Digital strategies give brands an equal voice against their largest competitors, leveling the playing field. The ability to create a connected community united around common needs, beliefs, and values is the most powerful way to amplify your brand’s voice.

Welcome. Today’s story is proof positive that developing a strong online digital marketing strategy can help you win with at traditional retail. More importantly, it can help give you that added traction, that added runway, to help your brand succeed. Today’s story is proof positive that the riches are in the niches. 

What I mean by that, as consumers continue to look for healthy options, striving for healthy or better for you, cleaner products, there are opportunities out there. This is a story about how a brand, how an entrepreneur identified a niche and was able to develop a brand in it. What’s really compelling about this is that they became a leader in the category in this space in terms of clean label, plant-based, et cetera.

Today’s story is about a little brand to be the first to take on a Goliath, and that redefined a category. Today, we also talked about the importance of having a healthy foundation to build your brand on.

This is exactly why I launched my free Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course, to help every brand, literally, every brand, develop the strong, healthy foundation that’s going to help them succeed. Not only today, but tomorrow and beyond. The course teaches brands how to leverage their selling story, so that they have a unified message, with the same passion and enthusiasm as the founder, that they communicate that story in the same way that the founder would communicate it, with their brokers, with their distributors, with the retailers, and their customers.

I hope you’re enjoying the podcast. If you are, please share it with a friend, subscribe, and leave a review. Don’t forget that I redesigned my Resources page on my website. It offers many tools, strategies, free resources and even a calendar of industry events, in addition to free downloadable guides, that address the specific pitfalls that you’re facing.

They each contain one quick, easy to digest strategy that you can instantly adopt, and make your own, one that you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively. Remember, the goal here is to help you get your products on more retailer’s shelves, and into the hands of more shoppers.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about Nutpods

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #89

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #89

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 story is proof positive that developing a strong online digital marketing strategy can help you win with at traditional retail. More importantly, it can help give you that added traction, that added runway, to help your brand succeed. Today's story is proof positive that the riches are in the niches.

What I mean by that, as consumers continue to look for healthy options, striving for healthy or better for you, cleaner products, there are opportunities out there. This is a story about how a brand, how an entrepreneur identified a niche and was able to develop a brand in it. What's really compelling about this is that they became a leader in the category in this space in terms of clean label, plant-based, et cetera.

Today's story is about a little brand to be the first to take on a Goliath, and that redefined a category. Today, we also talked about the importance of having a healthy foundation to build your brand on.

This is exactly why I launched my free Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course, to help every brand, literally, every brand, develop the strong, healthy foundation that's going to help them succeed. Not only today, but tomorrow and beyond. The course teaches brands how to leverage their selling story, so that they have a unified message, with the same passion and enthusiasm as the founder, that they communicate that story in the same way that the founder would communicate it, with their brokers, with their distributors, with the retailers, and their customers.

I hope you're enjoying the podcast. If you are, please share it with a friend, subscribe, and leave a review. Don't forget that I redesigned my Resources page on my website. It offers many tools, strategies, free resources and even a calendar of industry events, in addition to free downloadable guides, that address the specific pitfalls that you're facing.

They each contain one quick, easy to digest strategy that you can instantly adopt, and make your own, one that you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively. Remember, the goal here is to help you get your products on more retailer’s shelves, and into the hands of more shoppers.

Now, here's Madeline, with Nutpods. Madeline, thank you so much for coming on today. Can you start by telling us about yourself and your journey to Nutpods? What I'm really interested in is, what did you before? What is your background? How did you get started down this path?

Madeline: Ah, thank you so much for having us on the podcast, Daniel. You're going to love my background, because I have as unconventional of a background in good as you can imagine, and I actually came from medical devices and blood banking. So my joke is that if I can talk to people into giving blood for juice and cookies for free, anything else is a breeze.

Dan: I get the reference. That's funny.

Madeline: Yeah! But, obviously, when I started out with Nutpods, I didn't know anybody in the food space. The reason why I created Nutpods was because, with some entrepreneurs, you know the story is, they created it out of personal necessity, and that's exactly my story. It's, very simply, I was lactose intolerant, and I had a love of coffee, and I wasn't satisfied with the options that I had at the time.

I was taking a couple years off to try and have a second baby. I'm an older mom and I was really aware, when you're trying to get pregnant, about what you're putting in your body, and I just wasn't satisfied with processed creamers, or soy options, or an all coconut option, that was just really dominant in the coffee.

So it became, very simply, just a quest for me to bring forth to market something that I thought other people were looking for.

Dan: Sounds great. Now, do you live in Washington or in California?

Madeline: Hmm, great question. When I started the company, I actually created it in, out of an apartment, in Newport Beach, California. But as the business grew, and we're originally from Seattle, we had an opportunity to move back. We decided to take that opportunity, so that I could rally my family and friends to raise the two girls that I have. I was blessed, and we were able to have our second baby.

That way, I have the support network, so that my kids are loved on, and I feel like, I have help in raising them, while I can also focus and enjoy all the professional achievements that we've been able to have, as well. But this is the thing, and I think it's so true, where it's like, it not only takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to raise a brand from-

Dan: Yes.

Madeline: Concept to market.

Dan: On that note, the reason I was asking that question is, kind of just joking a little bit, that, Seattle, you've got to love coffee. Isn't that a requisite if you live there?

Madeline: Yes.

Dan: I mean, just, Starbucks and all those other companies come out of Seattle. The point is that, what a great market to start in, where coffee is such a every day part of life. I used to spend a lot of time in Seattle, and there seems like there's a coffee shop on literally almost every corner. So, love the area, fantastic, but to your point: yeah, it does take a village.

Can you talk about, first you found, you came up with a problem. I mean, sorry, you found a problem, something you wanted to solve. What did that look like? What was that transition that caused you to say, "I can solve this"?

Madeline: Sure. So, I think, at the time, I was a consumer. That lens is something that I've tried to maintain, even now that I'm a company owner, and I had a need as a consumer. I was talking about it with my small circle, in California and in Washington. We all realized, whether or not, the people in my own network were plant-based, or dairy-free, or vegan, or paleo. We all were looking for better options, better formula options, in non-dairy creamers.

I realized that, "Hmm. This isn't just me. I'm not just picky about non-dairy creamers, and why should we have to have these substitutions, that you don't feel good about using, and yet, the rest of the industry have all these great opportunities that are better for you?" I started simply, with just a commercial formula in my kitchen, and as the saying goes, you end up having friends kind of borrow your creamer saying, "You should take a look at building this in, as a business."

I think for me, when my research brain kicked in, I realized, "Gosh, 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Why is it that we have so many people that are lactose intolerant? And more people that can process dairy, but choose not to?" We're still stuck the same options, from the 1980s, and so, I'm married to an investment banker. He's actually now my CFO.

But one of the things that we had talked about is, is the niche too small? Because I was so sure, Daniel, that one of the big boys that were coming out with all of the Almond milk that I was drinking was going to come out with a nut-based option. It just made sense to me that, sooner or later, someone was going to come out with a nut-based version, for a creamer, because there already was one, in Almond milk.

