FOOD INSTITUTE, October 28, 2022 | Honest Tea and the Challenge of Scaling New Brands at Public Companies

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola (KO) chose to shut down most of the Honest branded beverage business it had acquired from Seth Goldman years earlier.

Shutting down an acquisition is a rare decision in CPG firms. Often, leadership tends to harvest these businesses somehow. The surface-level explanation we received from the company had something to do with…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, September 12, 2022 | GUEST ARTICLE: Don’t believe your year-over-year comps

Early-stage food brands hold at least one thing in common with large, publicly held brands near them on the shelf. It’s not…


FOOD INSTITUTE, May 13, 2022 | To Inflate or Not to Inflate Your Pricing

The best time to measure the privilege of being an iconic brand is any period of rapidly spiking inflation. The Consumer Price Index has jumped 8.5% in the last year alone. And the country’s most iconic consumer brands have increased their pricing to at least match this inflationary rate. Most have increased pricing by…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, March 11, 2022 | GUEST ARTICLE: The terrifying truth: the addressable market at retail for plant-based meat offerings is not that big after all

Right now, plant-based meat has about a 1.5-2% dollar share of the US retail meat market, depending on how you calculate it. The unit share is far lower due to…


FOOD INSTITUTE, January 28, 2022 | Why Exponential Growth Works Better Than Blitzscaling For New Consumer Brands

The steady volume of Silicon Valley unicorns in the past 15 years has buried the fact that growth operates very differently in consumer startups, especially for the manufactured consumer package goods (CPG) that fill Target, Walmart, and your local supermarket. In the last seven years, over four billion dollars of venture capital have surged into early-stage consumer startups…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, September 30, 2021 | GUEST ARTICLE: What has the pandemic revealed about the future of premium food?

When I began studying organic food consumption in the early 2000s, I remember one of the first problems I encountered was a misperception among prominent public firm executives.


FOOD INSTITUTE, July 23, 2021 | Danone and Harmless Harvest – Reading Between the Lines

Danone’s recent majority stake in Harmless Harvest is a curious market event.  Not because they took a majority. Because coconut water is not growing anymore in the U.S. based on sources I’ve reviewed. The pandemic was a gut punch to any brand anchored to hydration/electrolytes, because it subtracted tons of outdoor beverage occasions during lockdowns. Coca-Cola then killed off Zico last year. This might excite the sales team at Harmless Harvest, but when BigCo kills a brand…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, June 3, 2021 | GUEST ARTICLE: What does defensible innovation look like in the food & beverage industry?

“There’s no such thing as defensible innovation in food,” a jaded marketer muttered near me at a very long, two-day innovation off-site years ago.

If you look at the average line extension from a public food or beverage company, this opinion…


FOOD INSTITUTE, May 21, 2021 | A Tale of Two Recent Acquisitions: Essentia vs. Lone River Beverage Co.

In the Fall and Winter of 2020, the market witnessed several high-profile CPG acquisitions by strategic multinational CPG players. I want to contrast two cases that live on extreme ends of the typical continuum of acquisition scale. Each raises essential questions about the pros/cons of acquiring CPG brands early versus…


FOOD INSTITUTE, Mar 15, 2021 | Why Essentia’s Growth and Exit is a Critical Model for Strategics and Smart Investors

Many investors are chasing the next RX Bar deal. They scan trade PR, follow Bevnet, and angle in aggressively on the latest fad-driven startups. When these folks approach founders, they like to pressure the founder to steer the business toward…


FOOD INSTITUTE, Feb 19, 2021 | The Ongoing Problem With Brand Accelerators In The U.S.

This article is the first in the FI Quarterly Series on Emerging Consumer Brands. 

The continuing problem with corporate and independent accelerators is two-fold: the screening process and the mentors available to each cohort. An additional problem is that the motivations for mentor and brand participation don’t appear correctly aligned.

Let me start with an anecdote…


FOOD INSTITUTE, November 19, 2020 | GUEST ARTICLE- Thoughts on Mars Acquisition of Kind bar

Mars’ acquisition of the KIND brand is more than the latest or the largest strategic acquisition by a large food company. In this acquisition, the real “news” is the lessons its 16-year development contains for today’s food entrepreneurs and for strategics who want the next $1 billion brand to join their portfolio.

Dan Lubetzky shepherded the business deftly to over $1 billion in sales, using best practices that helped him avoid a premature private equity take-over and a hasty exit to a strategic. This independence allowed the brand’s operating culture to do what it does exceptionally well without…


FOOD INSTITUTE, September 25, 2020 | Will Driftwell Scale Well?

PepsiCo. Inc.’s PR tease for the Driftwell sleep aid beverage represents the company’s latest new brand creation since Bubly. Launching new trademarks has a very checkered history at public firms. Most of these launches quietly disappear during the first year. Remember Flat Earth? BeaNatural? DanActive? Vault? I could go on and on. The list of new trademarks that public firms have scaled and sustained at nine-figures is…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, March 31, 2020 | Navigating the New Norm for CPG Brands

With consumers approaching every food shopping trip “like SEAL Team Six” (going in, extracting the target, and getting out) new brands and products “are sitting on shelves ignored” as shoppers grab trusted brands and make for the exit, behavior that could continue for some time, predicts…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, February 2020 | Thoughts from Ramping Your Brand at the Winter Fancy Food Show

There’s the audacity of hope, and then there’s the hard data proving that most new food and beverage brands are quickly consigned to the dustbin of history. But some do manage to ride that magical CPG skate curve. So what are they doing differently?


FOOD NAVIGATOR, the Future of Food Series, October 2019 | Forget the Unicorns, Focus on Exponential Growth

While cutting prices when demand is “skyrocketing” is somewhat unorthodox, Impossible Foods’ latest double-digit price cut to foodservice distributors reflects its growing economies of scale and mission to make plant-based meat…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, October 2019 | Maximizing Memorability is Key

Extensive distribution and strong memorability are two main drivers for CPG growth – unfortunately for most startups the first is often out of their financial reach, at least…


FOOD NAVIGATOR, January 2019 | Velocity, Not Doors

Entrepreneurs looking for relief from being pulled in multiple directions may be tempted to rely on their broker or distributor to craft a strategic growth plan for their business, but industry veteran and the founder of Premium Growth Solutions Dr. James Richardson says this is a bad idea…