Shoppers want healthy natural products. Big brands and retailers struggle to connect with these shoppers and the brands driving this trend. Learn what is at the heart of natural, why it resonates with consumers and why it matters.  

Today’s episode focuses on what makes natural natural. You’ve heard me talk about this on a lot of different podcasts, the content that I put out there, the webinars I produce and everything else. This is the underlying question that people keep asking me: What makes natural natural, and why is it important?

Why do they need to pay attention to it? You’ve probably heard me describe natural as being somewhat like a religion. That in no way means that anyone’s trying to be preaching natural. The point being is this, the natural community is more connected to what makes natural natural, the ingredients in the packaging, the ground that the ingredients are grown in, the climate, the environment, every thing that’s involved in making food more accessible. This goes well beyond the package or on the shelf. This talks about the story, the underlying story, the mission behind the brand behind the entrepreneur, why they do what they do, and why it’s important. The point is simply this: The natural organic brands that we talk about, that we celebrate on this show, are the ones that are driving sustainable sales across every category and every channel.

It’s these unique disruptive brands that are changing the way people think about food. At the heart of this discussion, we use words like transparency, clean label, and try to explain what those are and why those matter. Customers want products that they can trust, products that they can rely on to deliver exceptional nutritional value to them and their family. This is about celebrating the food for being something more than just a commodity, something you stick in your mouth. It’s about building a community and uniting that community. It’s about bringing people together. This is what makes natural natural. And this is why this episode is so important. This is why I do what I do on this podcast, and with the other content I produce.

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Robbie Vitrano, a thought leader in this space. He leverages the insights that he gets from all the other thought leaders and brings them together. This session is perhaps one of the most impactful episodes I’ve had yet in that it addresses that fundamental underlying question that people keep asking me: What makes natural natural? And why this matters.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about Good Spread

Click here to learn more about NatchCom

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #41

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #41

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 episode focuses on what makes natural natural. You've heard me talk about this on a lot of different podcasts, the content that I put out there, the webinars I produce and everything else. This is the underlying question that people keep asking me: What makes natural natural, and why is it important?

Why do they need to pay attention to it? You've probably heard me describe natural as being somewhat like a religion. That in no way means that anyone's trying to be preaching natural. The point being is this, the natural community is more connected to what makes natural natural, the ingredients in the packaging, the ground that the ingredients are grown in, the climate, the environment, every thing that's involved in making food more accessible. This goes well beyond the package or on the shelf. This talks about the story, the underlying story, the mission behind the brand behind the entrepreneur, why they do what they do, and why it's important. The point is simply this: The natural organic brands that we talk about, that we celebrate on this show, are the ones that are driving sustainable sales across every category and every channel.

It's these unique disruptive brands that are changing the way people think about food. At the heart of this discussion, we use words like transparency, clean label, and try to explain what those are and why those matter. Customers want products that they can trust, products that they can rely on to deliver exceptional nutritional value to them and their family. This is about celebrating the food for being something more than just a commodity, something you stick in your mouth. It's about building a community and uniting that community. It's about bringing people together. This is what makes natural natural. And this is why this episode is so important. This is why I do what I do on this podcast, and with the other content I produce.

Today I'm thrilled to introduce you to Robbie Vitrano, a respected thought leader in this space. He leverages insights other thought leaders in this space and brings them together, and helps share a conversation with me. This episode is perhaps one of the most impactful episodes I've had so far in that it addresses that fundamental underlying question that people keep asking me: What makes natural natural? And why this matters.

Now, I have to warn you, the audio gets a little choppy in places, but this is well worth listening to. Here's Robbie. Robbie, I want to thank you for coming on today. I'm so excited to talk to you again. We had such a great conversation before. So let's start off by telling the audience a little bit about who you are and the missions and the activists, and all the different cool things that you're really involved in. And then, I’d like to hear more about your brand. Please tell us about yourself.

Robbie: Great. Okay. Well thank you. And I really enjoyed the conversation as well. I was pretty amped by all the topics we covered, and we covered a lot. So long story short is that I'm an ad guy. I was a copywriter in the advertising world that maybe needed to kind of wash some sense. It's an interesting industry that attracts some of the very best people, and sometimes puts them to work for not so much the best causes. But I'm also a New Orleanian. So that's sort of my diagram from being a branding ad guy, storyteller, and also a product of a amazing city, certainly one of the epic global cities and also one of the most challenged and dysfunctional ones. And that just put me on a course of paying attention to how businesses behave, and the sort of impacts beyond the bottom line of how a business impacts the health of communities and the various stakeholders involved in those communities.

And so, in New Orleans, prior to Katrina, a city that was dying by any measure: most incarcerated, the worst public school system, fairly apathetic citizenry, and some poor behavior by our political leadership, and a very undiversified economy, and a real loss of talent, a real brain drain. And that just got me thinking about entrepreneurship and problem solving, and setting engagement together. And so that, again, kind of put me on this course of saying, "Okay. What does it take to bring that together?"

You certainly can't do it alone. You work within ecosystems and partnerships and collaborations. So it was a very much a DIY, somewhat of a naïve undertaking. But that really took hold and blew up following Katrina. So anyhow, the sort of the energy and the efforts that we had put into place, in the city and kind of the pre Katrina environment, really took hold in the post Katrina environment. And not only some of the work that was being done on the ground, the foundational work, but also the number of collaborations with some of the brightest and most committed people around the world that I think were all kind of working on that idea of what a healthy community looks like. And so, my job essentially as a person that helps to tell stories, helps focus strategy, helps business to succeed, we started to apply that at the agency in a way that was more focused on the development of purpose based businesses. And that led me to food. It's kind of hard to avoid food in New Orleans. It's a global culinary capital, and somewhat under leveraged, and somewhat inequitable in terms of who participates in that.

It's sort of an irony in a place like New Orleans, where our culture creators don't quite participate as actively as they might in the economic pie. And that has a lot to do with some of the problems that had manifested in the city as well. So I got involved in food and, along with a few other guys, we launched a company called Naked Pizza, which was one of the very first early movers in a healthier fast food/fast casual concept. And we built it around social media. This is back in 2006 through 2008, so very nascent days of social media. But that was an interesting thing for me as a branding guy to think about not only the creation of a company that was impacting food in positive ways, but also this notion of healthier foods, and then this use of a new communications platform, a new way to sort of engage a customer as somewhat of an ally and a partner in the development of the business.

And that was fascinating for me both in terms of the challenges and the opportunities, and we got a lot of attention for that. So we got on Fast Companies Top Ten List of Most Innovative Companies in the food space, right behind pretty significant companies like Chipotle and Starbucks. And it also started to open my eyes to the impact of food, so the supply chain in particular and the impacts therein. So that was a great ride. And we developed Naked Pizza into an international franchise. We sold it to a group of investors led by Mark Cuban. And then that kind of catapulted me into a place where I was becoming more increasingly interested, not only in food, but in particular in CPG brands, which kind of brings me to the current role at Good Spread.

