer shelves with less effort and expense.

I’m talking about the strategies that the big brands rely on, and the strategies that you should be relying on as well. The strategies, while they were founded in mainstream, are the strategies that help set big brands apart. If you use these strategies, they’re going to help you gain a sustainable advantage differentiating you from your competition. These strategies will teach you how to give retailers what they really want, and what they deserve and need. What’s unique about this podcast, my courses, and all my content is that the focus is on using these strategies to keep natural natural. Leveraging things like your mission, your community, the consumers that buy your product, to help you build a solid selling story, to get your product on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. 

Today, you’re going to learn about how Scott was able to leverage those insights, resources and those capabilities to build two iconic brands. Here is Scott Jensen of Rhythm Superfoods and Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q

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Click here to learn more about Rhythm Superfoods

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #78

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #78

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

LETS ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GET STARTED!

Dan: Welcome. Today's guest and I had a similar start in our careers. We both began in mainstream CPG. In fact, we were both direct competitors at one time. Today's story is about how he leveraged what he learned working in mainstream CPG, and was able to leverage those insights and that experience to build two iconic brands. Inspiration can be found anywhere you look for it. In this show, I'm continually talking with thought leaders that share share their insights with you.

One of the key things that you can learn from this show is that mainstream CPG has a lot of great resources and abilities. The training that those of us who had the privilege of working with some of the largest and most conic brands in the world was second to none. That education helped pave the way for me to bring this show to you, as well as several of the other thought leaders and guests that we've had on the show. The point is this, there's a lot to be learned from the big brands. Many of the skills that the big brands rely on are simply not taught in natural.

Let me frame it this way. When I started earlier in my career, things were exactly the same in mainstream as they are in natural today. We called on every store, we relied on distributors, and most of the selling was done at trade shows. And then a little retailer called Walmart came along and we had to rethink our go to market strategy. Retailers began consolidating to compete effectively, and we were forced to adopt a new way of doing business. The changes that I'm talking about force us to weed out a lot of the wasted spending, which helped us get our product on more retailer shelves with less effort and expense.

I'm talking about the strategies that the big brands rely on, and the strategies that you should be relying on as well. The strategies, while they were founded in mainstream, are the strategies that help set big brands apart. If you use these strategies, they're going to help you gain a sustainable advantage differentiating you from your competition. These strategies will teach you how to give retailers what they really want, and what they deserve and need. What's unique about this podcast, my courses, and all my content is that the focus is on using these strategies to keep natural natural. Leveraging things like your mission, your community, the consumers that buy your product, to help you build a solid selling story, to get your product on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Today, you're going to learn about how Scott was able to leverage those insights, resources and those capabilities to build two iconic brands. Here is Scott. Scott, thank you so much for making time for us today. Could you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself and your journey to Rhythm?

Scott: Oh, yeah. Thanks Dan. Appreciate the invitation to be here. Rhythm Superfoods has been around a little over eight years. It started just over eight years ago as a local juice bar called Daily Juice. There were three or four locations selling the fresh juices and smoothies, organic juices and smoothies locally here. And in one of the locations, they had a dehydrator or two in the back-kitchen area. And the cofounders were making amongst other things, dehydrated kale chips and other crackers and all kinds of neat things that were "raw" and not brought above a certain temperature. So, they had a little cafe going on there, and the most popular item that they had was the little side snack of the kale chips.

I was working at Stubb's BBQ at the time as a CEO and was looking for something new to do. And the gentlemen who were running the daily juice bar were selling little bags of these kale chips to a couple of stores, Whole Foods, locally there were two locations here in Austin. And for a pretty high price like $10 a bag, they couldn't keep them on the shelf. So, I got really super interested in it and started hanging out in their office and finding out how they made them and trying to determine whether or not we could scale dehydrated snacks of the kale chip nature. And so, I don't know, four or five months after spending a lot of time with the original cofounders, decided to jump in and brought some other folks, David Smith and Clayton Christopher along for the kind of the kickoff of the company eight years ago.

Dan: Great. I appreciate your sharing that. Let's back up a little bit more if we may. Because we had a great conversation before to kind of frame this, what we were going to talk about. You and I have some ... our paths crossed a little bit. You worked for Georgia, actually James River, I worked for Kimberly Clark. And by the way, James River, what a formidable competitor back then. As well as the fact that you started Stubb's. As I told you, I've got to admit, while you guys haven't cured cancer, it's way up there on my list of really impressive sauces - moonshot type. I know it's an amazing product. We go through a lot of it, and love it - love your contribution to the industry.

What I wanted to do Scott, is backup a little bit and talk about how you learned about this industry and how you were educated in traditional CPG, and decided to go out on your own, create a brand, and then getting back to the Rhythms story, how you were able to identify the potential for a dehydrated snack.

Scott: Oh, wow. I could talk for an hour or two on this.

Dan: We've got time.

