The top podcasts 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 Skill That Helped This Pioneering Entrepreneur Build Plated Into A $300M Company… And Another In The Making
Laid back and longhaired, Nick Taranto is over a decade removed from his service as an officer in the Marine Corps, having enlisted after earning an MBA at Harvard Business School. In speaking with Taranto for an interview featured in this episode, it’s clear that, while he may not resemble the prototypical soldier or B-school grad, his experience at the two revered institutions have helped guide his career as an entrepreneur. Taranto communicates with purpose and has the air of a natural leader and creative thinker, someone who could excel on both the battlefield and the boardroom (although you get the sense that he might spell the latter b-o-r-e-d-r-o-o-m).
After leaving the Marines, Taranto co-founded pioneering meal kit company Plated in 2012 and sold to grocery chain Albertsons for $300 million just five years later. He explained that part of his success at Plated derived from his ability to connect and communicate with investors, retailers and consumers. It’s an important skill set, one that he carries into his latest venture, HOP WTR, a brand of non-alcoholic, hopped sparkling waters that are infused with adaptogens and nootropics. It’s a timely entry into the budding business of beer alternatives and one that, like many entrepreneurial companies, carries a personal meaning for Nick.
Within our conversation, we delved into Taranto’s life and career, including his reason for entering the military, how he managed Plated’s very complex business model, how to assess timing and opportunity and why storytelling is the key to any successful company.
0:45: Interview: Nick Taranto, Co-Founder, Plated & HOP WTR -- Taranto sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an expansive conversation that began with the entrepreneur’s thoughts on Bitcoin, the significant impact that 9/11 had on his life, comparing leadership skills he learned at Harvard Business School and in the Marines and why the latter discouraged “OFP.” He also explained how the 2008 recession affected the career paths for business school graduates, his unhappy stint at a high-profile investment bank, the origins of Plated and why he admits that turning a profit was not a priority for the company. Later he spoke about his decision to launch a beverage brand, the positioning of HOP WTR and why he’s bullish on sober-curious lifestyles.
Brands in this episode: HOP WTR, Plated
Insider Ep. 112: The ‘Bitchin’ Way To Build An Iconic Brand? Don’t Blend In.
When discussing the unconventionality of her brand’s name and label design, Starr Edwards, the co-founder and CEO of Bitchin’ Sauce, a maker of vegan, almond-based dips, described herself as “the Bob Ross of branding.” There were “a lot of happy accidents,” she noted.
Those playful mishaps provided the foundation for what is now one of the fastest-growing brands in its category. Launched in 2004, Bitchin’ Sauce emerged as a cult hit at farmers markets in Southern California as consumers embraced its unapologetically quirky labels and commitment to clean ingredient formulations. While the packaging and ingredients have essentially remained the same over the years, the brand’s retail footprint has grown dramatically: Bitchin’ Sauce is sold nationwide at over 6,800 retail stores, including those of Costco, Walmart, Target, Albertsons and 7-Eleven.
In an interview included in this episode, Edwards and her co-founder and husband L.A. discussed about how a passion for veganism and music provided a foundation for the brand’s origins, how they landed a deal with Costco early into the brand’s development and why they believe that owning a production facility has given them an advantage when working with retailers. They also spoke about how consumers perceive and respond to the brand’s name and why they’ll never change the primary elements of its packaging, as well as how they worked with 7-Eleven to develop an exclusive line of products for the retailer.
0:36: Nowhere Else Exists A Retailer Like This One… Yet -- The episode’s hosts chatted about their weekly Clubhouse meet-up, a New York Times profile on upscale grocery chain Erewhon, the news that Oatly might be valued at $2 billion or more and discussed new products to come across their desks in recent days, including plant-based milks, clean label energy drinks and non-alcoholic spirits.
22:01: Interview: Starr & L.A. Edwards, Co-Founders, Bitchin' Sauce -- The Edwards spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about raising four kids while building a small business, why Starr juggled multiple jobs as a teenager and how being the mechanic for L.A.’s band was helpful down the road. They also discussed how their relationship with Costco began and grew, how they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in building their production facility, getting up to speed on food safety and why an alternative name for the brand is never as popular as the original. Later, they explained why they’ve tried to stay under the radar when it comes to press, when to say “yes” to retailers and how the pandemic actually supported consumer trial of Bitchin’ Sauce.
Brands in this episode: Bitchin’ Sauce, Imperfect Foods, Ithaca Hummus, Oatly, MALK, Rise Brewing Co., Better Than Milk, Fat Snax, Naya Foods, Base Culture, Brew Dr. Kombucha, Highkey, Hydrant, Fluere, Tanqueray
Ep. 239: Uncovering A Billion-Dollar Opportunity ‘Hidden In Plain Sight’
The opportunity, as Bill Shufelt explained, was hidden in plain sight.