My work in New Orleans sort of put me in a place where I was making the rounds with accelerators around the world, essentially focused on what I'll call non Silicon Valley entrepreneur ecosystems. So we kind of coined the phrase "place based entrepreneurship". And those are places, if you think about it, most places aren't Silicon Valley, the infrastructure that exists. And this is about how do you sort of arrange and collaborate around the vision of a community? What are those core set of assets, the things that retain and accentuate the culture, that make best use of the existing talent and assets? So not only create economic development, but also create civic engagement and address issues such as talent, diversify the economy, etc.

So one of those engagements, sort of with the wrapper of social entrepreneurship, led me to Boulder with a group called The Unreasonable Institute, now called Uncharted, but emphatically focused on social enterprise, so the idea of empowering businesses that have social impact. And I was partnered as part of my mentoring with an amazing non profit, but that operates very much like a for profit company. It's a 30 million dollar non profit that is self sustaining called MANA. And MANA does something that's pretty miraculous. They use peanut butter as the base for a therapeutic treatment that is used to treat, and is 96 percent effective in curing, severe acute malnutrition, which kills more children globally than anything else. So somewhere around 15 to 16 million kids die from severe acute malnutrition. And by the way, an entirely preventable condition.

Dan: Absolutely.

Robbie: So our work with MANA specifically, was to find additional funding sources, since their funding is capped and only allows for about one third of the kids who are suffering sever malnutrition to be treated. And we worked on a few different ideas. One of which was a peanut butter company, so horribly naïve, but sort of obvious and practical at the same time since MANA was processing at the time about 30,000 tons of peanut butter. And it just made sense that we would take a look at what sort of assets we had to work with. And the more we dug into it, the more we realized that peanut butter's about a two to three billion dollar industry at the time, growing rapidly in 90 percent of American households, American pantries, and something that provides not only a funding opportunity, but also it's an opportunity to, what I like to say, plant a splinter of consciousness in consumer's minds.

So it's sort of a low engagement kind of hand off, but one that we would imagine would be welcoming. And you can still enjoy your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And at the same time, you can be contributing directly. Each jar provides one treatment of the product that MANA makes. You can also be helping to save a child's life. So we launched Good Spread with that idea, myself and a couple of young guys who were working at MANA at the time, that had devoted themselves very intensely, enthusiastically, to telling the story of this cure for severe acute malnutrition. We're criss crossing across the country in a 1971 Winnebago, barn storming college campuses. And we started to put some legs to this idea, and found out that people were really interested in it.

So fast forward to where we are today. We now manufacture a line. In 2017, we introduced our organic line to kind of expand on our footprint to do the right thing, both in our mission as well as in the supply chain that we impact, with a strong advocacy for regenerative agriculture and fair trade labor. And we are distributed in Kroger's and Whole Foods, a number of independents, and aggressively building our brand across eCommerce as well, which gives us a great chance to tell our story since we are kind of content rich in terms of our founding and our impact in our global ecosystem working to end severe malnutrition.

Dan: I love that. What a great story. And on that note, excellent product. You know, I really didn't understand what was behind it. I'm so glad that you're sharing this with us about the mission based. I think if more people understood that, you'd have more sales.

Robbie: No. I get it.

Dan: Not that more sales is goal, but I mean, to help more people. So how did you come up with that? How did you align yourself? You talked about it a little bit but how did you make the connection between the two? Was it back to MANA? Or was there something more transformative? What I'm getting at Robbie is that you said in a video I heard that you were doing God's work. And now you're doing this. And now I think you're really doing God's work. So I love the way that you frame that. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Robbie: Sure. Well, when I referred to God's work, I was being entirely facetious, because when I refer to doing advertising, God's work, I think it's in front of a picture of Don Draper, sort of the epitome of the reptilian side of branding and advertising. But sure, this one ... No. I was in the presence of grace Daniel.

Dan: Yes.

Robbie: I think the people that I was encountering had devoted themselves so deeply to this cause and it was working and it was effective. And to your point, what it was kind of missing was the ability to create those powerful collaborations at the consumer level and other stakeholder levels, the retail, the distribution side of it. So it was a natural use of my talents. As I often say, no one is going to ask me to write a Harvard Business School…no one's gonna ask me to write the Management Manual for How to Run a Business. I think that the technical skills that are necessary, there are people that are probably a lot better at the x's and o's of putting businesses together. And the older I get, the more I deeply respect those people that do master the art of management. But the place that I think I've developed some pretty good competencies around, is storytelling and narrative, and stitching together the storytelling and the strategic imperatives, and executing on that. I'm probably much more of a war time guy than a peace time guy when it comes to building a business. And I think all of those ingredients around Good Spread, given the deep commitment of literally a global network of people, many of which actually put their lives on the line ...

I think last year, there were 90 aid workers who were killed in support of refugees in some of the more embattled areas relative to severe malnutrition, which ... by the way, severe malnutrition, we think about it as being something related to a famine or a climate change, or a lack of food per se. But malnutrition is very much related to badly designed agricultural systems. You can look at industrial agriculture's impact relative to ... not to throw shade on big companies, but the agriculture and the food ways of Africa has been turned upside down via colonialism. And it's dominated by products like corn, which are excessively nutritionally deficient relative to some of the more native crops, such as legumes and sorghum and millet, just fundamentally nutritionally superior products that people have been separated from and disassociated with. Also, the geo political conflicts in those areas, there's so much turmoil. Again, it's not about blame but it's been such a volatile environment that people are being forced to move and relocate.

And then the standing of women, this is a global problem, it's not just a third world issue. They're caregivers. They raise the kids. And their ability to be in a safe, secure environment, to have agency over their own life, has a significant contribution to whether or not a child is going to be severely malnourished or that child is gonna be properly nourished. So those inputs fire me up. That's how I wanna spend my day. So I'll take that. So the ability to sort of engage with that background, so to speak, that kind of subtext, and bring a product to market, and fully aware of the fact that that product needs to execute in its fundamental value to a customer, which is "I want make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," or just grab a spoon and enjoy this product, this healthy indulgence. Separate from that at any point and to your point about selling more, that's absolutely at the core objective.

So nutrition is our why, in the technical sense, it's why we get out of bed. And we're clear about it. And we're entirely motivated by it. And then, the business opportunity, raising capital, the complex distribution, increasingly complex, multi channel, omni channel disciplines of going to market and providing a product that is safe and delicious, and checks that box ... and then, fighting for positioning. It's a cluttered category. Great brands like Justin's have done a wonderful job. High integrity brands like Santa Cruz, Maranatha, have elevated some of the things that were put into play almost 100 years ago by brands like Jif and Skippy, who still dominate the market. But our goal is pretty clear Daniel. We're not building this brand, per se, to steal share from those other guys. That's part of the game. But the real goal for us is that if you're a person that grabs a jar of peanut butter, we'd love that opportunity, as I said, to plant that splinter and just elevate that consciousness around the power of what you buy, what you consume, and know that choice has consequences, and potentially massive impact. In this case, literally life saving.