Scott: But I'll keep it tight. From a very early age, I always had an internal clock that liked to create things and even sell them whether it's the first lemonade stand or finding a candy that other kids couldn't find and selling it to them. There was something about my own DNA that had a kind of entrepreneur all over it. But after graduating undergraduate school at SMU in Dallas, I worked for a pretty big ad agency. It was called Bloom Agency, it's called publicist after time. All of the products I worked with were consumer products companies. Things like Carnes, Nectarine, Libby's Nectarine, Carnation had rainbow bread, Campbell tiger bread and we had several fast food accounts as well.

And so, working there gave me the first kind of professional entry into working with a marketing department. It was really fascinating to me. I was working at the ad agency was like one spoke in the entire 20-spoke we'll have a product. After being there for a couple of years, I decided to get my MBA. Ultimately went to NYU, New York University and got my MBA from there and then worked as you said for James River. That was my first thing I worked on was Dixie cups and Dixie plates, and did a couple other things in there for some of the other marketing directors, but I really focused on the Dixie cups and Dixie plates.

I loved it there. It wasn't the sexiest brand, but you got all the basics of being able to be at set making TV advertisements produced in a picnic area. You're doing couponing, you're doing all the basic tracking of trade spend and new product development and licensing with Disney and several other big companies. So, I had a great experience there. But while I was living in New York City with two other close friends in the New York City area, one of them was a roommate, we got a call from a guy named Stubb. C.B. Stubblefield and he was back in Austin, and my two ultimately partners in this Stubb's BBQ Sauce Company and I got really excited about the life of Stubb.

Stubb was calling up my roommate, John, basically to borrow some money to pay rent. He was really kind of down and out, and he was one of those great barbecue masters that was brilliant, awesome. Everyone wanted to be around him, very mercurial like the grandfather you always wanted. And so, we all kind of had a light bulb go off in our head when he ultimately sent up a big old hot cooler of barbecue counter to counter on American Airlines to LaGuardia. We picked up that barbecue, brought it back to our apartment and had a big party that night. Light bulb went off, and we started writing a business plan for a barbecue sauce company.

Fast forward a couple of years after that, I'm working at James River Corporation and we finally have spent two years daring each other to start the business and have a full business plan and spreadsheets and exactly how you think it's all going to play out in a little booklet. And we're handing it out to our friends and relatives. We had a couple of friends that committed the first couple hundred thousand dollars to the company. So, we all had to quit our jobs and move back down to Austin. That's how we started Stubb's, the barbecue sauce company.

Ultimately, we brought on a couple of other partners here in Austin when we decided that we needed to get a home base for Stubb's and get a piece of property and build an iconic barbecue restaurant. Stubb was actually the guy that picked the piece of property that is ultimately where the Stubb's BBQ Live music venue in Barbecue Restaurant. But he passed away before we physically opened the restaurant, and his family inherited his stake in the business. That business still stands to this day as a testament to his heritage and his name, and it rocks. There's 100 sold out outdoor shows in the amphitheater outside, we're open seven days a week, gospel brunch on Sunday. So, it's a great brand story not only in terms of retail and the supermarket, but as an iconic place in Austin Texas.

Ultimately, we sold the brand of the barbecue sauce and marinade company to McCormick, I guess maybe a little over three years ago. They've done an incredible job still making it with the exact same recipe, and so couldn't be in better hands for a bigger explosion of the brand. That's the history part. And then so how it pertains to what I'm doing at a whole veg, whole fruit snacking company is a really good story. I think it's worthy of kind of like how I consider the forks in the road that come to you.

Being in the barbecue business, you spend a lot of time on barbecue and you're learning about smoked meats. And when you're entertaining customers and clients and the like, you're eating a lot of barbecue. Although small amounts of it are not bad for you, overindulgence in anything, I think can be a little bit unhealthy. So, I think after 20 years of doing a lot of barbecue, I was really excited when two or three years before I started Rhythm Superfoods, I'd gone to the first Expo West that I'd ever gone to. It was a real eye-opening experience for me. It was all the types of products that I was really not accustomed to seeing presented in a manner that I wasn't used to. The voice of those brands wasn't resonating with me, but I knew it was resonating with a very fast-growing consumer base.

Based in Austin, Texas here, we also have Whole Foods headquarters here. And believe it or not, Stubb's, because of some of the ingredients we had originally used, there was sodium benzoate in one of the sub ingredients and we just never really bothered to figure out that you could use the exact same thing from the same manufacturer, and get it without sodium benzoate. We weren't in Whole Foods because we didn't qualify for them. And there was a real effort thereafter to get us qualified and start to learn more about the natural and organic business. And so, two years in a row of going to these expos, I got the bug and was really excited about creating in my life, a second phase of doing something maybe that was on a higher trajectory, more organic, more healthy, more better for the environment.

I don't like to put many things in silos, because there's so many different belief systems about what is healthy, what's not healthy. But I knew that when I walked through the halls of the Expo West Show for the first time that I could see this as being the next phase of doing some products. So, I was keeping my eyes open for just such an opportunity when Clayton Christopher introduced me to the guys from Daily Juice.

