The top podcast for food and beverage professionals, BevNET’s Taste Radio features interviews with the leaders and rising stars of our fast-evolving industry. The shows also include discussion on emerging trends, innovation and news of the week from our regular cadre of hosts from the BevNET and NOSH teams.
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The Retailer That Every Brand Wants To Be In... Is a Convenience Store
It’s a fair guess that few can recall the last time -- if ever -- that they were excited about visiting a convenience store. That may soon change as Foxtrot Market, a fast-growing chain of hybrid upscale corner stores and cafés -- and one of the most hyped retailers in recent memory -- prepares to open dozens of new locations across the U.S.
Founded in 2013, Foxtrot’s mission is “redefining convenience for the modern consumer” by aligning the retailer’s brick-and-mortar locations with a mobile app that makes its entire inventory available for delivery in less than 60 minutes. The company currently operates nine locations in Chicago along with two each in Dallas and Washington D.C, and boasts a loyal following drawn to its curated product selection -- 40% of which is sourced from small and local businesses -- along with the stores’ neighborhood-centric design and aesthetic.
In February, Foxtrot announced a $42 Million Series B investment round led by Almanac Insights and Monogram Capital Partners, and included food and hospitality luminaries Momofuku founder David Chang, Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet and Whole Foods co-founder Walter Robb. The funding will fuel the launch of 50 new stores, in cities including New York, Austin, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston.
On the heels of the announcement, Foxtrot co-founder and CEO Mike LaVitola joined us for an expansive interview featured in this episode that delved into the origins of the company, how it cultivates an intimate understanding of its consumers and why he believes Foxtrot’s online and retail customers are the same people. He also discussed what Foxtrot looks for when adding new brands to its shelves, the evolution of its private label business and why the company is simultaneously going head-to-head with the likes of Starbucks, 7-Eleven and DoorDash.
0:42: Interview: Mike LaVitola, Co-Founder & CEO, Foxtrot Market -- LaVitola spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about lessons learned from a forerunner to Foxtrot, communicating the company’s business model to consumers and industry professionals and the retailer’s target consumer. He also explained how analytical and anecdotal data factor into the Foxtrot’s product selection and merchandising strategy, managing logistical challenges as it relates to sourcing and inventory and why not everything the company carries is trendy or “better for you.” Later, he discussed why Foxtrot is adding more private label items while staying focused on telling brand stories, the importance of a physical store presence, assessing long-term value when determining the locations of new stores and what he views as the company’s biggest threats.
Brands in this episode: Dunkaroos, Oreo, Coca-Cola, Olipop, Van Leeuwen, High Road Ice Cream, Haagen-Dazs, Halo Top, Banza
Embrace Being Uncomfortable. Hyper Growth May Follow.
What’s on the other side of hyper growth? It’s a question that makes Joshua Ellis, the founder of WithCo Cocktails, uncomfortable. But, as he explained in this episode, that’s a good thing.
A former real estate investor, Ellis saw an opportunity for a brand of high-quality, small-batch mixers and in 2016 launched WithCo, which stands for With Company, as a side project. Made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives, WithCo products are packaged in 16 oz. bottles wrapped in sleek, minimalist labels and come in eight varieties, including old fashioned, honey sour, agave margarita and a ginger mule.
After his aggressive 2020 retail plan was upended by the pandemic, Ellis instead weaved together a DIY and paid social marketing strategy that fueled a surge in direct-to-consumer sales. Last year’s growth has given way to revenue expectations of $6 million for 2021 and a staff of 25 employees that continues to expand.
In an interview featured in this episode, Ellis explained how, despite being the company’s sole employee in early 2020, he planned and executed upon a hastily revised business strategy, why he expects that a pandemic-driven shift in at-home drinking occasions will continue, how he’s thoughtfully expanding the brand’s retail footprint and what he means when he says that he’s “building to sell.”