Dan: And thank you for saying that 'cause I've always said that life is about choices. And it's a binary choice in some cases, but let me back up a little bit. You also forgot, and I appreciate your saying this, that corn is very nutrient dependent. It can actually suck the life, not literally, but it requires so many of the nutrients in the soil. And if you're not properly rotating the crops and doing all those other things, then you further add to that problem, including the soil erosion. So it just complicates problems. But thank you for bringing that up, so very important. And I love the fact that you're not talking about ... you're not saying, "Look. We're gonna be the next Skippy. But yet, we're gonna change the world." And the mission base, that's why I was so thrilled about talking to you.

I've been talking, Robbie, to a lot of other thought leaders in the industry, John Foraker, Seth Goldman, et cetera. I'm talking to Gary Hirshberg pretty soon. And they're all so mission focused. And I love the idea that the natural channel is championing people like you with missions like you, to help consumers feel good about what they're buying beyond the four corners of the package. Can you talk a little bit more about how do you communicate what you said earlier that you're content rich? What does that mean?

Robbie: Yeah. Great question. And by the way, we are very much aware ... As somebody, I guess I've been in this industry now going on about 12 years, but still consider myself a newcomer to it, and now being in Boulder where you're reminded of the people that came before, we are, I am, certainly standing on the shoulders of people that put this into motion, so people like Doug Green, my good friend and mentor John Elstrott, who was formerly chairman of Whole Foods, (Name) who has been kind enough to give me his time. Even people like John Foraker, who makes time for people like me to say, "You know, keep going man. Keep pushing it."

Dan: Oh yeah.

Robbie: Balancing that act is an important one. I think it's a bit more sobering conversation than to go into an investor conversation and to have them very much intrigued by the mission conversation, and at the same time I think their inclination is to kind of beat the puffery out of that and say, "Okay. That's great, but are you too mission oriented? Are you ignoring the knife fight that is retail? That you're managing that gross margin, and that you're able to navigate that trade spend, that you're not getting beaten up?"

So again, it's not about throwing shade at all those guys, but let's just say that the process of going to market, even though there's so much growth in the natural category and so much interest in that, both from a consumer standpoint as well as from a big foods standpoint, is that you still have to perform. It's interesting to have your primary asset, in terms of how you develop a customer and how you inject yourself into the consumer consideration, is so much based on that idea of initiating that relationship based on the mission and the purpose. I didn't walk into the supermarket with the idea that I’m going to change my peanut butter brand, or your brand here. But yeah, absolutely, there's a couple of things that are, I think, important for a mission based brand. I think, first of all, it's make sure that you do have your business operations nice and tight. I think your unit economics and your ability to manage margin, and your trade spend, and your promotion is important.

I think the opportunity for emerging brands like this with the rise of eCommerce is the opportunity to be more disciplined about how you go to market. The accepted wisdom, or the conventional wisdom certainly, that's been in place that kind of measures, it's a little bit of the swagger and swashbuckling. But one of the first conversations amongst brands is how many doors are you in? We just got Kroger. We got 300 doors. We got 1,000 doors. What I'm not hearing enough from emerging brands is what does it cost to really penetrate that exposure? And what are you able to tell within that distribution? 'Cause showing up on the shelf is not going to sell the product.

Dan: Right.

Robbie: There's some exceptions to that, but few and far between. So I think that idea of making sure that we're paying attention to that channel mix is important. So eCommerce is still a tiny tiny fraction of the overall mix, but getting back to your question about content, one of the opportunities there is that it's a data rich environment, so it gives young brands an opportunity to dial in with much greater specificity about who is that customer. Who's the person that cares the most? I had a conversation the other day. And what came up was "There are people that care about this mission Robbie. What are their preferences in peanut butter?" You've got to answer that question if you're going to really leverage that mission, and have some real understanding of who that customer is, where it goes next, what the scale opportunities are associated with that.

But I think one of the great values, and one of the conversations, and I'll give Kroger a ton of credit because they're asking this question. Years past, Kroger didn't really want know about your online strategy. Now they do, especially if you can articulate your ability to understand your customer, their motivations, and that you as a brand can offer them the opportunity to bring that customer into their store. They're fighting for that millennial customer. And they're looking for brands that can punch above their weight, and drag that customer into their store, because they're changing their layout and their format to offer more higher margin products, prepare foods, et cetera. So they're curating very tightly the center of the store, where the margins are lower. But what they want in there are brands that are able to deliver a customer that they don't want to lose, they don't want to surrender.

So the ability to both dial in that customer, to use that data in an intelligent way to manage your business, online also offers typically better payment terms. So cashflow is a major issue if you're out raising money and you're bringing it in, but you're carving out your equity with every go at it, you're kind of fighting yourself in some respects. And then, I think ultimately the opportunity to integrate maybe more effectively, I would argue, the transaction as well as the brand story. The narrative and the reason why is a bit greater in the online environment. So in the brick and mortar environment ... again, it's not about saying that's unimportant 'cause it clearly is. But it's increasingly becoming more difficult to enter into that environment as an emerging brand and tell your full story, or really have the capital and the energy and the manpower to tell that full story. So I like a lot of what's being offered in eCommerce.

And to that extent, I was a part of a group that put on a conference built around that conversation in Boulder very recently, about a month and a half ago. And we sold that thing out because it's so interesting to people. We called it Natchcom. And it was amazing to see predominately the reaction within that room, where you had platforms, you had the Amazons, you had the Googles, you had the Pinterests, you had the Facebooks, you had brands that are getting it, brands that are discovering it, brands that are learning it, brands that don't know anything about it in the room. And you had the service providers and consultants. But within that mix is, at the core of that, is all those things that Gary Hirshberg and Walter Robb and others put into play, which is it's an industry that's based on brands that are daring to innovate and disrupt, and represent not only good helpful products, but also products that steward the environment correctly, that are offering a living wage to the people that participate in the supply chain.

So I think the opportunity for those brands to continue to have a voice and to be present, and I think a lot of those opportunities like with the ability and the sophistication around how they utilize eCommerce to get into the mix.

Dan: Absolutely. I'm so glad you said that. In fact, what brought us together was that's the space I play in, trying to give brands more runway, try to help them alleviate some of those headaches and pitfalls that brands experience in terms of the deductions and all those challenges that they face to give them more of a solid foundation to build their brand on. To your point, you've got to have a well executed online and brick and mortar strategy at the same time. A lot of people don't realize that. And I'm so glad you mentioned that. And I'm so glad that you pointed out that Kroger's so evolved in that. I've identified ... I've spent a lot of time talking to Bill Bishop about this intersection between online and traditional brick and mortar. And what we've been discussing, what we've decided, what we're finding is that those strategies that work online, like you said, can help drive sales and amplify sales in a traditional store.

And the fact that you're doing that and amplifying that, yeah, I'm really interested in talking to Jim Moscou hopefully pretty soon about Natchcom and your upcoming event. How did you get involved in that? Did you just kind of meet these people? Or is it something that you actively sought out?