Shufelt, the co-founder and CEO of non-alcoholic beer maker Athletic Brewing Co., believed that despite decades of stigma and ridicule for sober suds, modern consumers were ready and waiting for a better tasting and premium option. Following months of category research and market analysis, he launched Athletic Brewing Co. in 2017, which has emerged as the leading brand in a rapidly expanding market for non-alcoholic beer. Athletic has dominated the craft side of the category and holds a 54 percent share of the segment, which, according to Bill, is the fastest growing within non-alcoholic beer and grew over 300 percent in 2020.
In an interview featured in this episode, Shufelt, speaking from the company’s San Diego production facility which opened last year following a $17.5 million capital raise, discussed how a high-pressure career in finance led him to non-alcoholic beer, how he dealt with consistent rejection from beer industry professionals and how he landed his first investors. He also spoke about the yin and yang of his relationship with Athletic’s co-founder, John Walker, why he believes that “drama is so unproductive,” how he planned for and is managing explosive growth and how he evaluates strategic partnerships.
0:42: Interview: Bill Shufelt, Co-Founder & CEO, Athletic Brewing Co. -- Shufelt spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an expansive interview that began with his initial assessment of the non-alcoholic beer category, how his fast-paced lifestyle as a hedge fund executive introduced him to the category and how his calm, composed demeanor is reflected in the culture of Athletic Brewing Co. He also discussed the impact of health and wellness trends on the non-alcoholic beverage market, his methodology in measuring the potential for non-alcoholic beer, how a chance meeting at a BevNET Live event led to one of his first investors and the key to landing his most valuable distribution and retail partnerships. Later, Shufelt spoke about outgrowing Athletic’s initial production facility, his advice for forecasting demand, including why brand owners should avoid debt, how the brand’s personality has evolved since its launch and how major beer conglomerates have supported the company.
Brands in this episode: Athletic Brewing Co., Stonyfield Farm, Honest Tea, Krave Jerky, Suja, Ballast Point
Insider Ep. 111: How This Brand Quietly Built A $100M DTC Powerhouse
In this episode, we profiled the remarkable rise of Organifi in an interview with CEO Mae Steigler. Launched in 2014, Organifi is best known for its flagship powdered green juice and has quietly emerged as one of the leading direct-to-consumer brands in the nutritional supplement space, generating over $100 million in sales since its debut. The company is now setting its sights on the grocery channel, part of a growth strategy led by Steigler, who has been with Organifi since its launch and was promoted to CEO in January.
As part of our conversation, Steigler spoke about the origins of Organifi, the company’s impressive direct sales business and how she and her team crafted an effective consumer acquisition and retention strategy. She also discussed how Organifi scaled while being bootstrapped and taking in no outside capital and how daily huddles and employee empowerment are key to the company culture.
0:42: Oatly’s ‘Super’ Gamble, Clubhouse Fatigue And Why We’re Talking About Leggs -- The hosts discussed Oatly’s admired/reviled Super Bowl ad, evaluated the usefulness of social media platform Clubhouse, encouraged entrepreneurs to join us for a “closeup” and riffed on a few new and notable products sent to the team over the past two weeks.
18:53: Interview: Mae Steigler, CEO, Organifi -- Taste Radio editor Ray Latif sat down with Steigler who spoke about how Organifi was born out of healthy lifestyle media platform Fitlife.tv, the reason that the company focused on powders and supplements and why direct-to-consumer (DTC) has been the brand’s primary sales channel. She also discussed the key components of an effective DTC strategy, why the company is now making retail sales a priority, the reasons that the company has avoided outside capital and how it has stayed under the radar within the food and beverage industry. Stiglier also spoke about her leadership style, how to cultivate efficient meetings and why the company takes a cautious approach to new hires.
Brands in this episode:
Organifi, Oatly, Harmless Harvest, Clearly Kombucha, Better Booch, Culture Pop, Flow Water, Kite, Skittles, Prevail Jerky, GT’s Living Foods, Big Easy Bucha, Magic Bullet, Suja, Blueprint Juice, Evolution Fresh
Ep. 238: How These 12 Words Make Fitness Icon Denise Austin ‘Ever Better’
Few faces in the fitness world are more familiar than that of Denise Austin. Known for her vibrant personality, motivational tone and sleek physique, Austin has sold over 24 million exercise videos and DVDs over the past four decades and hosted one of the longest running fitness-focused television shows. Today, she’s setting her sights on the food business with the launch of Ever Better snacks.
Launched in 2020 in partnership with brand management firm Healthy Lifestyle Brands, the line of protein- and probiotic-infused cookie bites are positioned as healthy, indulgent snacks for women. The products are the first part of Ever Better, a platform that will eventually encompass Austin’s website, magazine and workout videos.
As part of an interview featured in this episode, Austin spoke about her rise from college gymnast to one of the most recognized names in fitness and how she evaluates food and diet trends. She also discussed her role in the formulation and branding of Ever Better snacks, how she plans to be involved in the brand’s development and why integrity is the key factor in everything she does.