0:48: Barry, Beer and Bites -- The episode’s hosts chatted about John Craven’s visit to San Diego, which included a stop at Athletic Brewing Co.’s rapidly expanding facility, a plethora of upcoming Speed Dating events, why entrepreneurs should get their tickets to BevNET Live and NOSH Live ASAP and a variety of new food and beverage products introduced over the past month, including pizza’nadas and an drink intended to arouse.
20:07: Interview: Joshua Ellis, Founder & CEO, WithCo Cocktails -- Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Ellis about a recent sales milestone for WithCo, why he believes that going from “zero to 100” is a flawed notion and why he designed the packaging to evoke a multi-sensory experience. He also explained how he effectively utilized Instagram hashtags and direct messages to build awareness for and a conversation around WithCo and why he advocates for founders to step out of their comfort zone to better understand various elements of their businesses. Later he discussed how the company works with both independent and chain retail stores and why the “four P’s” are guiding how he continues to develop WithCo and prepare it for a potential acquisition.
Brands in this episode: WithCo Cocktails, Athletic Brewing, Babe Kombucha, Afia Foods, Brazi Bites, Amy’s Kitchen, Free Rain, Spindrift, Corsa, Post Meridiem, Ranch2O, Sideyard Cocktails, Rebru Vodka, Thorn Brewing
How To Become The ‘Envy’ Of Your Competition, One Dream Retailer At A Time
This episode features an interview with Wes Henderson, the co-founder and chief innovation officer of Angel's Envy, who chronicled the history and development of the revered whiskey brand and how the company rapidly scaled while staying true to its values. This podcast also includes a conversation with the founders of two innovative brands that focuses on how each landed placement in their dream retailers. Teresa Tsou, the co-founder of better-for-you snack brand Pipsnacks, and Andrew Suzuka, the founder of organic, vegetable-infused tomato sauce brand Otamot, discussed the key steps along their respective paths into Whole Foods and Sprouts.
1:05: Wes Henderson, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Angel's Envy -- In an interview with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif, Henderson opened up about the inspiration behind Angel’s Envy, which he co-founded with his father and master distiller Lincoln Henderson, and how he successfully intertwined family and business. He also discussed the behind the brand’s iconic bottle, how the brand grew while maintaining its identity and positioning, the emotional aspect of selling the business to spirits giant Bacardi in 2015, how he’s involved in the next stage of development for Angel’s Envy and how his passion for civic service and flying helped him become a better leader.
38:12: Interview: Teresa Tsou, Co-Founder, Pipsnacks & Andrew Suzuka, Founder/CEO, Otamot -- The episode continues with Tsou and Suzuka, who joined us for a discussion about how they got their brands into their dream retail chains. Initially featured on social media platform Clubhouse and recorded for this episode, Tsou and Suzuka spoke about the vision for and launch of their respective brands, how they initially secured meetings with retail buyers from their favorite chains, the keys to curating their pitches and how they're supporting the brands in-store.
Brands in this episode: Angel’s Envy, Pipsnacks, Otamot
The New Rules For Success In Food And Beverage
This is a special edition of the podcast which highlights interviews with six founders, creators and innovators who joined us on the show during the first half of 2021, including Denise Woodard, the founder and CEO of Partake Foods; Mike Fata, the founder of Manitoba Harvest; Lezlie Karls Saltarelli, Nick Saltarelli and Jake Karls, the co-founders of Mid-Day Squares; Bill Moses, the founder and CEO of Flying Embers; Ayeshah Abuelhiga, the founder and CEO of Mason Dixie Foods; and Seth Goldman, the co-founder of Honest Tea and Eat The Change and chair of the board for Beyond Meat.
0:45: Empanadas Win The Day. Your Cocktail Brand Could Win $10,000 On The Next One. -- The hosts chatted about the recently held NOSH Pitch Slam 10 competition and its winner, Cocina 54, a brand that aims to create a “new generation” of better-for-you Latin American foods and currently markets a line of frozen empanadas. They also discussed BevNET’s inaugural Cocktail Showdown, an early-stage brand pitch competition designed to showcase innovative, spirit-based ready-to-drink and ready-to-pour cocktails and riffed on several new products to cross their desks over the past week.