Robbie: Well, Jim and I had been working on it for a while. So we were working together along with some really spectacular people on a platform called SPIFFLY, which probably bears some resemblance to what Range Me is doing without quite the transactional piece to it. But it was designed to essentially ... Well, it was really built around something Gary Hirshberg said. He said that so many of the brands that came out of natural and organic were brands that were elevated by other natural and organic brands, that those are the first consumers. The people that are building the brands are also the people that pay attention to the cool brands that are coming up and doing interesting stuff.

So the goal was to use digital to promote discovery of the most worthy brand, so to speak, and a dynamic group of people are just sharing ideas. There's a great spirit of generosity. And how could we digitally turbo charge that? So SPIFFLY was an idea that Jim kind of led, and I was helping with that in the inception. And we had some really great people along the way like Ted Robb, Walter's son, and Alex Bogusky, Gary Hirshberg and Robert Craven from Mega Food.

Dan: Yes, Robert with Mega Food is my favorite client!

Robbie: We had some really good fire power behind it. Natchcom was essentially a pivot of SPIFFLY. We weren't able to really generate revenue. It was designed to be subscription based. We were running into some headwinds about the ability to really generate revenue. But we had tons of people show up and say, "I want to participate." So we developed a beautiful database and list. So what came out of that was the idea of let's get out in front of this conversation that we're having at this peer to peer level. And let's make a point of it. Let's create an environment where people are comfortable sitting down together and really chewing into this idea of how eCommerce should be attended to and also that integration that you rightly mentioned."

And so, after a lot of consideration about what do we do first chicken and egg conversations, we just let's just put a flag in the ground. Let's just call a date, and offer it to people and say, "Here's the programming. Here's the ideas that have been bubbling up from conversations between people like Jim and me and Gary Hirshberg and Josh Tabin from Wild Zora, just people that are in the game, having the conversation. And what can we do to better kind of focus this conversation, and ultimately provide some tools and some resources and some direction for people, with the idea that very specifically, this thing is going to continue to evolve, rapidly evolve?"

So, we set a date. Ted Ning, who produced all the LOHAS events, who knows his way around events, stepped in to lead the charge and put the moving pieces into place. It was very much a barn raising. Galvanized, gave us a space, the people who participated mostly paid their own way. We ended up selling the thing out. It was at capacity. You had people begging to get in at the end. Our net promoter score, I think, pushed right above 60. So everybody knows Net Promoter Scores, that's a good one, and plenty to build on. The other thing, Dan, that you'll appreciate is that ... so we got Amazon in the room. And most people who deal with Amazon know that you never talk to a human being.

Dan: Yeah.

Robbie: You get a human being from Amazon there. Jabari ... I forget his last name. But I think it was amazing to have him there. And then to have folks from Google and other ones. But the thing that was really interesting was how much they didn't know about this industry. So they walked in and saw this intense interest, and that was remarkable for them I think to see it. In fact, Facebook did not have any discretion between conventional and natural channels. And of course, that's being blended more than ever now. But just for them to think about that natural organic world, that we kind of take for granted in Boulder because we’re kind of immerse in it, was amazing.

So we did the follow up where we did a seminar at EXPO and put a few of those people on stage. But to get them over to Anaheim and have them walk the halls, and see 15,000 brands and supplement providers, and 85,000 people in one place, just really kind of jamming on this next generation of food and behaviors and integrity, just lit them up.

Dan: Good.

Robbie: Absolutely lit them up. So those are the things that kind of went into the thinking of it. And following Natchcom, the post mortem was super successful. A bunch of people stepped up and said, "We want in for the next one." And so, we're just ready to announce a new leader for that group, somebody that brings amazing capabilities and the right level of leadership. And we're real excited about the fall event that we're planning right now.

Dan: I am excited and can hardly wait. I was talking to Jim about that. I'm looking forward to have him on the podcast too. And you're new leader who hasn’t been announced yet.

Robbie: No, not yet.

Dan: I'm such a huge fan. It’s all exciting.

Robbie: It's coming.

Dan: Well please, let me know how I can help support this. It's so great that you guys are involving all these different people into it because you and I talked about this last time. The rest of the world, mainstream retailers, mainstream solution providers, tend to commoditize the natural consumer. But as you said, if you're living in Boulder, you can't help but understand or appreciate what it means to be a part of that culture. It’s sort of a religion. Either you get it or you don't.

Robbie: Yeah. It's amazing. Again, one of the benefits of this place is the spirit of generosity.

Dan: Oh yeah.

Robbie: I had a coffee with Mark Retzloff, who was one of the founders of Alfalfa's, and brought organic milk to market, and to hear him tell that story, first of all, it's just fascinating history to know about the vision and the sacrifices at a time when it wasn't everywhere. And the next generation of generosity. I'm having coffee with Justin Gold next week who's technically a competitor, though he probably wouldn't say that. But he talks shop. And that access to, in particular, that kind of multi generational impact on better for you foods is something that you just ... again, it's kind of like our mission. It compels you, in some sense maybe obligates you, to take your game up, not just to perform because people are performing well, but also just to hold to the religion. Keep the principles front and center. And that part I love.

And by the way, a commercial for you. The quality of the content that you publish about our industry, in my opinion, needs to be out there every day. It is extraordinary.

Dan: Oh thank you.

Robbie: The value and the value you add is extraordinary. I religiously tune in to those email blasts, and I share it with my team 'cause it's so on point.

Dan: Thank you.

Robbie: And again, not to blow smoke, but your actual and technical skill set into place, into useful forms, also not escaping or walking away from, again, sort of those fundamental kind of that ethos that I think is necessarily surrounding those technical skills.

Dan: I'm honored. I appreciate you saying that. I'm flattered too. I am trying really really hard to make a difference and raise the bar in our industry. And this is the best way I know how to do it, how to help a small brand compete head to head with the big guy. Thank you so much. I'm honored. And to your point, I was thanking John Foraker for all he does in the industry. And he says, "No, no. This is our community. This is the way we give back." And like you, finding those rich resources, those people that you can tap into that are so willing and able to just freely give their time and their passion to share that with you.

I'm actually talking with Justin Gold on my podcast in May. So again, there's so many rich people that they don't look at it as competition. They realize that rising tide floats more ships, and that's why I was so thrilled to talk with you.

Robbie: Absolutely.

Dan: The other really cool thing is all the mission stuff that you do behind the scenes. I'm looking at your resume, your LinkedIn profile. You've got six or seven companies that you're still active in. We hadn't even gotten there yet.

Robbie: Yeah. Well, there's amazing people every day. And kind of back to my New Orleans roots, one of my goals is to connect the sort of rich sophistication and generosity of Boulder to what I consider to be latent and under leveraged talents in New Orleans.

Dan: Good.

Robbie: And so, not only do I think there's some amazing businesses to come out of places like New Orleans and many other places. We've got sort of the second and third tier communities already being built up in great places like Austin, and even San Antonio, great food brands. But I think also within that is something that we shouldn't forget. And we talk about it in fair trade. And we talk about supply chain. We think about it more internationally. But I'm also eager to see the economic pie spread to people that know food, and to give them some tools to use that talent to create a meaningful living that helps themselves as well as their communities. So a place like New Orleans is a good place for that.