Dan: Fantastic, what a great story. That's exactly the kind of founder story that I love hearing. Because what you're talking about is how you took a passion, a real passion, you were classically trained in traditional CPG, and then you made the pivot because it was the right thing to do the better thing to do. And more importantly, because it resonated with what really motivated you to get up in the morning. That's what I really love about your story. So, thanks for sharing that.

One of the things that, and I agree with you completely, one of the reasons I love this industry so much is because I think one of the things that makes natural natural is that we're all working together toward a common goal. Whether, as you said, you don't want to go down one path to an extreme, but yet we're focused on improving the environment. We're focused on improving everybody's health, and we're also focused on the way that we celebrate food. So, when you're talking about how you were changing the Stubb's recipe to make it fit within the Whole Foods requirements, how much of a real challenge was it? And the reason I wanted to go here, Scott, is because I think a lot of brands, especially mainstream CPG brands would probably overlook that because profits versus having to rethink something. So, what was the pivot or the transition that forced you or made you really dig into this even more, and how were you able to solve that specific problem?

Scott: That's a really good question, and I have a really good answer for it.

Dan: Looking forward to it.

Scott: Because it goes to the heart of what you do in a company, right? So, just being here in Austin, it's a really healthy city. Transparency and honesty, I didn't know that sodium benzoate was such a bad thing 20 years ago. And so, when things become known as bad things, they kind of do it and it kind of creeps up on you. Sugar, there's people who've been screaming about sugar for 20 years, and now it's starting to find its amplitude. But for us, it was almost an unrecognition of the industry of the National Organic Industry. If it weren't for Whole Foods being in our headquarter or their headquarters here in our own hometown, probably would have taken several more years.

So, it was hitting us over the head right here in our backyard. Because if you're living in Austin, it's hard not to shop at Whole Foods. It's just such a really beautiful store to walk into. We've got great retailers here in this town, there's a ton of great competition in this town. And Whole Foods has its own genre of shopping experience. So, everyone goes there, in addition to the others like H-E-B, and Walmart and Safeway, Randall's. But Whole Foods was the up and coming headquartered in Austin retailer that was expanding rapidly. So, it was not only an economic opportunity to see if we could do it, but it started to resonate with several of our team members at Stubb's that it was really the right thing to do, since there are at least certain physical instances where scientists have shown you shouldn't eat too much of this, or shouldn't eat too much of that.

We decided that if we could do it, and if we could actually have quantitative testing where less than 90 or less than 5% of the people that were tasting in a room, the difference between the previous recipe and a new one using a different ingredient that didn't have a sulfate or a sodium benzoate, then that was the key component there. We had to make it so that it was indiscernible, because it was Stubb's recipe, and you had millions of people that were addicted to how good that stuff tasted. So, the last thing you want to do is have some sort of new coke experience and have people taste the difference. So, it was not challenging to get it done. But it did take four or five different iterations to get the recipe right, where there was literally like 98% of the people couldn't tell the difference between the two.

And so, we quickly shifted. And then you've got to go through the next five or six months of labels that you've purchased in bulk, and get through those, and then slowly get the new all-natural version on the shelf. Actually, before I left, we were going through an entirely secondary approach to this once we got the natural recipe correct, we were kind of challenging ourselves whether or not we could do an organic version of it. And that was a little bit more difficult. Not because of the cost, but the ingredients that you'll see on a bottle of Stubb's marinade or barbecue sauce, at that time, there were not that many ingredients available in their organic form.

Back then, if you wanted to make something organic, you almost had to start from scratch and not just use the exact same ingredients, but find them in organic form. Finding even organic tomato paste was difficult, let alone a Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce, or mustard, or things like that. It just wasn't that easy. We all think about it being incredibly easy now, 15, 20 years later after starting that company. The organic industry of industrial size ingredients just wasn't as broad as it is nowadays.

Dan: No. Well, and the fact that brands like you are switching to that and making those pivots, that's what's making those products more accessible. So, I always say that my mission is to make a healthy way of life more accessible by getting your product in more retailer shelves and in the hands of more shoppers. Now the more accessible piece comes from, if we can lower the cost of putting the products into Stubb's and into Rhythm Superfoods by simply supply and demand, creating more demand, that's how that happens. And so, it's not artificially lowering prices or whatever. So, I'm glad you pointed that out.

And to your point, a lot of products, it's hard to get certified organic, it's not something that happens overnight. And some of the things that you would think are in products that would be healthy, et cetera, cannot be certified organic. A lot of people don't understand that. I think one of the things that we need to do as an industry is we need to do a much better job of communicating what organic is, why it's important, and what it means. And helping people help us make that transition to a more healthy, more sustainable organic platform. Do you agree?

Scott: Yes, Dan. We have a unique thing at Rhythm here where it's not the flag that demands that we make everything organic, but we try our hardest. And honestly, everything that we're selling right now is organic. I'll impart one story because it is supply chain issues as well. You'd think that you ... when we launched our beet chips, which are incredibly delicious and crunchy and really nutritious, for the first year in that product and for the two years before that, in terms of searching for suppliers, that means farmers that we could rely on to support the launch and expansion and scaling of one of our products, the beets became a problem.