What I realized is that it just hasn't come to market yet, and we tried to take a look, as best as you can, as consumers, to find out, what are the barriers to entry? Is it that it's too small as a niche, so that it's not worth it, for a large conglomerate like Coffee-mate to come out with a nut-based? We theorized that they probably didn't come out with one, because it would cannibalize their existing Coffee-mate products.

When we took a look at the unmet market need, and the rise of all these specialized diets, like gluten-free, and paleo, and plant-based, I realized that we can come out with a niche marketing strategy that would allow us to have an authentic, genuine, marketing feel. We could leverage that, with social market, and we went to work to doing a proof of concept, via a Kickstarter campaign.

A lot of people end up using a Kickstarter campaign, to raise practical funds to fund their business venture, and that's absolutely true. The $32,000 that we raised was great for that. I mean, nothing helps you like cold hard cash. But I would say what was worth more than the $32,000 in cash was the proof of concept, that other people were looking for a product like Nutpods. What I really took away from my Kickstarter campaign was, not only was there enough demand, but also, it was a global need.

We had Kickstarter backers that were international, and it was amazing! We had hospitality, hotels or resorts in Mexico, saying, "I'd love to have this for our properties." Or in Australia, someone would comment and say, "I'd love to bring this into my paleo café," or coffee shops in Czech Republic. It made me realize, there isn't a product like Nutpods globally available. That's when we knew, we had something on our hands, and we worked dutifully for two years, to come out with a commercial formula that lived up to the promise of Nutpods.

Dan: It took two years to make it, but when you launched the Kickstarter, did you just have an idea? Did you actually have a product? Or did you say, "Hey, I'm thinking about doing this, what do you people think? Send me some money to help me get started?" Or how did that work?

Madeline: What I had, when I did my Kickstarter campaign, was a kitchen formula. I had made it in my kitchen formula, but it's very different, when you take your kitchen formula, to scale it up on a commercial basis. What I didn't know at the time was how long that process was going to be. Because I didn't know how hard it would be, from a chemistry background, to formulate a product as clean as we wanted Nutpods to be.

So it took us two years, because we were able to do something that wasn't on the market. We were the first to pioneer being a blend of almond and coconuts, and the reason why Nutpods is a blend of almonds and coconuts is because you want that creaminess and the mouth feel and the richness from coconut, but you want to tone that dominant flavor down with almonds.

We were the first on the market to be unsweetened. It's sweetness translates flavor on your palate. We wanted to make sure that we were able to use the natural sweetness of coconut cream, so that you can have a line of unsweetened creamers.

The other thing, too, is while other brands at the time, in 2013, had taken a pledge to remove carrageenan. We are actually one of the first brands to be carrageenan-free.

Dan: Oh, congrats.

Madeline: Thank you! When we came to market, and when I went to formulate this, we were doing something that was not on the market, and it took 28 failed trials, before we were able to come out with something that works in a highly variable environment. You would think that coffee creamer is coffee creamer, but actually, what you find out is that it's a very technical chemical reaction, to take something that is alkaline, and then, move it into an acidic environment like coffee.

For example, if you just took almonds, and water, and you made your homemade version of Almond milk, and you put that into coffee, a lot of times, people will find that it feathers, or it looks like it curdles in the coffee. There's nothing wrong with Almond milk, and there's nothing wrong with coffee, it's just a chemical reaction between an acidic product, and an alkaline product combining.

Dan: I hadn't actually thought about that, but come to think of, now that you're talking about it ... we've almost always put coconut oil in coffee, so I have a little bit of an idea. And then, of course, putting just regular Almond milk, or whatever, in the coffee, and that kind of gets a little bit funky, sometimes. That makes a lot of sense. I hadn't actually thought of that. So it took 28 tries, to figure out how to get this right.

Madeline: Yeah, it took 28 trials, and it was, I mean, not positive back story. The moments where I almost quit, and it was the twenty-seventh trial, and we were already spending a lot of money on these trials, and having failure after failure. I just had my puppy dog eyes, and I just asked, "Is this why it hasn't been done before? Can it be done? Or is this the reason why people use carrageenan? Is this the reason people why use all of these other synthetic and artificial ingredients that you see in processed creamers, because the functionality isn't there?"

It just came down simply to the naivete of a first-time food entrepreneur, where it's like, "We're not creating an iPhone here! We're not trying to travel to Mars. We're just trying to create something that has wholesome ingredients that hold together in coffee." Just having something be as simple as that, knowing that sooner or later, there's going to be a way to come out with a better for you coffee creamer that is rich and creamy, that has clean ingredients, that's not loaded with sugar, has got to be possible.

Dan: Yes.

Madeline: And so, keeping that faith, I liquidated the last of my 401(k). My husband said, "Don't do it, it's our retirement," and I said, "Jeff, I don't want to raise another investor dollar from our family and friends, if I'm not willing to put our money on the line." He said, "But this is our retirement," and I said, "Well, technically, we still have your 401(k)," and so, and we liquidated my 401(k). It was with that last bit that paid for the trial, and the ingredients that finally brought Nutpods to a commercial formula, where we could launch to market, in May of 2015.

Dan: That is a great story. So talk about commitment. Man, that's got to be pretty scary, and then, I've talked to a lot of entrepreneurs, even Gary Hirshberg, for example. He was talking about friends and family, and a bunch of other people I've talked to, too, about how scary that is, and how you make a commitment, and you want to give back. In fact, I actually was talking to Justin, Justin Gould, of Justin's, and he was talking about the very same thing.

Point being, is, that is a very scary thing to have to go through, and then have that burden of, "I wanna pay people back. I wanna make sure that I make good on my debts." So I can understand all the stress that you're under. Now let me go back a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about carrageenan? What does it do? Why is it important, and why do you believe that people are using it in products, and why does it matter? Why should we paying attention to this?

Madeline: Well, carrageenan has two forms. It's dried from seaweed, and there are two forms here. So, a degraded form, and an undegraded form. Research came out, that, and this is limited research, right? This is the way it always starts. Limited research came out, where it proves to be inflammatory. So, if you had Crohn's disease, if you were dealing with gastrointestinal issues, it proved to be inflammatory.

Just like, a lot of people end up being reactive to MSG, and so, many, many brands, whether or not it was White Wave, or Califia Farms, or Horizon, they took the pledge to remove carrageenan, as consumers were increasingly concerned about the use of carrageenan. And so, we've never had carrageenan in our products. We've launched as a carrageenan-free formula, so we never had to go through the whole reformulation process.

People use it. It's very common in milk alternatives, because it's a stabilizer, and it sounds like it's natural, because it comes from seaweed. But, again, sometimes, it's still not good for you, even if it comes from original organic material. And so, we, out of an abundance of caution, have always formulated our product without carrageenan.

Now, it's in, kind of an industry standard. You'll see, still, a few lingering brands that still have carrageenan. But we're proud of our heritage that we launched, as always, a carrageenan-free formula.