Whole Foods stepped in emphatically. In fact, Walter Robb and John Elstrott were the champions of that. Really the precursor to their 360 stores was in a little forgotten neighborhood that took about 6 feet of water. It was a traditionally African American retail district, happens to be the same place that I relocated our ad agency as well. And we sort of built a clubhouse there to kind of launch all these things that you see on my LinkedIn profile. Whole Foods stepped in, and put up a store front, and said, "Not only are we going to invest in the future of New Orleans. We're gonna invest in the future of this community. And we're gonna attune the offerings of this store in a very very customized way to the needs of that community."

And that little spot has catalyzed so much. You can throw a rock from the front door of that Whole Foods, and you'll hit a non profit restaurant that teaches the vocational skills for kids coming out of tough neighborhoods to be able to not only get the life skills necessary, but also the vocational skills around running a restaurant. That place also provides healthy lunches to a number of schools. You've got the Tulane's Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, which is now an international program that teaches medical students how to use food as a medicine, you know, let food be thy medicine. And actually teaches them, not only to use food as part of treatment, but also it teaches the cultural sensitivities about how to use food in ways that are reaching, again, some of those more challenged populations where you can't just go in and wag your finger and say, "Eat more broccoli."

So there's that there. There's a film studio there. There's a number of other things. And Whole Foods really came in and moved on that. So those are the kind of things that also kind of inspire you when you start to see the impact. Food sits at the center man.

Dan: It does.

Robbie: It is the largest global industry. It touches the environment. It touches culture. It brings us together. It nourishes our bodies. Now, the conversations around regenerative and soil health and climate change elevates it to even another level of consciousness. So, I'm fired up about that. I had a great conversation this morning with the partners from Healthy Foods, which speaks to the other end of our spectrum. I'm a tiny brand, a little brand, pushing trying to get up to a million dollars in sales. And I was talking to the representative for Mars and Hershey and General Mills. And they've got an initiative that's focused on the middle of the supply and value chain in Africa.

Dan: Great.

Robbie: They're refining manufacturing. And they're refining the agricultural process. And opening up the supply opportunities for growers there, and using it as an opportunity for the talent, just the magnitude of talent that exists within these big companies as well as in little companies like mine, to come in and use what we know, how to provide sustainable opportunities for food economies in other parts of the world. So it's just it's endless about not only the impact of food and where it can go, but in terms of the sort of initiatives that one can undertake to have a positive impact.

Dan: Absolutely. And I'm so glad you said it. Something that reminded me, something you just said. Years and years and years ago, I was trying to understand people from different languages. I had a neighbor that was Indian, and I learned that if I understood his cadence, then I could understand what he was saying. I remember, it's actually kind of a funny story. His son was trying to talk to me, and I said, "I'm sorry. I can't understand him." And his dad said, "That's okay. We can't understand him either. Just kidding." But it was hilarious that the dad said that.

Anyhow, the point being that food is the common language that unites all of us. And food is that thing that helps us bridge those gaps, those divides between culture and race and everything else. So I'm so glad you said that. I'm really inspired by what you shared with us. That the big brands are paying attention to this, and they're trying so hard to get involved in it. So did they come find you, or how did that work out? Obviously, you are a force in what you're doing. How did you make that connection?

Robbie: They did seek us out because peanut butter and peanuts are one of the things they focus on. The miracle of peanuts, and this is a real thing, so peanuts have been kind of trivialized, let's say, by the Jifs and Skippys of the world. It’s somewhat of a consequence of a product that has been sort of associated with youth, and I would argue also its southern roots sort of gives it a less sophisticated image…restores soil, that also sequester carbon, a great mix of macro nutrients, a beautiful medium. They grow globally. They're native.

Dan: Hardy.

Robbie: Again, you don't have to get into a comparison with almonds, but let's just say that… less environmental negative, especially with peanuts. So the idea of peanuts as a readily available source of nutrition, and also of environmental stewardship, positive agricultural impacts, as well as an opportunity for business to develop, is something that this group is paying attention to. And also, they're mindful of the fact, and this is not new, but these big companies can't develop. They're not having a lot of success with innovation and getting new market share. So they're looking to emerging companies that have greater validity with this next generation customer, very millennially lead. John Foraker gets it better than anybody.

He puts it in the perfect words about not only this millennial customers preferences, but now that they're forming households and having kids, those preferences are getting ignited. Now their getting the rocket fuel.

Dan: Sure.

Robbie: So I think all those things kind of led them to our door to say, "We'd like to look for ways to partner." And music to my ears. I'll put it out here right now. I'd like nothing more than General Mills or Con Agra, or somebody to say, "Look. We love what you guys are about. And we want to put some money behind it. We want to become your partner." And help us grow it. We want that impact. As long as we're able to maintain our mission, and make sure that every product that we sell is providing a treatment to a child, we think is a real opportunity to really impact, again, this 3 billion dollar market that's forecasted to grow to almost 7 billion dollars because it's just so on trend.

So I'm really psyched about those type of partnerships. It takes a little bit of time to kind of sniff one another out. But it just makes sense, the idea of growing the market, of big companies looking to increase their impact and use their foot print in more impactful ways, and ultimately that ability to address at it's core, nutrition. We live in a world that's a billion starving, and two billion overfed. Both of those are chronic diseases by the way. Obesity is qualified as a chronic disease. Severe malnutrition is a chronic disease. It's a lifestyle disease, but it's a disease none the less. And there are treatments for it. And we think that we need to be mindful of that. We need to be sharing a little bit of that with each purchase, not overwhelm it, not be a buzz kill. But let's use that opportunity to share a little bit of that and get people thinking. Patagonia is the king of this.

They just do a remarkable job of saying the product matters and it needs to perform. And all those things that we buy for, badge value and reputation as well as functional qualities, we're going to get that by delivering the product. And then, we're going to try to squeeze out of every inch of our supply chain. And we want you to think about your purchase. And we don't want you to buy just because you've been motivated to buy, we want you to buy with some consciousness.

We really are inspired by that, and we endeavor to use our little footprint in the world of peanuts and peanut butter to kind of affect that.

Dan: Well, it's so important. We talk about the selling story and why that matters. So I want to throw this out there and see what you think about this. Consumers want to feel good about what they buy. But a lot of consumers can't take time off work, they can't go to a third world country, they can't volunteer in the soup kitchens like some people can. And I applaud the people that do that. But the point is that giving a consumer, a shopper, an opportunity to feel good about something where they don't have to maybe get into the trenches as much, it's a great entry point first of all. And then secondly, that mission focus is such a unique opportunity. Again, you want that consumer to feel good about that. And the fact that you're getting the big brands to celebrate this and get excited about it, I'm thrilled. I'm really jazzed and excited to hear this.

Robbie: Well thank you. Again, I think we're humbled by those conversations. And again, I'd also be lying to you if I didn't think that this is the type of opportunity that we're working towards as well, from a sort of a business and mission kind of integration standpoint. And I think back to the consumer as well. Again, I think one of the most important things for brands like ours is not to trivialize that social impact and turn it into a marketing slogan.