And so, getting them on a sustainable basis every single week and having truckloads delivered maybe two or three times a week is not that easy when it's an obscure vegetable like beets. Even though we all eat them up here, many of our farmers are down in Mexico. And so, when we first launched it, we could not get a reasonably sustainable farming base to be able to say, "Yes, let's go print our packages as USDA Organic." So, we hedged. And about six months into the launch, we were able to put two farmers in place that basically gave us the ability as they are right now, we're going to convert over to organic. Well, you got six months' worth of packaging at that time that's nonorganic. So, for the last six months before we actually converted to the new packaging, the beets inside of the bag were organic, but it didn't say organic, because we had to go through all that packaging. Little details that like that keep me with a job, I guess.

Dan: One of the things, I'm glad you've actually mentioned that a couple different times, the packaging. I'm working to solve that problem. What I mean by that, Scott, is that I've had the privilege of connecting with and talking to a lot of people that are really thought leaders in this industry. And the point being is this, there is now the capacity, the capability to develop print on demand packaging that is sustainable. Now, we're still working obviously, as an industry to make this better. But if you talk to the Climate Collaborative, Numi Tea, Organic India, et cetera, those companies are working hard to really change the way that we go to market.

Where I'm going with this is that that's one of the biggest challenges companies face as you mentioned. And I tried to start a brand at one point, and we were looking at the packaging. We had to get about six to 12 months out, but then we had to pay for it. But then we couldn't sell anything because we didn't have any money to pay for the pack. It was kind of a double-edged sword. So, the ability now for a small agile brand to get the packaging that they need, when they need it, in the quantity that they need it, I think it's going to be a big game changer, one.

And then two, the efforts to make that packaging more sustainable so that it's completely about degradable, et cetera. So, stay tuned to that and listen to other podcast episodes. Because that's a huge focus for me. And when you're talking about the fact that you made this pivot. And by the way, I love the new coke example, because I don't know if everyone remembers that. But what a colossal failure. Exactly what not to do. The point being is we've been around long enough to see what works and what doesn't work. I worked for an iconic brand that spent a lot of money to put a product on the shelf. It was by far and away the best product in the category, or would have been. But because it did not fit on the shelf and they didn't plan accordingly, they couldn't afford to go in and reset every retailer's shelf, thus the product died. And it's so disheartening.

Scott: So, the physical height of the product was too high for the normal shelves, yeah.

Dan: Yeah. They didn't involve category management early on in the process. So, we weren't able to say, "You know what? Here's the standard shelf, it needs to fit this profile." And as a result, they spent millions and millions of dollars building inventory, and so on and so forth. It's just a shame that products like that die for reasons that I would call stupid, if we can say that. But the fact that you had to put organic product in nonorganic bags and not be able to sing your praises, that's kind of hard. Because I know you're spending more money to get the product on the shelf. But not being able to charge more because of the packaging.

So, what was that like in terms of a challenging of making a transition and accepting the additional, let's call it liability in terms of cost, while you're making this transition, before you can communicate that it's a better product? Or was price an issue when you went to the organic product?

Scott: I say lucky or unlucky for us. We're in the produce business, so we've gotten to know our farmers and kick the dirt kind of spit in your hand and shake their hand on a deal. That's what we do. If there's bad weather in a certain reason we're watching. Like, right now, as we're speaking in August of 2018, there's several storms off of the west coast of Mexico. I'm hoping they go out towards the Pacific instead of inland. Otherwise, I can't go in and get the produce out in the field. So, for us, we're in the produce industry.

When we look at how much time and attention and costs it is to actually make the product, the difference between organic and conventional for us on the raw material, although there is a difference in cost from our farmers, that ends up being a pretty negligible percentage, considering all the other things that go into it. To me, the 12 to 18 cents of each physical bag itself, the cost of the physical bag is a real big piece of the cost of the final product that we ship out. The labor component of it and the actual raw material and all the things that it goes through to get to its dry state and crunchy state, it's being touched by several different processes. That really is what builds the cost up. For me, if I could find those farmers right out of the gate every single time that are going to grow the organics, the cost for us is negligible.

That's not to say it's the same for someone else. If you go into a supermarket and you look at the organic versus the conventional, it's kind of coming out of the ground and it's priced as is. I'm probably paying the same kind of relevant cost difference at the farm. But that's a pretty small amount. And once we take all the processing that we do and we dehydrate it and pull 95% of the weight out of it by dehydration, you're down to a two-ounce bag of kale chips or a 1.4-ounce bag of beet chips, or carrot chips that may have started as more than a pound. And so, it's really the cost of everything else that goes into it that determines whether or not we've got something that's viable for a consumer.

Dan: I'm glad you've solved that problem. That's a problem that most brands that I talk to have in terms of being able to get quality organic ingredients. So, you talked about dehydrating all the weight. Actually, working for Unilever, water is expensive to ship. And I don't think a lot of people really understand what that means in terms of all the challenges brands have.