Dan: Fantastic. In fact, on that note, I actually did a project for a pretty decent-sized brand, pretty good-sized brand in this space, where they had to go through the complete reformulation. And it was a challenge for them. They had a very, very difficult time.

Anyhow, point being is that I know this space well, and I understand exactly what you're talking about. And, to your point, the formulation, in trying to get the product right, where it worked with coffee, where it worked with other ingredients, that was a huge challenge for them. And they struggled for quite awhile, to be able to do it. Now, they finally were able to.

So, back up a little bit. You're talking about the fact, you made the comment earlier about the fact, you expected someone like Coffee-mate, or someone like that, to come out with this product? This is my opinion, that the big companies commoditize natural products and natural shoppers. The point being, that they're not paying attention to what you're paying attention to, what we pay attention in this industry, in terms of those trends.

What I find is that those big brands are not even looking at these unique or smaller niches, that are really driving sales across every category on the shelf. That's why these big companies are struggling, and so that's why they're trying to buy small brands, and trying to figure out how to reformulate. But this is what's unique about your brand. This is what I wanted to talk to you about today: the fact that you're able to identify a niche, and then, move into that niche, and then, start developing the product.

You talked about earlier how your friends in the community that you're with absolutely love your product. What was unique about that, and did it change much, between when you made it in your kitchen, and when you converted it or scaled it to a large kitchen?

Madeline: Yes and no. I think, and I want to answer a question about what Nutpods is. From my Kickstarter campaign, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about these had to be agile and nimble, as a start-up company, and this is another trait that small companies can leverage, to their benefit, that big companies cannot do.

If you go to kickstarter.com, and you search for Nutpods, you'll see that my original concept was to have the single-serve little cups that you see at diners. I wanted to have something that was portable, on the go, aseptically packaged, for convenience. Then we went out, and I remember, I ran out after my Kickstarter campaign to my local Southern California Forager for Whole Foods. I said, "We just raised $32,000 on Kickstarter. This is our concept. We think you would be perfectly aligned with the Whole Foods consumer. What do you think, Mr. Forager?"

That forager said, "Hmm, this is really interesting. I can see this concept working in our stores. How many would come in a box?" "Twenty-four. He said, "Have you ever thought about making a carton?" I said, "Well, no, our name is Nutpods. We wanted to make the pods." And he says, the reason why he asked is because, "I can see a consumer buying a box of these single-serves, once a month, maybe for work or for travel. But they would buy a carton every week."

So, I knew what I didn't know, and as someone who didn't know the food industry, I had assembled an advisory board. Because you have to be honest, and know what you don't know, so I made up for what I didn't know with people that did. I went to them and said, "This is the feedback from Whole Foods. What do you think?"

I had advisers tell me, "Well, the single-serve cups are a food service play. It's hard to create a retail brand in food service, and then, try and go into the retail margin, because, the gross margins aren't there. It's very cost conscious, and the margins are low. But if you wanted to launch into Whole Foods or retail, make your name as a retail brand. Then you can push into food service."

And so, I had to pause, as a brand owner, and reassess what our identity is, if Nutpods wasn't in the pod format. Now, fortunately, nuts grow in pods and trees, and so, what I realized is that Nutpods is not the format that would come in nutpods. It's about the brand promise that we're rich and creamy, we have cream ingredients, and the fact that we're unsweetened, so people can use their own preferred sweetener for their own perfect cup of coffee.

With that in mind, of knowing who we were, and we weren't limited to format. Because if we were limited to format, we could never be outside of a single-serve disposable cup, then that's what we were able to communicate to our Kickstarters, and be able to talk to about the pivot in format. It is no easy feat to keep your Kickstarter backers supportive of you, two years later, from when you actually funded a Kickstarter campaign, to when you actually launch a commercial product. And it's not even in the format that you have.

Fortunately, our Kickstarter backers, and many of them are still our customers today, bought into and supported the premise of what I had said Nutpods is: clean ingredients, rich and creamy, unsweetened, and that's what we've been able to fulfill. That's what Nutpods is. So, now, as we take a look at different formats, like a larger size, a retail package that is refrigerated, a shelf stable package for online, we've been able to stay true to our benefit offering of what we are.

And so, I think being able to take a look at how you're differentiated from the campaign is one stop. But I think the other thing, too, is taking some risks. One of my food advisory board members, he cautioned me about being unsweetened. He said, "Sugar sells in America, Madeline. Are you sure you want to be unsweetened?" I thought long and hard about that, but I realized that that was one of our main differentiators.

Almond and coconut may or may not mean something to people, because of the balanced, neutral taste, but being able to say, "We are unsweetened across the line," so people can use whatever colored packets they want, Stevia, Truvia, Sweet'N Low, Simple Syrup, Agave Syrup, whatever they want, and their own sweetness level, with important customization. And so, I took a gamble. I listened to my gut, and I launched as an unsweetened line, and to this day, that's one of our biggest differentiators as a brand, is, our entire line in unsweetened.

And when we say unsweetened, we don't play games with monk fruit or stevia. We are unsweetened. Unsweetened, unsweetened. That type of transparency, I think, matters to today's consumers.

Dan: It does. Well, and the fact that you stay true to your word. On that note, you're right. There are so many companies that play games with that. That's all I was going to say, is that, the fact that you're doing that, you went down that path, I could see a lot of problems if you tried to become another sweetened, international light, or something like that. Hats off to you, because that is a pretty risky move, especially coming into a new space.

Madeline: Thank you. When you take a look at your larger competition, usually the incumbents, the question was never, could Coffee-mate or White Wave enter the space? It's, would they? Because they always have the ability of their sheer size and might.

And so, when we took a look at the space, we had theorized that Coffee-mate probably wouldn't enter the space, because a nut-based non-dairy line would just compete with their existing traditional processed creamer line. What I underestimated is when they came out with Natural Bliss Coconut, and Natural Bliss Almond Creamers. They were forced to enter that space, because they didn't see it as cannibalization. They saw it as, they were losing market share to challenger brands like myself.

Dan: Exactly.

Madeline: And so, they were forced to come up with a product like ours. But fortunately, honestly, today's consumers? They've been able to proliferate, but today's contemporary consumers aren't really looking for brands from big companies. They're really looking for the better-crafted, more genuine authentic brands, where they know the people behind the brands.

Do you know who is behind the big brands? Because, if you go to our website, you see pictures of me and my family. The reason why we do that is not because I don't prize my privacy, but it's because I'm proud enough, as a brand owner, to put my face behind our brand, and to put my name on every package, so that they know I'm not a figurehead. I am exactly what I say, as mom, and Nutpods founder.

Dan: Well, and that's good, and that is one of the things I was trying to get at, is that the big brands don't understand what makes natural natural. And so, as they work to commoditize us, and what's exciting, is that they're trying to follow you. And we can talk later about strategies to help compete against them, and even beat them at their own game.

But that's exactly what I was getting at, is that the big brands, while they have the muscle and the might, and more importantly, the checkbooks, they don't understand the category. They don't understand the drivers. They believe that all consumers are the same, and that anything they put out there is going to be a huge win.