Dan: Absolutely.

Robbie: And so, the integrity of what we do, spending time in Africa, understanding that there are up stream issues. And our partners work on nutrition education, they work with agriculture, they work on female empowerment. We're mentoring a couple of female entrepreneurs that are making peanuts, a relationship with an organization called Global Living, sort of focused on economic impact to agriculture. What we love is the ability to share that with the customer, again, appropriately. But the fact of it is is that for those customers that aren't able to get involved maybe in a more hands on kind of way ... you know, you can't go to Puerto Rico and join the World Kitchen there. The fact that you have enormous amount of power with what you consume and what you buy, your decisions define you. Those opportunities, you want that to be real.

You don't want that to be dismissed. You don't want people to be cynical or skeptical about it 'cause that does it all a disservice. You want them to know it's real. So the other thing that I'd advocate for that we're mindful of is that if you have a mission in your brand, then make sure if they scratch the surface that there's real things there, there's integrity around it. Don't just cop on to a slogan. Yeah, the world needs your money, but more importantly we need a sort of a conscious responsible consumer. As Yvon Chouinard likes to say, "You're a citizen consumer." It's like a vote, a voting act, when you purchase. So take that same level of responsibility to understand it. I think the obligation for mission based brands is to make sure that you are bringing an accessible level of conscious raising to the things that you do, and make it meaningful.

So I think there's a lot of intrinsic benefit in that to a consumer in addition to the product itself and increasingly, as you mentioned, know well the customers asking for that. They want to understand that much better for a brand that claims it.

Dan: Well, I think to go one step further, the big brands ... and I say this a lot, when they think of innovation, it’s as a new flavor, a new topping, putting a different label on something. What you're saying, Robbie, is that if your lips and your feet are moving in the same direction, customers get that. They understand that authenticity. And absolutely, you've got to be able to bake that in your story. One of the things that I would love to find out how I can help you with your mission, some of the things that you're doing, is communicating that beyond the four corners of your package. Because at the end of the day, if a consumer doesn't know what you've got to offer, that's unfortunate.

And the reality is consumers are doing research online. They're doing it at shelf. And so, to be able to communicate that message, take that conversation beyond that, leveraging social media and all those other platforms you talked about, that's the Holy Grail. And as you said earlier, we are building on the backs of other people. I forget exactly what you said, I think Gary said that. And the point being that we're all in this together. And it's not that one person or whatever has to reinvent the wheel every time, it's take what works, learn from it, make it your own, and then take it to the next level and inspire those around you. Again, it's that, "I'm gonna teach you how to fish" mentality. And that's, I think, what really jazzes people, gets people excited, and gets people out of bed in the morning. It certainly gets me out of bed in the morning.

Robbie: Right. Implicit in our vision for this company, development of this company, was this. We're sort of mindful of the Toms model, in terms of what's good and bad about it. And part of it is that there's a little bit of that white savior thing that comes with so many of these purpose driven brands. And I think that needs to be paid attention to. The idea of kind of glorifying leaders, from a branding stand point, I'm a branding guy, I understand that. But the brand was designed in a way to say, "Look. Help good spread." And not help us. But by your little actions, in ways large and small, and ultimately, again, leading to life saving, be a part of that consciousness. So I completely agree with that idea that the obligation is to walk that walk. I love how you say it, your lips and your feet are moving in the same direction.

I think the real gain is trust.

Dan: Yes.

Robbie: We've been kind of conditioned to be cynical about the come-ons in the marketing. And we're sort of victims of our cleverness.

Dan: True.

Robbie: I think partially, we also have to resist maybe the attraction of being too clever, and make sure that we're operating at a level of integrity, no matter which pressures exist. What I say the other side of this coin, in terms of reconciling this industry, is the conversation about investment.

Dan: Yes.

Robbie: So I love what Ryan and the gang at Circle Up are speaking to. We had Zach Grannis from Circle Up at Natchcom along with Ben Shelton from Boulder Food Group and Sean from Kick Further, so three very different platforms. But I think the investment community is starting to recognize that they, by their press, intended or otherwise, if they're bringing a bunch of sort of agnostic types into the room to put money into it, and that want 7, 10, 20 times return on their money, that they could be forcing people to do some things that are not in the spirit of this industry. So it's not about being anti capitalist, but guys like Woody Tesh, and Slow Money, and RSF Financial, and others that are innovating around it, NDBC ... there's a need to reconcile the capitalization of these businesses and the support.

And this is where big food companies are probably going to play the most important role because they can't afford to mentor and develop, and I think increasingly they are taking that responsibility. Kraft just reached out to us for their new accelerator in Chicago. It's an interesting proposition. You kind of understand what they're after. And at the end of the day, what you're interested in learning about - is there a real opportunity to create some mutuality in that relationship with the big food company that helps people like us kind of nurse along at the right speed? Or at the end of the day, are they having to dance to metrics that say, "Go get it done. Sell a customer. Steal market share. Do what it takes. And fight that cost structure." It costs us ten percent to provide a treatment with every one of the jars we sell. That's probably fighting gravity when you think about our business structure. We're still able to maintain a 40 percent margin with that. But that means the product shows up on the shelf a little bit higher.

Dan: Sure.

Robbie: And in a somewhat commodity driven market like peanut butter, that will present challenges. And that will present some pause when you're talking to a buyer at a grocery store, which is why we need to make sure that, to your point, we are telling that story and telling it right and telling it to people who care.

Dan: Absolutely and you’ve got to remember, the people that we're talking to, the people that you're selling to, the people that are listening to this podcast, the people that are in this industry, the people that are of that mindset, the core LOHAS consumer, we're not looking at just price. I take objection to the conversation that price is the only thing that drives consumers at the shelf. I hear that repeatedly and it’s simply not true. We're not about price. We're about something more than price. We're about the community. We're about local. And as you said, we're about giving back. And it's that passion that fuels our industry. And the fact that the big brands are now starting to pay attention to this is great.

I was talking to my friend Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru on one of my episodes. He shared, and I was thinking about this, it's so true. "Food is the next Silicon Valley." And you alluded to to that yourself. What are your thoughts around that? And by the way, I realize that we're running over the hour, so let me know what your time looks like.

Robbie: I'm good 'til about 1:30 I think. So, we're good. So again, the good and the bad of that, the unintended consequences. I mean, we need capital. And I think a lot of people are stepping out, people are saying we need to be mindful of how capital is being applied, and mindful of the sort of consequences associated with this rush towards unicorns, so to speak. And I think food is one that we're maybe increasingly prone to think about those impacts. Probably you could go to other industries and maybe have the same argument relative to supply chain, etcetera. But the fact that the soil is involved in the production of food. And that we're now in a race where we were concerned about having a depletion of our top soil. They're talking about 50 to 60 years worth of top soil left if we don't start actively restoring it.