If you're shipping a product like a beverage, there are a lot of different issues that you need to contend with. But one of the things I love about Rhythm Superfoods, the brand, the flavor, et cetera, and I don't think people really understand this, and so I really wanted to put a little bit of time into this, is that when you dehydrate a natural product, a healthy natural fresh product, it is actually a lot sweeter than its counterpart. Let me back up. My grandfather made beets, and I loved him. I have not had beets that anyone else has made or prepared since then that I like. I actually can't stand them. But yet because of the way he did it, and I don't know how he did it. But yet, when I taste your product, it has some of that sweet flavor profile, but it's natural. It's nothing. You're not adding sugar or something to it.

My point is that as we begin to eat healthier, as we begin to adopt a healthier more sustainable lifestyle, again, if we are what we eat then what we eat matters, meaning that if we eat products, foods that better fit our nutritional needs, then things that weren't sweet become sweeter. But more importantly, as you dehydrate your products, I love the sweet flavor profile that's there organically. No pun intended.

Scott: Yeah. Just process nerds, which I've become one, most of what disappears in a low temperature dehydration is really water. You could say that frying or baking is also a form of dehydration because it is getting rid of the moisture. But each one of the different processes where you can make a vegetable or a fruit into a shelf stable item does something different to it. If you've ever tried to freeze-dry fruits or vegetables, it has a very different texture. And it also has a very different vitamin content. So, each of the processes are going to do something very different.

Our process, in its own unique way is gently dehydrating the water out of it. Because it's a low temperature dehydration, we're able to keep most of the vitamins. Most of the vitamins will disappear in the process if you're frying it or baking it above a certain temperature. And you can go to the USDA books and see where there's been certain targets that if you fried at a certain temperature, you lose a certain percentage of vitamin C, or vitamin A. We do all of our nutritional stuff with lab tests, so we actually see the difference between it. But with a beet, if you're good with your farmer and you've taught them and they've taught you when it's best to bring it out of the ground, we target specific bricks leveled of the beet itself.

And so, we need to be at a certain level to maintain the sweetness of it. If you let kale or beets or carrots or whatever grow too long in the field, they'll have a little bit different bricks level. If you pick it too early, it's a different one. We target a range in there that brings a certain palatability to it. And as we evaporate it, the content in sugar of certain vegetables and fruits actually grows. It can be almost like an odd consumer double-edged sword. We're basically dehydrating something in its purest form and delivering to a shelf-stable crunchy bag environment. But because of our dehydration, and we've gotten rid of all the weight, sugar as a percentage of the weight ends up sometimes growing higher than you'd want to look on the back of the package.

But what you're also looking at inside the package is what was formerly a pound of carrots and the associated fiber and vitamins and potassium and all the good things that are in there are still at really high levels, but the weight has come down. And oftentimes, sugar goes up. So, I'm glad you like the sweet beets. Just remember that if you look at some of those vegetables and fruits, we don't add any sugar to the beets or carrots. We've got some really cool fruit items that will be launching at the Expo East here next month that we'll let everyone see at the Expo East. When I look at that, it's like, "Oh, man, I wish it was a little bit lower in sugar." But we're not adding anything to it. It's just like taking that raw fruit and eating it without the water in it.

Dan: Well, and I appreciate you saying that. By the way, I look forward to seeing what you're coming out with. A lot of people, sugar's being demonized. The pros and the cons. Yes, we should not be eating artificial sugar. We certainly should not be eating sugar produced by high fructose corn syrup, et cetera. But almost everything has sugar in it to a degree. But it's the sugars that our bodies look to to metabolize, because that's where the carbs are found.

I've had to become a little bit of an expert in this. So, I know exactly what you're talking about. The sugars that you're talking about, while it may scare someone away in the package, honestly, that's the good kind of sugar. Because it's nothing additive. It's something that comes directly from nature. And since you're using clean pure ingredients, I'd like to figure out a way to help you communicate that better to your potential audience. Because I think that again, that gets overlooked. You're not adding anything to it. But yet, those are the healthy sugars that our bodies need to metabolize better.

Let me break it down this way. If you eat a vitamin C tablet, then you get a little benefit depending on which quality vitamin C tablet you eat. Usually, they're mostly just junk if it's a conventional brand, or whatever. But if you eat an orange, the vitamin C that you get from that orange is far better. And it's the natural sugars that help you metabolize that sugar into your body, so that you can use it as fuel so that it lasts you longer and it helps sustain you longer. That's why athletes eat ... at least when I was younger, we used to eat oranges on the sidelines of soccer games.

Again, what you're not putting your product which you're getting out as a result of this is healthy sugar. I think that we need to do a better job again as an industry and differentiating and discerning the difference between that and some of the sugars people are adding to their products to make them taste "better".

Scott: Yeah. I probably know a little bit less than you about it, but I've had to become an expert in it just because we're very much involved in our fruit launch here. And for the modern American diet, I'm trying to make sure that I'm not displeasing a majority of the people out there that might want to look at our product. And media can help to amplify the fears. On any given month or day or year, there's a new direction that people are taking diet wise, and it's really hard to kind of like find the course and stand by something. All we can do is say what we're really all about is we take something from a farm or a grove, we extremely minimally processed it and try to get it into a bag in the simplest and most careful way, so that it has shelf stability, for six or seven or eight months, and it tastes as good then as it did on the day we hydrated it.