The point being is that if you're listening to your consumer, going back to what you first said, talking to the different people that are paleo, vegan, et cetera, lactose intolerant, and understanding, from their perspective, what problem are they trying to solve? And then, staying true to your roots, being clean label, having the ingredients that have the authenticity, at the end of the day, that's a consumer that is driving the sales acrost every category.

So, on that note, can you talk a little about the research you did, or how did you really understand and define that consumer, that your product is focused on?

Madeline: I love social media for the connections that you can have, and I know a lot of people talk about that. But, gosh, as a brand, to be able to hear from your consumers and potential consumers, about what they are looking for, is really important data. And you know what? It's free, on social media.

Dan: Yes.

Madeline: Being able to launch a product, and being able to, even before we had a product, to be able to know what people were looking for, we had a big head start with Kickstarter. It helps you with SEO, and it helps you with the discoverability, but we were able to use our social media channels of people that were already early adopters in the concept of Nutpods, and asked them about what they were looking for.

We talked to a lot of people about size, and we talked to a lot of people about what flavors they would like, and I think being able to demonstrate, as a company, that you're hearing your customers is an important part of having that relationship to the consumer. I think, sometimes, to be honest with you, the first couple years ... as I was new to the food and beverage space, I was almost trying to hide the fact that I didn't come from the food and beverage space.

But it's one of the biggest blessings for me, as an entrepreneur, is that your lens as a consumer is a very powerful lens, and you should never lose sight of that. Because, sometimes, it gets with what will sell well, or, "How can I sell this easily?", like, channel strategy, and building a brand block, and all that.

But it comes back to, are you solving a problem? Or are you just selling something to sell something? We want to be able to be a brand that addresses problems for people, and so, when I was talking to people in my network, the common themes came up, where it's like, they wanted all natural ingredients. Well, Nutpods is made from wholesome ingredients.

They wanted the ability to tailor their cup of coffee so that they could use whatever sweetener they wanted. Great, let's make it unsweetened. And oh, by the way, a lot of people that use non-dairy were lactose intolerant, or dairy free, and they want to be able to bake and cook with it. Perfect! Versatility is also there when you have an unsweetened product.

They wanted to have transparency from a company that they wanted to buy from, and support. Well, we invest in certifications, like non-GMO project verified, vegan-, gluten-free, kosher, and the whole30, because it costs us money to do so. But we think that our consumers, it matters to them, that we're certified, instead of just saying we're a naturally gluten-free product.

It just started to build that relationship with the consumer we want to have, that they can believe in you, when you say that you are gluten-free, we know that, because we're certified gluten-free, and we do quarterly swabs on our line, to make sure that we don't have gluten. That matters to people that have different conditions, that are sensitive to gluten.

I think, being able to construct a brand experience for consumers is something that is, maybe begins with the product, but ends up being an experience. Yes, our product is great, but you know what? We also have great customer service, so if you have a product that gets delivered, and it's frozen, because you live in Buffalo, New York in the wintertime, or it got damaged in the freeze process, we're happy to replace it.

We have a Happy Sipping guarantee, because again, we stand behind our product, and we have a compelling brand story, with cute packaging, around a great product that is differentiated, and helps people, and that's what we want to be as a brand.

Dan: Fantastic. I'm thinking back to what you said originally, where you had no background in this, and then, here, you're trying to hide the fact that you don't have a CPG background. And yet, to listen to you talk, with the authenticity and the passion that you've got, that's what differentiates you. And again, this is what the big brands don't bring to the equation.

Happy Sipping guarantee, I like that. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Madeline: Sure! I mean, Happy Sipping guarantee means that we want to make you happy when you try our product, and if you don't like our product? The whole point of Nutpods, Daniel, is to give people options. If you want to go back to powdered non-dairy creamer, then, by all means. You have that choice as a consumer to do so. But one of the things that I believe in is that consumers need to be able to have great options that enable them to have a healthier lifestyle.

Now, it's easy to say, "Well, consumers need to choose, and make better choices," but it's harder to do when you don't have great options to choose from them. Without a product like Nutpods, you really don't have a lot of great options to choose. For us, it's about choice. If you want to stick with a heavily sweetened product that has added sugar, and that's because your palate has become accustomed to that, then you have a choice to stay with that.

But for people that want to take a look at their added sugars for people, that want to have half the calories, zero cholesterol, and make one easy small swap out, that gets them a little bit healthier on their way? Then that's what Nutpods is for. We're here to support a healthier lifestyle. We're not saying you have to give up your leather belt and go vegan. We're not saying you have to give up your bacon and go plant-based. We're not saying you have to even give up dairy.

We're just saying, if you want to have to a dairy-free substitute that tastes great, and has all these better for you options, then try Nutpods. If you still don't like it, thanks for trying us, and we will give you your money back.

Dan: Love it, and it's so important, so thank you for sharing that. When we go back to what you were talking about earlier, in terms of Coffee-mate, and again, the other brands you're competing against, one of the things I was trying to make a point about is ... or let me just put it this way. Retailers spend, the bigger retailers, spend a lot of time trying to get us to buy the stuff on their shelves, rather than asking us what we want.

The fact that you're able to leverage your social media campaign to do the analysis, to develop a community around what your consumers really want, and then, bring that story to the retailer, that's what every brand needs to be doing, and this is why I wanted to have you on the podcast. What I'm getting at is that if, you go in a store, and you've only got one or two choices, then you're pretty limited.

But if you can now put your product right next to some of the other products, now, as a consumer, I have the ability to make the choices that are right for me, to make the choices that are best for me, and because you're a premium product, and because you have the community behind you, et cetera, now, I'm driving more sales in the store. I imagine your market basket, actually, I know it would be, would be a lot higher. But the point is, now you're a value added to the retailer.

Can you speak to, how do you help the retailers understand that commitment that you make, that story that you have, that differentiates you from the other brands, that is a good reason for them to consider you, in addition to what they currently have?

Madeline: Well, I would say we take a two-prong approach to our retailers. Remember, first and foremost, Nutpods has taken an unconventional route to market. A lot of brands push through retail hard first. But for us, I had started with a Kickstarter campaign. I had 510 Kickstarter backers that I wanted to be able to reorder us, if they loved Nutpods. As a start-up company, I can't be an overnight distribution. Oh, wait, you can, with Amazon.

And so, we launched, with a small retailer up in the Pacific Northwest, PCC Natural Markets, and remember, I had started the company down in Southern California. But we chose Seattle, because we knew it was a coffee-centric state. And so, we launched up there, to make sure that we could begin to cut our teeth, and know, how do you sell this thing in stores, and how is that different? What are these things, like OIs and TPRs and MCPs? And we started our learning process about how to sell in stores.

At the same time, a month later, after we got going at the store level, and made sure that we got that off on the right foot. Then we were able to launch online to Amazon, so that we could be available to our 510 Kickstarter backers. They quickly reordered, and it started that flywheel approach, where they were able to be a number one new release, number one bestselling product. To this day, we're less than three and a half years old on the market. We have over 6,000 reviews as a brand, and we were able to do that, because of the social proof that online shopping does.