15:04: Interview: Denise Woodard, Founder/CEO, Partake Foods -- We kicked things off with Denise Woodard, the founder & CEO of Partake Foods, a brand of cookies and baking mixes that are free from eight major allergens, and are sold at Target, Whole Foods and Sprouts stores nationwide. In this clip, pulled from our episode featured on January 29, Woodard spoke about staying focused after initially being rejected by potential investors, the impact of sales data in the company’s Series A round, why entrepreneurs should ask for specific versus general advice and why she views her employees as her “boss.”
24:20: Interview: Mike Fata, Founder, Manitoba Harvest -- Our next clip is pulled from an episode featured on March 16 with Mike Fata, the founder of global hemp foods producer Manitoba Harvest. Fata spoke about why he describes himself as “a born entrepreneur but a made CEO,” why he urges listeners to “dream bigger,” how he advises entrepreneurs when it comes to navigating a competitive market for natural foods and how he utilized confidence and fear to become a better leader.
32:41: Interview: Lezlie Karls Saltarelli, Nick Saltarelli and Jake Karls, Co-Founders, Mid-Day Squares -- We continue with a clip from our episode published on June 1, which featured the co-founders of Mid-Day Squares, a surging brand of refrigerated chocolate and protein snack bars. They discussed the keys to their compelling social and content strategy and how they measure ROI for their efforts, how they define and value “tribalism” and why a commitment to clean ingredients and consistent communication with the brand’s consumers gave the brand a solid foundation on which to build.
44:06: Interview: Bill Moses, Founder/CEO, Flying Embers -- Next we featured a clip from an episode published on May 25, which featured an interview with Bill Moses, the founder of better-for-you alcohol beverage platform Flying Embers. Moses, who is also the co-founder of probiotic drink and kombucha brand KeVita, discussed his perspective on innovation in the context of online retail, why making the right hires is critical to maintaining the company’s growth pace and the importance of finding balance amid an intense drive to win.
50:20: Interview: Ayeshah Abuelhiga, Founder/CEO, Mason Dixie Foods -- The episode continues with Ayeshah Abuelhiga, who is the founder of Mason Dixie Foods, the fastest growing frozen baked goods company in America. In this clip, pulled from an episode aired on March 30, Abuelhiga spoke about how bias and inequality in corporate life prompted her foray into entrepreneurship, how Mason Dixie gained a foothold in a legacy food category and how she
Why Staying ‘Fiercely Independent’ Helped Amy’s Kitchen Become A $600M Brand
How did Amy’s Kitchen, which has remained independently owned since its inception over 30 years ago, become a globally recognized and trusted brand that generates over $600 million in annual revenue? In a word, commitment.
Founded in 1987, Amy’s Kitchen launched with a single product and has since evolved into an organic-centric platform brand that markets over 250 food items, including its popular soups, frozen burritos and pasta bowls. Family owned and self-described as “fiercely independent,” the Sonoma County-based company prides itself on making accessible and affordable food, the majority of which is produced at four facilities located across the U.S. Amy’s co-founders Andy and Rachel Berliner characterize these facilities as “large kitchens,” a depiction in line with their dedication to create homestyle and authentic meals.
As might be expected, industry conglomerates have made dozens of offers to acquire Amy’s over the years, but the Berliners have remained steadfast in their commitment to independence and operating the company on their own terms.
As part of an interview featured in this episode, the Berliners spoke about how they’ve maintained their vision and focus for Amy’s, why a retirement-aged accountant was the company’s most significant hire and responsible for Amy’s emphasis on financial stability and why they are extremely patient when it comes to new product development. They also discussed how they managed the company during the pandemic, how they envision the next stage of development for Amy’s and why their happiness has never been tied to financial gain.