0:45: Interview: Denise Austin, Founder, Ever Better -- Austin sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an expansive conversation that began with a chat about Denise’s surprising love of beer, why her daily workouts are shorter than you might expect and what her father taught her about becoming a great salesperson. She also explained why she advocates for people to eat healthy food 80% of the time, indulgent foods for the other 20% and how Ever Better fits into both categories, why the brand focused on protein and probiotics as the key functional ingredients and the key elements of its packaging. Later, Austin spoke about why her personality is the same onscreen and offscreen, , how she plans to attract women of all age groups with Ever Better and how she’s leaning on her core audience as the foundation for the brand’s consumer base.
Brands in this episode: Ever Better Snacks
Insider Ep. 110: Why Asking For Specific Advice Helped This Brand Secure $7.5 Million In Funding
Denise Woodard, the founder and CEO of Partake Foods, is not shy about asking for advice. In an interview featured in this episode, she reflects on how guidance from other entrepreneurs has been a key part of her success in building a fast-growing packaged food brand. You might be surprised, however, that the counsel she most values comes from unsuccessful founders.
“I think oftentimes when you’re company’s on a rocketship to success, it’s hard to remember the stuff that went wrong,” Woodard said. “But when you’ve lost your last dollar and put all your blood, sweat and tears into a company that didn’t work for whatever reason, you have really good advice about what not to do and what you wished you would have done.”
A former executive with The Coca-Cola Co.’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit, Woodard founded Partake in 2016 after her infant daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies. Frustrated with the lack of allergen-friendly food brands, she launched Partake with a line of cookies that are free from the eight major allergens, followed by a move into baking mixes. The brand, which sells its cookies at Target, Whole Foods and Sprouts stores nationwide, made waves in June of 2020 when it announced a $1 million seed round that was partly funded by Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners. Seven months later, Partake closed on a $4.8 million Series A round that included industry luminary John Foraker and music icon Rihanna.
It took a lot of heavy lifting, sacrifice and hearing the word ‘no’ dozens of times to get Partake where it is today, and as part of our interview, Woodard spoke about how her experience working with entrepreneurs while at Coca-Cola impacted the planning for and development of Partake, as well as how a boom in allergen-friendly brands has affected the brand’s growth and why leaning into retailer programs that support Black and female-owned companies has been critical. She also discussed why Partake was self-funded at launch, how she went from raising $5,000-$10,000 at a time to multi-million dollar, celebrity-led funding rounds, how the tragedy and social unrest of 2020 impacted Partake and why she sings the praises of a leadership coach.
0:36: Celebrate Green Juice! But Did You Forget About Everything Bagel Ice Cream? Join The Club. -- The hosts chatted about waves of greens and green juice, a new ice cream product with a unique flavor and what they are learning about social media app Clubhouse. They also discussed new packaged food and beverages to hit the office, including better-for-you noodles, a “big” candy bar brand and non-alcoholic craft beer.
23:22: Interview: Denise Woodard, Founder/CEO, Partake Foods -- Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Woodard about her prompt email replies, her background as an entrepreneur, her transition from a beverage executive to a founder of a food brand and how she’s saved at least $250,000 in retailer fees. She also discussed how she was able to differentiate Partake from a growing set of competitors in the allergen-free space, how she determined her capital needs for launching the brand, staying focused after hearing rejection from investors, why data was a key asset in the company’s Series A round and why she doesn’t separate personal and professional responses to issues of racism and inequality. Later she explained why entrepreneurs should ask for specific versus general advice about building a business and why she views her employees as her “boss.”
Brands in this episode: Partake Foods, Suja, Evolution Fresh, Your Super, Organifi, Jeni’s, Coolhaus, Ben & Jerry’s, Foodstirs, Zesty Z, Ayoba Foods, Belgian Boys, Nona Lim, Om Som, Banza, Daytrip, BrewDog, Athletic Brewing Co., De La Calle, immi, Gigantic Bar, Ugly Drinks, Milky Way, Hershey’s, Honest Tea, Zico, Once Upon A Farm
Customer ReviewsSee All
Awesomely Balanced Podcast with Information & Fun Spirit
As a startup new to the food & beverage space, the Hummii team have become avid fans of BevNets news & content.
Always a refreshing weekly listen for perseverance, inspiration, and just general learning of some incr-edible entrepreneurs!
Great Podcast for the Food and Beverage Industry
Hi there, this is James Founder and CEO of Elixirshots.com we are a new up and coming wellness shot and looking forward to making a splash In the food and beverage industry. I have been tuning in to this podcast and absolutely love it! I learn something new on every show and appreciate the knowledge. If anyone is new to the food and beverage industry and looking to learn more on how to grow their business then Tasteradio is the place to start. Thank you Tasteradio, hopefully one day we’ll be on your show!
Top notch hosts and guests
The team at BevNET and NOSH are the best-connected, most knowledgeable people covering food and beverage, especially when it comes to emerging brands. Taste Radio and the Insider series gather great guests to discuss timely topics. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, investor, or just want to understand more about what you eat and drink, this is a great podcast. I’ve subscribed since the first episode and give it my highest recommendation.