So, remember, being able to build that community, that direct to consumer community online? You are able to access a wealth of data that SPINS or IRI will not give you. So with Amazon, I can see how many ZIP codes I sell to. I know how often they buy. I know how long a four-pack lasts them, versus the 12-pack, versus a Variety Pack. I know what my bestselling flavors are. And you do have some of that. You do have their bestselling SKUs, but if you don't know your gender, you don't know your geographic distribution, about where you're selling best, and so, you're able to have a more finite, accurate data to mine, when you sell online.

Now, it really depends. When I started out, I was almost trying to hide the fact that we were selling on Amazon to retailers, because Amazon was their competition. But I tweaked my selling tactics a little bit, and I would say, "As a start-up brand, we launched primarily online, as a way to fulfill our Kickstarter backers. And you know Mr. and Miss Retailer, like, we already sell X amount of dollars in your region. These are the ZIP codes that we already sell to, that you have the source of prints on, and with the price point, we were able 75 cents to $1 more.

We're bringing in a consumer that is brand loyal to our brand, that is going to give you a bigger ring, and inch for inch, we were 11.2 ounces when we launched, compared to a regular pint size? We're able to be more cost effective for you as a retailer, to make more per inch, that you carry Nutpods.

Those things really resonated, because, as a retailer, they wanted to take chances on brands that were going to be a hit, and we'd demonstrated, through our online success, that we were bringing with us a customer base that was already engaged and loyal to us. That was really important, and we were able to get retailers like Publix, where we didn't even pitch to them, they found us, and approached us to be carried.

As you know, being in the industry, Publix isn't an early adopter, typically.

Dan: No. Well, and this is exactly one of the reasons why we're doing this podcast, because these are exactly the strategies I'm trying to teach brands. How to leverage an online strategy with a traditional strategy, and I want to go one step further. The fact that, with your ability to be an expert with Amazon, and online, you can now actually leverage those strategies together within a given market, so you can actually drive sales within a specific ZIP code, by leveraging what you're able to do, or how you sell, or when you sell it, understanding the demographics.

Because the reality is that, like you said, the demographics of the Amazon shopper are going to correlate with the demographics of the traditional brick and mortar shopper. And when you overlay those two things, now, all of a sudden, you're getting some great insights that, like you said, you can't get from other databases. And so, now, you've got a much more robust profile of your consumer.

Madeline: Well, not only that, there's tangible reasons why, if you're a brand, and you're able to have an e-commerce-friendly product, you should launch online.

Dan: Yes.

Madeline: Because, I mean, we all know the pain points of payment terms, and cash flow is king, when you're a start-up. One of the reasons why e-com has been such a gift for us is, as a Amazon seller, meaning you sell via Amazon, and you pay Amazon a commission. But you, on your inventory, you get paid net 15. Well, try and get KeHE or UNFI to pay you a net 15.

Dan: Yes.

Madeline: And there are no deductions. There's no trademarkings done, because that's all encapsulated under the 15% that you pay Amazon's commission. So, cash flow is really important. Your relationship that's direct to consumer's important. Remember, when you sell through brick and mortar, you've got your broker, you've got your distributor, you've got your retailer, all things between you and the end consumer.

Well, when you sell online, when you produce your content, you're able to speak to them in a way that they can hear from you directly, about what you want them to know about your brand. I always knew, and I always trusted, that social media was a way for me to level the playing field. Because, obviously, as a small emerging brand, my marketing budget is minuscule, compared to the big CPG brands. But that's why social proof really matters in today's consumers.

They're not necessarily paying attention to radio ads or billboards in Times Square. They're paying attention to what their co-worker or their neighbor or their hairdresser are saying: "Hey, have you tried Nutpods? It's really good, and it's certified gluten-free," or it's, "I'm doing the whole30 thing, and are you? Have you tried Nutpods?"

Being able to be a viral cool brand has really enabled us to reach circles in a way, where, it's been authentic, and it's been free, and it's been organic, and that's how consumers are buying these days.

Dan: Exactly. Yeah, and I keep saying, consumers look beyond the four corners of their package. So, the fact that you've got more runway, and by the way, years ago, actually, baked in a very unofficial, very unscientific Facebook poll, into a brand's presentation. That helped get that brand into, literally, every Safeway store. Point being is, that was the proof. Yeah, and the fact, like you said, small brands don't have the velocity, but what you have is that relationship with your customer, because, at the end of the day, that's what's most important.

In fact, let me go one step further. Retailers don't essentially, generically speaking, retailers don't make anything. They sell other people's stuff. The ability for you to own your customer, and not lose your customer, through a distributor, through a broker, through a retailer, is the most important thing that any brand can do. Because, at the end of the day, your story, your ability to drive sales within any store, online or offline, is really what's going to continue to help you thrive and grow, for quite a long time. It's what's going to help you build your brand>

I am just thrilled about the fact that you've been able to put all this together, and again, this is why I wanted to have you on the podcast. Before I forget, let me go back to something you said earlier. I just wanted to throw this out. When you were talking about your format, going from the little pods to a larger container, want you to keep in this [inaudible 00:45:07]. You said that you were coming up with more products.

If you have a half a gallon of milk in your refrigerator, you're going to use that sparingly. If you were to have a gallon of milk, or non-dairy milk, or whatever in your refrigerator, you're going to be a lot more free with it, and you're going to drink more of it, as a result. My point is this. If you've got the product in your shelf, on you at home, you're going to use more of it. If you have the product in a larger container, then people are going to consume more of it, or use more of it.

There's sort of a weird dichotomy between the way that you don't want to take the last piece of bread, or you eat the last piece of cheese, or whatever. What I'm getting at is, as you're thinking about expanding and growing, having a value pack or a larger size makes tremendous sense. Not only should it be the larger ring for the retailer, but in addition to that, it creates more usage occasions, which, back to what you said, allows consumers to be, to use a little freely, to try it in other products.

So you might want to consider that, as you're developing strategies to expand your brand. The reason category management started is to weed out some of the inefficiencies within the CPG channel, within the distribution, et cetera. So we used to have distributors for every single different retailer. We called on every single different store, and so, category management was born, as an advanced strategy, to make it more efficient, to put a product on a retailer's shelf.

I get completely what you're talking about, in terms of having to go through the distributor, the broker, to get the product into a retail situation. The ability to be able to sell online, and if you even have the ability to sell on your website, that gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility. You made the comment that, it's dealing with the deductions, and some of those other things, are a real challenge. They are for every brand. What strategies do you use to help maximize your trade marketing spend, when you're working with retailers?

Madeline: That's a great question. So, I think, there's one thing that I wanted to say, is that when you are a brand, where you can have a healthy, robust online channel? One of the benefits to that is that you can use it as an incubator channel. So, last year, we were able to launch a pumpkin spice. Limited time offer, no PO, and what we found out was that, not only do people love to have a fall seasonal flavor, but you're able to test your formulation. Make sure that this is something that consumers like, before you try and leverage that into retail.