But in the end, sometimes a consumer will look on the back of the package and go, "Oh, wow, all these vitamins and everything is good. But why is there 12 grams of sugar? And so, we have to overtly communicate on the packaging, which is our key form of communication, no added sugar, and go through the process of the fact that if you're eating a one-and-a-half-ounce bag of dehydrated blueberries or something like that, that we've not added anything to it. And it's the natural blueberry in its most natural state.

Dan: Which makes all the sense in the world. Because I love blueberries. But to your point, yeah, there are a lot more sugars, a lot sweeter if you hydrate it. And to your point, the processing, heating it up, it removes the nutrients. So, the way you're doing it, we used to dehydrate food. It's hard to hydrate anything in quantity. So, you've got a ready supply of snack. Again, I appreciate the fact that you came up with this.

One of the reasons, Scott, that it came up my Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course, which is free, is designed to teach brands how to leverage this story. Let me frame it this way. Shoppers today are very different than they were before. When we were back end working in traditional mainstream CPG, it was either a black box, or a blue box, or a green box, or whatever. We sold whatever the retailer had on the shelf. Now consumers go to the shelf, they whip out their smartphone and they do some research. And they try to understand a little bit more about the product, who likes it, how their friends like it, et cetera. Where I'm going with this is I think it is incumbent upon every small brand to have this kind of rich information on your website to help educate not only the retailers, but the end consumer as to why this matters.

My point is this, instead of just looking at the four corners of your package and saying, okay, that's enough to communicate the value of your product, you've got your story on the website. But if you also had a lot of this information on your website, maybe a QR code, or snowflake, or whatever, that might help customers better understand, here's the journey behind it. Here's the mission behind it. And more importantly, here's why these sugars are different than a sugar that you might buy in a concentrated fruit drink.

Scott: Yeah. That's a good point. We're a CPG company. And the last time we did a big refresh and development of the brand architecture and what our voice was, was about four years ago. So, we're actually right in the very beginning stages this month, right now, of reviewing several marketing and design groups to go through that process again. And so, by the first quarter, five or six months from now, we'll have a new updated website, social media look and feel, packaging will hopefully improve. I think the rules are, you should be doing that every two or three years, at least for a refreshment of not an overhaul. And so, that's one of the things I'm adamant about, is like having that website as a massive resource for our story. Because you can't do it on the packaging.

Some of our experts in the social media field, and even on the folks that work here at Rhythm remind me how old I am, and I'm very website oriented. And they are very Instagram oriented. And so, I'm trying to figure out how to bridge the gap to either send some of that messaging out through our social media platform in smaller doses, or how I get someone from Instagram or Facebook to want to come to our website. You can track how many people are coming into your website at any given point. And sometimes I feel like it's only the trade, like the buyers and the brokers and other folks, because we have far more people clicking into our social media than we do on our website. But it is a standard for me. I still love going to a company's website and reading their story and what they've got, where they're headed, and where they've come from. So, we'll see a big refreshment on that January, or February.

Dan: I'm looking forward to that. And to your point, I actually rebranded a little bit. It was category management solutions, and I'd go to the trade shows. I know I've met you there a couple times, and people would look at me like, Category management? I know what that is, you're the guy that puts the product on the shelf." Or, "You're the guy that prints the reports." I was like, "No, I'm the guy that helps you sell more stuff. I'm the guy that actually in some cases, developed some of the reports that you're taking to retail."

Now I'm trying to teach brands how to go beyond that. How to really maximize those resources so you get more runway out of what you've got in the bank. I don't believe that CEO should be spending all their time requiring capital. That's kind of what I'm getting at there. But more importantly, bring the traditional, the mainstream strategies, the best of the mainstream strategies into natural, and then helping them to remain natural, so that they help small scrappy brands like you kick butt, to be blunt. But in the interim, I've redesigned my website a lot. I just made a bunch of big changes and I'm hoping it really helps. Because you're right, people come to the website, you need to offer something better than your traditional, "Here's who we are and here we're great."

One of the things that a lot of the big brands do is say, "Here we are, buy us, buy us, buy us, because we're great. Oh, by the way, we're big and you need to buy us." But yet, like I said, consumers are thinking differently today. And my wife is working hard to become an Instagram guru. She's already a Twitter guru in my mind, and Facebook. And being able to understand and how to drive traffic and how to really get involved in an intimate one on one conversation like you and I are having a conversation today. And so, the point being is that that's where I think the greatest opportunity is for small scrappy brands. Is to be able to leverage their relationship with their end consumer, take them off of the package at the retail shelf, drive them to their website, and hopefully get them into a position where they become evangelists. Then you start nurturing them.

You were talking earlier about trade marketing. One of the things that is ... trade marketing is usually the single largest line item or any brand's income statement. I would argue that one of the things that's underutilized is brands being able to own their own customers by bringing them into their own tribe and nurture them and keep them engaged in what you're doing as a brand, rather than traditionally say having them come to the website and bounce away. In this website redesign, what strategies are you putting in place, or you can you share anything with us? Is that a little bit too early to be talking about that? Certainly, I didn't mean to put you on the spot.