0:38: Interview: Andy and Rachel Berliner, Co-Founders, Amy's Kitchen -- The Berliners sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif and kicked things off with a chat about Amy’s Kitchen’s better-for-you candy bars and Andy’s family roots in the chocolate business along with Amy’s history in the business of organic food retail and agriculture. They also discussed why trends had little to do with the launch of Amy’s, the brand’s first major inflection point and three key values that their CFO had instilled in the company. Later, they explained why they “don’t come out with something until it’s right,” how they manage a broad product portfolio and the differences between their manufacturing facilities and that of other major packaged food companies. They also spoke about moving quickly to protect their employees prior to the initial Covid-19 outbreak, what the term “family business” means to them, how their daughter is and will continue to be involved in the company and why daily meditation is at the center of their life philosophy.
Brands in this episode: Amy’s Kitchen
From ‘Z’ To A -- How This Fast-Growing Brand Flipped The Script To Win On Shelf
This week, we’re joined by Alexander Harik, founder and CEO of Zesty Z, a brand of condiments, popcorn and seasonings inspired by the Mediterranean diet. Born in Brooklyn, Zesty Z debuted in 2017 and has attempted to introduce Middle Eastern flavors to American households via easily understood and accessible products, beginning with its flagship zaatar and olive oil blend, which gained national distribution at Whole Foods within a year of its launch. The company has since extended the brand via a three-SKU line of popcorn infused with Mediterranean flavors, such as thyme and feta, and a line of table seasonings, which includes everything bagel and zaatar varieties.
In an interview featured in this episode, Harik discussed the duality of Zesty Z as an authentic Mediterranean food brand whose products are designed to reach a broad set of consumers, how he initially won over independent retailers on his way to coast-to-coast distribution, the process of scaling from a single product to a platform brand and how he’s navigated challenges and surprising roadblocks as an Arab-American food entrepreneur.
0:48: Sipping Aguas Frescas Out Of A Trophy… It’s A Thing. Also, You’ll Want Your Microwave For This. -- NOSH reporter Erin Cabrey helped kick off this episode, which arrived just ahead of BevNET and NOSH’s Virtually Live Summer 2021. The hosts discussed the agenda for the event, which is loaded with informative panels, interactive discussions and much more, along with the recently held New Beverage Showdown 21 competition, which was won by aguas frescas brand Agua Bonita. Later, they spoke about an innovative take on microwave popcorn, exquisite frozen desserts, better-for-you pantry staples and “electrifying” beverages.
18:51: Interview: Alexander Harik, Founder/CEO, Zesty Z -- Harik sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif and spoke about the origins of the company, how its whimsical name differentiates Zesty Z from legacy Mediterranean food brands and the key elements of a first market-viable product. He also explained his process for landing the brand’s first 25 retailers, how he built strong relationships with local and national Whole Foods buyers and how he chose popcorn as the brand’s second and most scalable product line. Later, he discussed how the bigotry and racism he experienced in the wake of 9/11 impacted his journey as a food entrepreneur and why he’s concerned that Arab-Americans are not classified as a minority group by some industry organizations.
Brands in this episode: Zesty Z, La Colombe, A Dozen Cousins, Agua Bonita, Olipop, Opopop, Dolcezza Gelato, Vybes, Electra, Unlit, High Road Craft Ice Cream, Incredo Spreads, Not Just Co., Nutella, Siete, Dang Foods
A MUST LISTEN FOR ALL CPG FOUNDERS
As my husband and I start our own CPG brand, Taste Radio has been like a personal mentor for learning the ins and outs of the industry. An absolute must for anyone starting their own CPG brand!
Great industry info!
I’m a founder of a small snack brand - Sandbox Snack Co. - and Taste Radio has been an excellent source of info from idea through launch. It’s been great hearing stories from founders and other folks in the industry. A must-subscribe for founders!
I’m a founder of a new beverage brand that is about to launch. Listening to this podcast has given me so much knowledge, and preparation to have a successful brand. Love the podcast can’t wait to attend events and so much more.