And so, I think, number one, you can do a lot of things as an incubator channel online. You can try out different price points. If you did that with UNFI, what do you need, like, 90 to 120 days' notice? And then you have to pay for all of the different price changes through the different retailers. Well, online, just flip a switch! Just try for 50 cents less. Try it out for a period that you want. See what boosts you get in sales.

That price elasticity is important for you to test where the limits are, and where that range is, for people to have perceived premium product, versus, are they really cost conscious? Does 50 cents matter to an abuzz consumer? And so, there's a lot of benefits to having, cultivate an incubator channel, so that you can try new products, try out different price points, try out different designs, too. Try out different messaging, to find out, do people care more about it being whole30? Or care more about it being unsweetened, and be able to try that out.

I wanted to answer your question about trade spend. Trade spend, I find, is a very unimaginative area in grocery, right? Because it's like, do you want a TPR? Do you want OI or MCV? There's only a formulaic way of promoting your brand, but what I really like to try is, there are some tried and true ways. But there's also some flexibility with retailers, where, if we want to promote our brand as well, and we want to promote our brand digitally, I do not want to pay an FSI.

Because our consumers, we have found, through research, through surveys, but they're not that price sensitive. One, they've tried Nutpods, and they love Nutpods, and they're loyal to Nutpods. Now, where TPRs really do matter to consumers is driving trials. So, for the first time, then it's like, "Eh, it's 50 cents more. I guess I'll try this, because I've heard this online. My sister was telling me about this Nutpods thing."

And so, once we have them, there's a high conversion rate, and they tend to be very ritualistic with their coffee and tea. And when they find something, what we find in our consumer behavior is, they will be loyal to our brand, because coffee is very ritualistic, and then, they will save money with, maybe a private label pasta. It's kind of like that mix of high/low. If I was talking to a girl, I would say, "You have your high fashion, with your purse and your heels and your jacket, but you have your H&M outfit, too."

I think that's kind of the way that shoppers are buying now, but some things, they are loyal to, that they're ritualistic about, that they love about, and coffee is one of those things. Then they'll be more flexible in buying things that are on sale, or do something where it's value, whether or not it's wine, or whether or not it's private label product, as well. So you have to be able to find out, what are the effective ways to promote your brand?

For us, FSIs are not the way to get our consumers, because they're not particularly cost conscious, and I mean, when you take a look at the Nutpods consumer, they're digitally native. They buy online. They're not shopping. I mean, most of them don't even subscribe to a paper, like a Sunday paper, a physical Sunday paper, much less, or going through, and clipping coupons.

So being able to communicate to our retailers, that we know how to promote to our consumers, and we're absolutely willing and committed to driving velocity through the retailers, through geotargeting, through social media posts that say, "Hey, we're now available in the refrigerated section of Wegmans," as ways for us to be able to partner with our retailers to drive that. As well as taking advantage of things like Instacart, where, remember, today's consumers, they're just so much more about convenience.

So many of us buy into the Amazon, and Amazon Prime, because of the convenience factor, of not having to go to the grocery store, and being able to access the selection of products that they want, and be able to get that conveniently delivered. Take the time to find out how your customers shop, and then, meet them there. So we're available online, we're available on our website, we're available on Thrive. We're also available on retailers, and specialties in conventional and natural, as well.

Dan: Yeah. This is exactly why I wanted to ask you that question, so thank you for sharing that. By the way, one of the points you made, when you have a price reduction through a distributor, there is no guarantee that the stores are going to reflect that price, or honor that price.

Madeline: Correct.

Dan: You have really no idea what you're getting into, so your ability to test that online, that's a real test. You can actually take that to the bank, so to speak. So, absolutely. Anyhow, this is exactly why I wanted to ask you this question, because if you can leverage your relationship, your story, your brand, I mean, the consumer that you're bringing in to the store, it's far more important to the retailer than any of the other programs that they have. I know that I get a lot of pushback from distributors, et cetera, that'll listen to this, but the worst thing any brand can do is spend money on a program that doesn't include scan.

So if your product is not scanning through the register, and you don't know, "I sold one, and okay, I'm gonna pay for one," then that's a waste of money, a huge waste of money, so you're absolutely right. And then, go one step further, you're not pasta, you're not a commoditized product. You are a luxury decadent product. You are an indulgent product, in the sense that, to your point, the consumer that buys Nutpods is going to spend more on those things that are value more to them.

I mean, think about it. Why in the heck would anyone spend $5 for a cup of coffee, when you could go to McDonald's or some other restaurant, and maybe get the same thing, for 99 cents? It's because people want to reward themselves, in part, so that's your core consumer. So anyhow, where I'm going with this, to bring it around full circle is, as you're working with traditional brick and mortar retailers, how do you communicate that story with them, so that they understand that you're supporting them?

By the way, most of the trade spending's wasted. So if you can leverage that with the retailer, be able to promote with the retailer, outside of some of the traditional strategies, whether online, et cetera, that's even more impactful. So do you use strategies like that, or are there anything that you haven't placed, that really helps Nutpods help the retailers that you're in, sell?

Madeline: Well, I would approach it with two different ways. Number one, I'm always looking as a scrappy challenger brand, where I'm a little bit David and Goliath, right? Where, if you take a look, if you really took a look at the category where I compete in, it's either giant incumbent brands, or brands that have raised over $100 million. For us, I'm always looking for ways that we can leverage, and social media was the way that we could leverage.

I'm, also happen to be, a woman-, minority-owned business. So being able to be registered as a minority business enterprise has allowed me to sidestep slotting fees that other companies would have had to pay.

Dan: Great.

Madeline: That's frankly the only reason why I've been able to do anything, because if I'd literally had to pay a quarter of a million dollars? Not very many brands could do that, right? And so, I always looked for ways that we could leverage the playing field. And so, when we talked to retailers, I think the amount of trade marketing spend that a brand has to spend is commensurate with that amount, that it is differentiated. Fortunately, enough classes, differentiate a product, right? More premium. We haven't the certifications for our clean ingredients, and were unsweetened.

We cater to, not only the lifestyles of rising specialized diets, but also, with being the forefront of having a great taste, but also, were unsweetened has aligned. So, there's a lot of market forces that kind of helped bring the tornado that helped support a brand. Like, not the growth that it's had, is because, not only have we been able ride clean ingredients, and carrageenan-free, the convenience of e-com, rise of specialized diets, people going away from dairy.

Who could have timed it better, that the FDA added sugars as part of their nutritional panel, who came out and said that we really need to take a look at added sugars? And so, we've always been able to innovate, and be a little bit ahead of the curve. When we go to retailers, we tell them that Nutpods is a product that is on trend, but it's also a trend that's going to be lasting. Consumers are not going to go back to having hydrogenated oils in corn syrups, solids and artificial this and that.

Dan: Right.

Madeline: They're not going to go back to that, and consumers, it's kind of like that adage, that once a mind has been expanded, will never go back to its original size. The same thing, where now, when you are a consumer, and you're educated about added sugars, do you want to go back to a creamer that has all of these added sugars, for your percentage of daily grams of sugar?