Scott: Yeah. No, it is early only because we're actually ... we have a review meeting today with a great design and marketing agency here in Austin. But we had originally looked at as much as eight of them, and we're trying to hear the presentations from the ones we've reached out to. Honestly, as a person that's been there and done it and has 30 years of CPG under his belt, I look to those folks to help us because they're always a much younger crowd. The influencers in this world, the bloggers and influencers have a ton more power and I like persuasiveness, than any of the things that I can do myself. Whether I create content, we've decided to disseminate it on Instagram or put it on my website, I have to have a voice and a look in the feel that speaks to a younger, for our products in particular, a younger person than myself.

I've also got to change the way that we think about marketing. Whereas we're talking about trade spend, it is a spend. It is dollars going to a retailer, for instance, to reduce the cost or get an ad or do an end cap or whatever those dollars are. And really, the most powerful way of gaining a tribe is being true to the mission that you are. And the natural bloggers, the natural ... and I'm going to say not in terms of natural products, but the organic way that you achieve a relationship with some of these influencers who help to spread it further, is hard to purchase. It's hard to go out and just, "Hey, you're someone that has a lot of people that follow you on Twitter. I would like for you to do this." There are people that get paid for doing those things very successfully.

It's hard to manage that. There's all the big CPG companies are paying tons of money to try to help manage that as a major part of their consumer spend. For a smaller company, if you're not doing $100 million, or a billion or $10 billion in sales oftentimes it's a little bit like ether, it's a little bit elusive. Because you'll have someone like we do that does the social media work internally here, and we come up with a calendar of what we have going on to let everyone know about it. But I'm more interested in what our voice envision is of us as a company, what we do for the places where we have a footprint, and does that resonate? Does the voice resonate with a large enough tribe that they get excited about what we're doing? We can't make it up, we have to be authentic. And then we hope and pray that the efforts that we do to reach out to the consumer base has some level of resonance with them as a consumer. Because ultimately, I do have to sell a bag of snacks to continue to pay the bills.

Dan: Absolutely. Well, and to your point, I think a lot of times we get blinders on. And one of the things that's great about one of the things you were talking about it, I want to kind of go back there, is that we're all in this together. And that if we work together, again, what makes natural natural, we help rise the tide, so we help more brand succeed. The point is that we're in this together. And if we work together to help get more products on the retailer shelves and in the hands of more shoppers, then we all win at the end of the day, it's all about empowering brands, and raising the bar.

And to your point about being authentic. Yeah, if you can get someone to say, "This is exactly what I'd make if I were to make a snack on my own." That's the Holy Grail. One of the things I talk about a lot is that a lot of brands think that the selling stops ... We were kind of taught this back earlier in our careers. That the sign stops as soon as we get together product into a store. Or maybe as soon as it goes to the register at the very latest. The reality is that the selling never stops. What you want, what you need to be able to think about or think in terms of is you want that consumer to share that journey, and to talk about the experience of buying your product, and then share with their friends and their family. That's how you build that authentic voice or authentic message that resonates with so many people.

As long as you're able to do that ... And again, social media so amazing. It's such a great platform to be able to do that. Because one of the things that makes us different as natural is again, we don't spend all of our time talking at people, we have a relationship with them. One of the things I want to do in this podcast is not only celebrate you, what you've given to the industry and what you've done for the industry, but talk about how you fit into the space. And I think we've done a pretty good job with that. What other questions do you have of me? Or what are the things would you like to add? What are their questions, problems we got to help solve?

Scott: I think there's one statement that I'll make to any of the startup entrepreneurs out there that some of the things like you're doing, Dan, it's incredible. There's this body of unbelievable podcasts. I was listening a few weeks ago to your John Forker interview.

Dan: That was great.

Scott: I just took some incredible kernels of knowledge out of that, because here's a person that's going down a very different but, in some way, similar path startup company, a lot of fresh vegetables and farming and all that kind of stuff. In the end, that's what we're doing. Is we're going to a farm, I'm making a relationship with a farmer at their farm, and then I'm working on a schedule of bringing that product in to the process. Now, up here in the Austin office, I've got the team of people, whether it be finance and marketing and field marketing and sales that are scattered all over the country here. They are working like a symphony orchestra. It all has to come together in this great symphony.

What I find the most difficult thing to do or did when I first started Stubb's was there wasn't anyone really to reach out to and find advice. The infrastructure now for food and beverage entrepreneurs is the most extraordinary thing going on in America today. Folks like yourself and the accelerator programs, I'm involved with Skew here in Austin, which is a great accelerator program. There was no infrastructure when we started Stubb's BBQ. We just had to run into walls three times before we figured out we had to go over them or around them. I would just say that for all the entrepreneurs out there, if you're struggling with anything, any issue, whether it's product development, or how do I pick a broker, or what do I do about build backs from distributors and retailers? There is several sources to answer any question you have right now. You either go to the trade shows, either the fancy food shows or the expos where the answers are at in a three or four-day period of time, or the websites from those organizations have it, or places like your website, there's just a tremendous amount out there. It wasn't that way 20 years ago.