We need to understand the importance of our earth, our culture, and the integrity of independence and interdependence in our society. You can't just keep making things and selling things. So food is, I think, more sensitive to that dynamic than anything. So again, sort of that headwind or maybe just that friction of consciousness, is technically, I would say, fundamentally at odds with the notion of multiplying wealth. So there's been plenty of conversations about limits to growth and all those other things. Again, this is not about socialism. But it's about saying, "How do we use capitalism in a more conscious way?" To coin John Mackey's phrase.

My point is that the people who are out in front of it that have achieved success and wealth, again, that's people like Jerry and Mackey and others that are in the game, John Foraker, they're going to have to be the ones that speak that truth to the investment community. They'll have a much more successful time than Good Spread, telling the investment community to pay attention to these things. Or they're going to have to put their own money into it, which they are. Walter just got involved with Dan Barber on soil. And I think that's something that we'll see more of, and I'm encouraged by. And I think it's important as well. And in fact, it's another motivator I think for people that are building brands and successes. I'm sure Justin will speak to it when you talk to him about how do you sort of pay that idea forward, and make sure that there's a good consciousness around growth, around creating wealth for investors?

There really needs to be a continued effort on our part to connect the ethos of the community, the impacts of what we do, with the investment goals. They shouldn't be in two separate rooms

Dan: Well, thank you for saying it. One of the things I was going to share when I was talking with Justin a couple days ago, he was saying that we shouldn’t try to do this overnight. It's one step at a time. Progress not perfection. And I love that because it's all of us moving forward. Our voices matter. As you said, we vote with our dollars. And if we the community, are leading this charge, that makes so much sense. I was doing a webinar today for the Category Management Association, where I'm talking to a lot of big brands and a lot of big retailers. And I'm trying to explain to them this whole issue, this whole mindset that you're sharing about produce for example. That was the focus of it. But it's not about the fact that it's going to cost more money. And it's not about yield. It's about the overall health and wellness, not only of the people that are buying the organic produce, but of the land that we're using.

And so, thank you for sharing that because I don't think a lot of people make that connection. We want to give back to our families, to our children and our children's children. But I don't think a lot of people are really thinking beyond the end of their nose. And I'm glad you're bringing that up and you're really focusing on all those topics because that's a passion of mine as well.

Robbie: Yeah. Well, I'm glad you're advocating for it as well, and probably affecting a lot more than we can on a daily basis because there's so many people that you interact with. And I think that that notion of the fertility of the soil itself, to sustain not only this present generation but the future generation, is a real story. So the fact that regenerative agriculture was the star of EXPO is encouraging. And then, people who I take great instruction from like Matthew Dillon, who has the agriculture program, and a big advocate for SEED throws a note of caution to that.

He talks about let's make sure we're paying attention to this so we're not creating this regenerative organic certification, and it becomes another marketing ploy, and doesn't really benefit not only the customer but also the intended participants in the supply chain. So we just need to be eyes wide open in all of these things that we entertain. But fundamentally, the movement away from extractive practices, and yield to making sure we're sustaining to feed the people that are here today, and the people that are coming, and it allows us to be good partners to the earth, not earth huggers. It's not about being a hippy about it. It's about being practical as well as conscious of it.

And I think there's another layer to regenerative, which I think is important. I was taught quite a bit of this by Gregory Landau who has a company called Terr agenesis, which has been an early articulate advocate for regenerative. And he expands the concept into regenerative principles that don't just affect agriculture, but it affects business behavior, cultural behavior, social norms, investment behaviors. We did a seminar, at SOCAP a year before last. And we spoke to that overlay of regenerative principles in investment. And I'd like to see more of that from the investment community, kind of circling back on our previous conversation. But it's like it is a fundamental set of principles that I think are easily absorbed and they can be executed. So it's a guide line and it's a point of conversation that I think is entirely appropriate within the notion of how we think about our business, how we think about our impacts, how we think about our partnerships.

So yeah, I mean again, after you sort of come down from that 40,000 foot perch with these conversations, then it's about what are you going to do today? And if you're in charge of a brand, you're mindful of all those things. Justin always admonishes and advises, "Make sure your safety protocols are in place." He's been victimized by that in his early days. He's overcome it because he's smart and he works hard. And I think you can't ignore those technicalities either. I would argue though that when you start to think about so many of these other practices that exist within bringing a product to market successfully, what you'll find is that there actually is a very natural, dare I say organic, integration with regenerative behaviors.

I don't think they're sitting off on the side as a nice to have at all. I think they can apply to almost every decision you're making. I mean, if you source peanuts out of the southeast right now, you're going to have a hard time knowing what sort of chemicals were used in the creation of those peanuts. So the peanut industry doesn't necessarily want to have this conversation. But yield is a big factor. And this gets into subsidies and some things that I know about and some things that are above my pay grade. But peanuts are used in rotation with some pretty chemical soaked crops. And you look at peanuts and corn and soy rotation in the southeast, and the peanut growers there will probably rightfully tell you, and these are good people and people of integrity, but also sometimes using old practices. So yield is a goal. There's a goal. There's subsidies in place for selling excess, which again sometimes has negative consequences. We've been known to dump peanuts into markets and disrupt economies, Haiti most recently.

So contrast that with going out to the west and seeing how they're growing in Lubbock, in and around Lubbock and Brownville, and what you'll see is regenerative practices there, you'll see organic. And in one of the projects that I'm working on right now, in the vain of overreaching is we're partnering with the southeastern African American organic farm network, and they received a grant to produce organic peanuts in the south. So these are farmers that are farming land that was returned to them post civil war, post slavery. So these are people that have deep cultural roots and connections to the ground. I'm married to an Irish woman who has the same kind of reverence for land. It's not a thing. It's not a commodity. It is identity.

Dan: Love that.

Robbie: These farmers there are looking to not only create economically viable products, of which organic peanuts are about 40 to 50 percent more expensive than conventional peanuts, so there's a margin factor in that. There's a consumer conversation in that. But the ability to indisputably provide a clean peanut, without the use of 8 to 12 chemicals, without some of the unknowns associated with its rotation, to me is something that we need to look at. It's important to us, I think it's an important conversation to have. And I think increasingly more people are leaning into these types of conversations when they're bringing their product to market. But again, circling back to the unit economics, there are a lot of people and investors that would say, "Man. I love what you guys are about, but talk to me when you're about a million. And this idea of messing around with organic, does the customer really care?" And I say, "It's my job to make them care."

Dan: Exactly. I love that. And it's all of our jobs. It's incumbent upon all, of us that are focused on, like I said, giving back to the next generation, to making a difference in this world. That's why we get up. It's the small disruptive brands like you that are making an impact. If the big guys are paying attention to you, and Kraft and Hershey and some of the other brands that you mentioned want to talk to you, that means that you're doing something right in my mind. And that means that they're paying attention to the fact that the consumers want true innovation. They want products that they can feel good about. And they want to help brands like you succeed. Obviously, that's got to be a huge compliment. And I hope you take it that way.