We tell them that we're a differentiated product for today's consumers. We bring the value of being a premium brand, and that we're relevant for their consumers. Now it took a long time for retailers to admit that the consumers that are buying online are the same consumers that are buying in their stores. I remember my first couple sales calls that I went to, when I would talk about our Amazon sales. They would say, "Well, that's a different consumer."

Well, they have since learned, and have been humbled by the fact that, no, it's the same consumers. They're just going online and buying it there. It's the same thing, where, I remember, investors would look at us. I would marvel at our online sales, and before we made our big push into retail last year, would be, like, "Well, I wanna see how you do in stores."

I always never got the fact that they think, it's like, if I can get people to buy millions and millions of Nutpods online, why would they have concern that I wouldn't be able to sell millions and millions in stores? It's the same consumer, you know?

Dan: It is.

Madeline: It's just a little bit easier to discover me in the stores now, instead of being in the Internet universe of being one in a, of millions and millions of voices that try and vie for your online consumer attention. As an example of that, our little tiny brand, through our mighty digital marketing strategy, and just the power of a product standing on its own ... we just got our portal data back from Kroger, and we just surpassed So Delicious, and we're now in the number two spot after Silk.

To me, as someone who was formerly in blood banking, and with a teeny tiny marketing budget, compared to our incumbents, you want to do that in less than a year of launching, in Kroger? That is a testament that we are not just selling well, but we are changing people's lives for the better. That's what I get excited about. I get excited that, for us, Nutpods is helping people. It's helping people take a tiny healthy step for their lifestyle, of being able to make one quick tradeout, so that they can lead a healthier life.

I love being able to be part of this country's solution to having better options for consumers. Because, as a country, we need better for you options.

Dan: Yeah.

Madeline: That's what makes me feel proud, is that we're helping people.

Dan: Congratulations. That's huge.

Madeline: Thank you.

Dan: I mean, that's, well, it's unbelievable, that you, like you said, within a year. This, again, this is why I wanted to bring you on the podcast, to be able to celebrate this and talk about this. Because I had heard a little bit of your story, but not to this degree, so thank you for sharing this.

So let me back up a little bit. Your story, Madeline, is so inspiring, and the fact that you're able to help drive traffic into a store, let me phrase it this way. You are the anchor that brings people into the traditional store. Retailers need you, because you're the excuse or the reason that shoppers shop their store.

One of the many reasons, and when a consumer buys Nutpods, they're buying a lot of the other products that are super premium. They're spending more money than they would, if they were to buy, perhaps, a more traditional product. My point is this. That's a point of negotiation. That's a point of leverage. You should not have to pay slotting. Savvy retailers know and understand that their focus needs to be on bringing new customers in the store, and if you can leverage that in your selling story, then that is negotiable. That is something that you can trade against slotting and menu fees, and promotional fees, and things like that.

That's why I asked you that question about trade marketing. That gives you an unequal seat at the table, in the sense that, because you're savvy with social media, and to be ale to really drive a consumer, or commit, communicate with a consumer, their consumer, that is a value that they don't have, that they're not getting from other brands.

Where I'm going with that is, a lot of brands walk in, and throw a ranking report down on a retailer's shelf and say, "Look, I was able to print this on my own. Are you impressed?" No, what you're bringing in to the retailer is saying, "This is who my consumer is. This is how they shop. When they buy Nutpods, these are the products they buy. This is how they shop your store."

My point is this. You need to leverage that within your selling story, and by doing that, this is how you become a value added resource. This is how you become a category leader which sets you apart form other brands. So thank you for sharing this, and by the way, you're going to be speaking at Natchcom, a little over a week. I'm going to be there, too, speaking, so is what you're talking about?

Madeline: Wonderful.

Dan: Yeah, I'm looking to actually meeting you in person. What are you going to be talking about there, and can you share a little bit?

Madeline: Sure. I'm excited about Natchcom, because, man, I wish that I had some of these resources when I was launching as a new brand. And so, being able to come, and be on sponge mode, and learn how to market your product, and how to make decisions that are best for your stage of business, is something that was really valuable to me, and I believe in giving back. Because I certainly was helped along the way, going back to the, it takes a village to raise a brand.

Dan: Right.

Madeline: I had people that pointed me in the right direction, and I used everybody as a guide, and as a puzzle in my piece that I was putting together, for my company and my brand. I see it as my responsibility to be able to encourage other people, to go in, and be able to successfully compete, against, maybe, other brands.

One of the things we talk about is, we punch about our weight, and so, I want to be able to empower other people to be able to say, "Yeah, the competition is almost always gonna be bigger than you, but it doesn't mean it's always better than you." You have to be smarter. You have to come out with something that is differentiated, and provides value to the consumer.

I mean, value to the consumer, not different just to be different. But different in a way that delivers value to the consumer, and not to lose that lens of, what would you want as a consumer? What are you looking for, as a consumer? What would you put value on, as a consumer, and be able to build on a product, or on a brand like that?

It's a fireside chat, and I think part of it is probably going to be, just talking about, how did I guide Nutpods, as a newbie that didn't know the industry? And then, talk about how, how were we able to craft a project, a product, together like this? I'm always just appreciative of an opportunity to share my journey, as Nutpods, and be able to encourage other people to go for it.

I mean, you know, as an entrepreneur, this is not for the faint of heart, and there is a huge amount of personal risk. But I've always found along this journey, that if you put yourself out there, genuinely, authentically, be yourself, even though it's sometimes hard, because you think people want you to be this way, and you're not.

To be who you are, and to be proud of what you bring? I've always been rewarded by that, and you risk failure, sure. But, man, the victories are considerable, and I have never had a professional journey that has been this fulfilling. Even though we started out by creating a product that I'm so proud of, that helps people, and gives them a quality of life, when they can't have dairy anymore, it evolved.

Now as a business owner, I'm building a company that is growing, and providing more and more jobs, to more and more people, I'm equally, if not more proud, of the company, and the environment and the culture that I'm building, as well. That's why it's all worth the work, and it's all worth the risk, because I'm able to make a mark in my own way, and I'm very proud of that, and I'm very privileged to do do.

Dan: Well, I appreciate you sharing that. Love that, and this is what makes natural natural. It's why I do this. It's why we have, why I have this podcast. It's why we're talking today, to help raise the bar, to help other brands, help inspire other brands, and help other brands solve some of these dilemmas, and by the way, I'm going to be talking about trade marketing at Natchcom, so I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing your talk.

Oh, when I talked to you on the phone, I told you that at the end of the podcast, something I'm doing is, I'm giving you an opportunity to ask me a question. Is there something that I can help you solve a problem, a bottleneck or something?

Madeline: You know, I think one of the things that I am ... oh, I know what it was.

Dan: Okay.

Madeline: It was with the broker, and I think what we were talking about is mind share. And about how, as a broker, you have, sometimes, 30 to over 100 lines, depending on what type of broker you are. How do I, as a brand owner, fast growing, but still, not on the level of, say, a Nestle, how do I make sure that I command your market share, your mind share, as a broker?