If you're an entrepreneur and struggling with something, you shouldn't be, because it's out there either physically at these trade shows. Join an accelerator, a pitch day, something like that, and you'll meet the network of people that will help you. In here in Austin, we just have an incredibly uplifting group of other CPG companies. There's 60 or 70 folks that have companies here in this town that are doing less than a million dollars and have a CPG company. 51 of them were at the Expo West this past spring. So, that's a lot. You'll just find other entrepreneurs who are willing to give and give and give. So, any answers that are unanswered, there is an answer for it somewhere. You just got to reach out.

Dan: I appreciate you saying that. I would challenge anyone listening to this to send me a note and let me know what questions you want answered. What problems do you want solved? Because I'm trying really, really hard to make a difference, to raise the bar, and to help teach brands how to do a lot of these things so that you can compete head to head, toe to toe with the big guys. And what I mean by that is, and if we're going to make our healthy way of life more accessible, then you've got to be able to sit down across the table at a retailer's table with any big brand, and be able to be more than an ATM machine. You need each and every retailer to view you as a value-added resource, an important part of their strategy.

You've got to be able to communicate effectively what is your story, and help the retailer understand why your shopper, the sharper that you drove into the store is far more valuable than their traditional mainstream shopper. Because it's my belief that it's the small disruptive brands that are the future of CPG. I've had a lot of conversations with leading, even mainstream experts including Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru, Bill Bishop, Brick Meets Click chief architect. He used to be the founder of Willard Bishop Consulting, and a lot of big names like that, where they agree that that things are changing. And the way that consumers buy products today is very unique. And the way is the way that we as entrepreneurs go to market's unique. There's a lot of information out there, and you've got to be able to tap into the sources like you said, that are really going to help you grow. So, thank you for sharing that.

As far as Skew's concerned, I'd love to learn more about them. So, I welcome an introduction and any of the content I've got out there, it's free if I can help you and help the brands that you're working with, please take advantage of it. I think this is going to be podcast episode 78. Lots more to come. But I'm having a blast doing this.

Scott: Dan, I've only listened to a half a dozen of your podcasts But with the breadth of them being as many as they are, that's enough of a good start. You can listen to half of those and get an MBA in entrepreneurship.

Dan: Thank you.

Scott: In the end, you have to get up and do something. And so, that's one of the things that we try to do at the accelerator. It's like, you can only take so much advice for so long. But in the end, you've got to go out there and iterate. If the idea's here the product is there, you don't have to launch it into a national Kroger or Walmart or Whole Foods program straight out of the gate. There's regional stores and smaller retail environments where you can see whether or not the consumer base is there for your product. So, listen to 20 or 30 of your podcasts and you're ready to go.

Dan: I appreciate your saying that. I'm trying. Thank you very much. It reminds me back when right after college, I came up with an idea for an exercise machine that I didn't know how to market. I didn't know how to do anything with it. I physically built the thing out a lumber in my basement. Well, skip forward a few years, and someone "stole my idea". Just kidding. You know how that works out if you don't do something quick enough. And now it's one of the hottest exercise machines out there. If I had only known.

The key point is this, those skills are not taught in school. I've got a college degree. I have been around a lot of entrepreneurs, worked for big brands, et cetera. And so, look to Skew, look to people like you, look to me and others in the industry to help guide and support you. I was joking when we talked earlier how my wife and I tease about how I'm the hardest working volunteer in the industry. It's because I'm trying to make a difference. I appreciate your saying that, and anything I can do to help support you and your team and Skew and everyone that's listening. Again, reach out to me, let me know what problems you would like to have answers for. What things do you want me to dig into? If you've got something, Scott, I'm all ears.

Scott: Great. I appreciate the time here.

Dan: Thanks. Well, I appreciate it. Thanks for making time for me today. I look forward to bumping into you or seeing you at Expo East, and hopefully other shows as well.

Scott: Great. Thanks a lot.

Dan: I'd like to thank Scott for coming on today, for sharing his wisdom and his insights. I'll include a link to Rhythm Superfoods in this podcast show notes and on this podcast webpage. You can get there by going to brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session78. Today's free download is 11 Strategies to Increase Your Market Basket Size and Grow Sales. Market basket is something I talked about a lot of different podcast episodes. This is what your consumer has after they buy your product and check out of the store. What are the other items in their shopping basket?

If you know what those items are, then you can help the retailer drive sales within their store, drive loyalty in their store, by helping the retailer make certain that they have the right assortment on the shelf to delight your customers. You can get to this as free resource on the podcast web page. As always, I really appreciate you for listening. If you liked the podcast, please share with a friend, subscribe, and leave a review. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in the next show.

Rhythm Superfoods https://rhythmsuperfoods.com

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Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at brandsecretsandstrategies.com for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at TurnkeySalesStoryStrategies.com/growsales. Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

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