Robbie: Thank you. And I do. We're excited by, enthusiastic by, and humbled by it. We know there's a lot of things we still need to learn about bringing a product to market and scaling it. So we try to compartmentalize that, the things that we can control and we can do. And as you sort of navigate this process and you run into smart people like you and others, you get turned on to some ideas. I had the benefit of traveling to Ecuador, hosted by natural habitats, who supplies our palm oil. Palm oil takes a lot of hits. But natural habitats, about one and a half percent, one point something percent of all palm oil that's sourced internationally, is organic. And what natural habitats has committed to is organic regeneratively grown small farm produced palm oil. So they have a very precise operation there.

And since palm oil is the most used and consumed oil on the globe, the idea there is let's do it the right way and not the wrong way.

Dan: Absolutely.

Robbie: So the ability for us to go alongside Dr. Bronner's and Retiva and people like Patagonia to be a supporter in that. That's real.

Dan: Sure.

Robbie: I mean, for our little peanut butter company to be in the jungles of Ecuador for six days to meet the agronomists, to meet the small farmers, to meet the processors, to see the fair trade impacts is incredible. We visited with people who had their homes rebuilt, and knew community gardens that were built, met a wonderful third generation farmer who is growing rubber and cacao and banana and timber next to his palm, and the agronomists from natural habitats that are helping them set those operations up. You cannot walk away from that Dan, in this business, and not think that "Man, what a cool place to be."

Dan: Oh yeah.

Robbie: So to your point about being humbled about those associations, man, Natural Habitats and so many other people give us way too much time and attention right now. And I'm grateful for it. We try to suck it up as much as we can, learn from it, and we do learn, and then try to hold up our end. Kroger had an amazing presence at EXPO. And they called us up to the national buyer in December. So we had a great meeting. HRK asked if they could represent us, so all very flattering. I still have no idea if I have enough money to support it. But the idea of doing their private town hall, invited by a guy named Dave Schlusser who is VP of Natural at Harlowe, got me into the room. And I'm there with Traditional Medicinals and Roy Choi, and really getting a sense of how Kroger's saying, "Let's not bullshit about our social impact." So there's zero hunger/zero waste initiative. They're interested in ways that we can participate in that and bring some validation to it, and bring our own sort of little effort around malnutrition at an international level into the things that they're doing.

So we're game for that and humbled by it, learning from it, and hopefully making good decisions about how we apply our time around it.

Dan: I think that's great. And on that note, I would love to invite some of those people on the podcast. I've already talked to OSC2. I'm already going to be talking to the Climate Collaborative and Sustainable Trade Association. I'm trying to get the message out. I do what I do because I'm trying to make a difference in this world. I could make a lot more money if I was working for big CPG. I could charge those guys a lot more money.

Robbie: You know it.

Dan: I do this because I want to feel good about who I'm working with. I want to know that I'm making an impact. And at the end of the day, I think that's why you do what you do, although I've got to admit I am humbled by all of the different things that you've shared with us today, the different things that you're involved in. That's true activism. And I thank you for all you do.

Robbie: Oh. Well, thank you for a chance to talk about it. Again, it's ... you're being invited into the domain of a lot of expertise.

Dan: Yes. Love this channel.

Robbie: You can really circle back to so many great things along the way. And as I said earlier, one of the ones that you're just so mindful of is when you visit with those relief workers and know that people are literally putting themselves in harm's way and risking their own lives, and many of which have made that sacrifice in the name of this cause, and ultimately in the name of nutrition. So many of them are devoted to that to the point where they have lost their lives. Getting into a complicated conversation about trade spend with UNFI or a buyer from Kroger kind of pales by comparison. Right?

Dan: Right. But if I can help with that conversation, and give brands more of a runway like you. So let's talk about that offline. But it's so important. At the end of the day, it’s all about we're all in this together. And we have got to all help each other. And I'm just thrilled with everything that you're doing. And I imagine we could probably talk for hours.

Robbie: Yes. We could.

Dan: I know we're coming up at the end of our time. Well, we could do this again too.

Robbie: Let's do it anytime.

Dan: By the way, I'll be up in Boulder next week so I'll hopefully get a chance to see you then.

Robbie: I'll be here. Let's go get a beer and lay eyes on one another. But that would be terrific.

Dan: That would be good.

Robbie: Thank you for giving voice to all of this from so many good people. I'm jazzed and humbled to be in the mix, so thank you for that.

Dan: Well, I'm honored that you took the time. Thank you for making time. This show is about you, it's for you. It's about brands. It's about how do I help more brands? This is a natural product accelerator but more importantly, it's about how do we connect brands to people? It's about that storytelling and why this matters. And you told such a great story. Like you said, the connective tissue, how do you align all those parts? So again, thank you for all you do and for your time. I look forward to our next conversation.

Robbie: Right on. Give a shout when you're in town next week and I look forward to connecting.

Dan: I really want to thank Robbie for coming on today and for sharing his valuable time and insights with me. The real beauty of his message is he's able to articulate what he's learned through all the other thought leaders that he's talked about in the industry. This is what makes natural natural, this community, this connective tissue that helps bond and join us, and helps make food more than just a commodity.

I'm going to include links to Good Spread, Trumpet, and Natchcom on the podcast show notes and on this podcast web page. You can access it by going to brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session41. The freebee for today is my free course, Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, where we talk a lot about the blocking and tackling, the things that brands need to do to be successful, how to leverage your story, not only with the shoppers who buy your products, but the retailers who sell it, how to communicate your value well beyond the four corners of your package.

You can access my free course on the website, on this podcast page, or at turnkeysalesstorystrategies.com/growsales. Remember, this podcast is about you and it's for you. If you like the podcast, I'd really appreciate you leaving a review on iTunes. Share it with all your friends and subscribe. Thank you again for listening. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode.

This episode's FREE downloadable guide

This short guide levels the playing field between small brands and their more sophisticated competitors. It highlights the advanced strategies the big brands use called Category Management - what retailers want.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE STRATEGIC GUIDE: Strategic Solutions To Grow Your Brand

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.

Sign up today on my website so you don’t miss out on actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

I appreciate all the positive feedback. Keep your suggestions coming.

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

Listen where you get your podcast

Like what you’ve heard? Please leave a review on iTunes

FREE Trade Promotion ROI Calculator:

Click Here To Maximize Sales And Profits

The Essential New Item Checklist – The Recipe For Success

New product innovation is the lifeblood of every brand. New products fuel sustainable growth, attracts new shoppers and increases brand awareness. Know the critical steps to get your product on more retailer’s shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Empowering Brands | Raising The Bar

Ever wish you just had a roadmap?  Well now you do!

Don’t miss out on all of these FREE RESOURCES (strategic downloadable guides, podcast episodes, list of questions you need to be asking and know the answers to, weekly newsletter, articles and tips of the week.  You will also receive access to quick and easy online courses that teach you how to get your brand on the shelf, expand distribution, understand what retailers REALLY want and address your most pressing challenges and questions.

All tools that you can use, AT NO CHARGE TO YOU, to save you valuable time and money and grow your sales today!

Image is the property of CMS4CPG LLC, distribution or reproduction is expressively prohibited.