Dan: That is a phenomenal question. Thank you so much for asking it. I love this question.

Actually, the first ever article that I ever wrote, back in 2012, was published in New Hope, is where I started my speaking career. And I've got a different philosophy around this, and this is how I would answer that question.

Your broker is an extension of your sales team. While that's not the way that they would try to work with you, the reality is, if you hired me, and you expected me to go out and call on so many stores, and to build sales, et cetera, if I succeeded, I would get a raise, you'd keep me on. If I failed, you would fire me. You would hold me accountable.

My advice to you, Madeline, is that you need to keep your hand firmly on the wheel. You need to set objectives for your broker. You need to help them, by providing them the story, the rich insights, like we've been talking about here. You need to help your retailer understand, what is your mission, what is your story?

How do you leverage that with retail, so that when they go to work on your behalf, they're communicating with the same passion and excitement and enthusiasm that are you. This is exactly why I created my Turnkey Sales Story Strategies Course, is to teach brands how to do this. So that's one.

Two, you need to provide all the resources to the broker, so that they've got the deck that says, "This is where sales are up within this retail," so they're well-armed and well-prepared to go out and sell on your behalf.

Number three, you need to be able to identify where the opportunities are for your brand to expand. Don't leave that in the hands of another company. You've spent all your time focused on the digital strategy, and understanding your consumer: Amazon, ZIP code, where you're talking about ZIP codes, et cetera. You know that. You know that better than anyone.

You need to say, "Okay, retailer," I mean, "Okay, broker. I want you to call on these five stores, and I want my sales to increase, this distribution to increase, by X%, by the end of the quarter," and then, hold them accountable.

What I'm getting at, Madeline, is a lot of brands have a love-hate relationship with their broker, and the reason for that is because they don't communicate clearly what their expectations are. Because of that, they're not getting what they want, or maybe they didn't get what they want, or maybe they didn't understand. That's not the brokers' fault, but if you can help the broker sell, and become successful, be successful, or on your behalf, then that's the win for you. One.

And then, two, hold them accountable. Treat them as your internal sales force. Does that help?

Madeline: Yes, that absolutely helps, and we're doing a lot of that, and with our brokers. Fortunately, we have great brokers-

Dan: Right.

Madeline: That have been able to really help us leverage. I mean, we've added several thousand stores in this past year alone, and so, and they're really great. I just want to make sure that we continue to be, to be top of mind for them, and be able to have more of a partnership, and less of a transactional relationship, which sometimes happens in this industry. So thanks for that.

Dan: Oh, you're welcome, and that's exactly what I was getting about. That's exactly what I've been talking about. You're talking about your customers, your retailers, et cetera, and you share the passion that you have for them. You're making their lives better. You're helping them out. Well, you should have the same type of relationship with your broker. There are brokers out there that do an amazing job, and there are brokers, and consultants, and brands, et cetera, that fail on every level.

But if you can develop that relationship, and help them, and communicate with them, and work with them, but again, you keep your hand on the wheel. You drive the sales, and you leverage that relationship, so that it benefits your brand. That's how you become top of mind.

By the way, when I started doing this, I kind of alluded to that earlier. We had sales teams that went into every single store. We would literally have employees for Kimberly-Clark and Unilever, et cetera, that called on every store. Well, that's pretty expensive, especially for a small brand. You alluded to that.

So then we went to, efficiencies force the big retailers to start consolidating, and now you've got Kroger, which is one retailer, one call, et cetera, as opposed to, like, in Colorado, 160 stores, 160 calls for King Supers. So we had to become more efficient. That's a good thing. But one of the things that a lot of brands, and this is kind of where I was going back to the Coffee-mate example, is that that relationship's more ... it's more transactional. I like the way you put that.

So if you can develop that personal relationship, and have that connection with them, that's going to help you. Because if you can help them sell on your behalf, it's a win-win situation.

Madeline: I think that is, just like, co-backers, honestly. They need to walk that balance between having some anchor of lines that help keep the lights on, and pay the bills, and be able to have those anchor lines, but at the same time, be able to have successful, buzzy, up-and-coming, high growth brands, where it allows them to also remain very relevant. So there, my growth, growth lines, as well as like, the anchor lines, too.

That's what we try and do. We also are able to share press releases, and things that are relevant to us, just so that they can see that we are a brand that's growing, and getting and getting more recognized. Hopefully, that makes their job a little bit easier, when they come in and pitch our line again.

Dan: Absolutely.

Madeline: To the retailer.

Dan: Well, and you're right, it's, how can they hit a target that hasn't been defined, right? And so, by helping them, by doing that, define that target, and again, this is why I developed that course. I would strongly you, and all your sales team, and everybody else listening, to take this. It's free, and the reason I did that, is because it's the foundation of everything we need to do in this industry.

The focus is my mission. Let me put it this way. My mission is to help make our healthy way of life more accessible, by helping you get product onto more retailers' shelves, and in the hands of more shoppers. The way that we do this is by sharing this podcast, by sharing our experiences, by having that fireside chat that I'm looking forward to in a week, a little over week, so thank you so much for coming on.

I really appreciate your time, and I look forward to meeting you in person, in just a few short days.

Madeline: Yes, thank you so much, Daniel. It's been a pleasure, and thanks again for letting us share about our brand.

Dan: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

I want to thank Madeline for coming on the podcast today, and for sharing her story, and her journey. This is proof positive that you can build a brand, outside of traditional brick and mortar, and then, leverage that strategy to help you within traditional retailers.

As we talked about a lot on this podcast, my Turnkey Sales Story Strategies Course is the foundation for everything we talked about today. It adds rocket fuel to every single strategy that you use to grow your brand.

You can get to it, and through this podcast, and the show notes, by going to brandsecretsandstratgies.com/session89. I'll be sure to include, also, a link of Nutpods.

Thank you again for listening, and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Nutpods https://www.nutpods.com

Madeline Haydon is the Founder & CEO of Green Grass Foods Inc., the plant-based food company behind Nutpods, the quickly growing line of dairy-free creamers made from a blend of almonds and coconuts. Launched with a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2013, Madeline developed Nutpods based on a personal need: a rich and creamy, dairy-free coffee creamer without artificial ingredients or sweeteners. Upon perfecting the recipe, she introduced Nutpods via Seattle-area retailers and on Amazon.com in mid-2015. Since that time Nutpods has become one of the best-selling food items on Amazon and continues to expand into nationwide retail distribution including Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix and others.

Nutpods selection as “Editor’s Pick” at the Natural Products Expo in 2015 and subsequent online sales success has garnered Madeline speaking engagements at the Specialty Food Association Conferences, Natural Products Expo West and Natchcom. She has been covered in prominent publications including Forbes, Seattle Business, Food Navigator, and One Green Planet, among others. Madeline holds a BS from the University of Washington and an MBA from Seattle University.

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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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Until next time, this is Dan Lohman with Brand Secrets and Strategies where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

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