Gooder Podcast with Darcey Howard
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Passion brand, founder brand, entrepreneurial brand, family brand. Yep – we love them. And we love working with and in them. And when comes a time for a brand to grow up to fulfill its mission – everyone wants to be part of it. But passion brands aren’t for everyone. While the brand owners have a strong vision of the future, sometimes the path isn’t clear, and their super-mission-driven-power gets in the way. It takes compassion, direction and a bit of pragmatism to guide this brand on it’s true journey
Darcey Howard, Director of Marketing for Coconut Bliss shares the journey of identifying the right brand for her expertise, the journey of coaching a “Humble Hippy” brand team to that new future and transitioning that team into the HumanCo family – all while maintaining her New York sense of style.
In this episode, we learn:
- How to coach passion brand owners through brand and operational changes
- How to leverage the humble beginnings of a brand and develop a national brand voice
- How defining your brands ethos creates the foundation for a brand
- The difference between a disruptor and a change agent
- To revisit audience definitions and trends to truly leverage a passion brand opportunity
About Darcey Howard:
Darcey Howard is the Global Director of Marketing for Coconut Bliss; a brand leader in divinely creamy plant-based creations. She has a 20+ year success record in growing global brands such as Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Kerry Foods/Da Vinci Gourmet and Starbucks. Darcey is an energetic leader that engages teams to create elegant solutions through strategic process development.
She joined Coconut Bliss in 2017 to lead a complete rebrand while also spearheading the launch of 2 new product lines, a new business sector and e-commerce. When she’s not eating ice cream for a living she’s exploring the world through food.
Coconut Bliss – At Coconut Bliss, all of our products contain organic ingredients that are minimally processed, ethically-sourced and divinely delicious. Every dairy-free, plant-based pint, ice cream bar, and cookie sandwich is crafted with our signature care and commitment. Even our packaging is plant-based and sustainable! With a belief in quality over quantity, community, organic ingredients, and doing good for the world we try to make everything we do blissful.
Diana Fryc: Welcome to the Gooder Podcast. I’m your host Diane Fryc. As partner and CMO of retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the naturals industry, food, beverage, wellness even fitness. As such I decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights, expertise and to help businesses all around the world become gooder. I’m very excited today to introduce Miss Darcey Howard. Darcey is the global director of marketing for Coconut Bliss, a brand leader in Divinely Creamy Plant Based Creations. She has 20 plus years success record in growing global brands such as Nordstrom Eddie Bauer, Carrie foods, DaVinci Gourmet and Starbucks. Darcey is an energetic leader that engages teams to create elegant solutions through strategic process development. She joined Coconut Bliss in 2017 to lead a complete rebrand while also spearheading the launch of two new product lines, new business sector and e commerce and when she’s not eating ice cream for a living, she’s exploring the world through food. Hi, Darcey. Thanks so much for joining tonight and joining me today. How’s Oregon?
Darcey Howard: Oregon is good. Oregon’s been hot. Eugene is this funny little bubble both culturally and climates. It tends to get a little bit warmer and less rainy. Don’t tell anybody. It’s a real gem.
Diana Fryc: I say that about Seattle too. It’s always raining here. We never have good weather; so don’t come. So you and I met a few years ago when you first joined Coconut Bliss team. I think they were still called Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss right?
Darcey Howard: Correct, they were.
Diana Fryc: We’ve had some great conversations since then. But recently, and on the heels of a significant rebrand something huge has happened with this HumanCo; they’re a mission driven holding company that kind of acquires better for you brands in the food and beverage space. They’ve acquired a majority interest in Coconut Bliss. That’s huge news. Congratulations.
Darcey Howard: Thank you. It’s been a long journey of really exploring what are the options on how to get there and was it the right decision for a family owned company?
Diana Fryc: Yeah. Well, I can’t wait to talk about that a little bit more. But what I like to do in the beginning before we get into the nit of the topic. I like to start with who you are. So tell us a little bit about your journey. You have a little bit different story than most people coming into the role at Coconut Bliss. You don’t have that big CPG experience per se. Talk a little bit about how you got here and why did you end up at Coconut Bliss? What was it?
Darcey Howard: Well, you’re right. I don’t have that huge CPG experience except for during an acquisition where I was with the DaVinci Gourmet in Seattle and they got acquired by Kerry Foods, and then sales best coffee, which got acquired by Starbucks. But I have this diverse background around sustainability apparel. I lived in New York for 10 years I worked in the fashion industry, I also worked for an advertising trade association doing marketing training programs for Fortune 500 companies. I got kind of this unusual combination of things, which I actually think is sort of the perfect storm that really appealed to Coconut Bliss and it’s definitely kind of well rounded. My approach to brand strategy was just always been at the core of what I do for Coconut Bliss in particular, which is a fun story that we talked about. I knew that my husband and I were going to be leaving New York and moving back to the west coast where our family is and we really started looking at where we want it to be. I’ve been in Seattle for 20 years prior to that. I’ve lived in Portland before and I looked at Eugene, Oregon, and there are so many interesting CPG brands here doing some really great jobs. It’s kind of a strange place; do you know that there are no less than four ice cream brands based in Eugene? Well, they’re based on Eugene.
Diana Fryc: Yeah.
Darcey Howard: Isn’t that crazy? So as I looked at what was going on in Eugene and thinking about, when you leave New York, you don’t want to go somewhere and try and recreate New York. You take what you’ve experienced and what you know, a lot of that energy and passion that you have, and you bring it to something new that you know that you can help and really contribute.
I was really looking for that and I identified Coconut Bliss. They were making some big news in some of their growth. I had seen them on shelf before digging a little bit deeper, I found that they were really a mission driven company and they were based in Eugene, Oregon. So I reached out to them, and then continued to reach out to them and say they reached out to me and we actually talked. It wasn’t just a one sided conversation. We actually talked over the course of nine months while I was still in New York and by the time I got here, we really kind of solidified the deal. They could obviously tell that I was committed to what I wanted to contribute to their brand and it’s been a great experience for both of us.
Diana Fryc: Well, now I know you and this is just from our conversations I know you used to be sort of this change maker you like to be a catalyst within organizations particularly like Coconut Blisses of the world. Had you identified something kind of in your brain a little bit like, “Oh, I think there might be something there that I could kind of help move.” Was that part of the decision making criteria?
Darcey Howard: Always the keen and perceptive one you are Diana! Yes, as a matter of fact, I was. I looked at where they were in their brands lifecycle, and in their just general size. They were at that really pivotal point where they hadn’t had a rebrand in many years, they’ve been kind of operating as a smaller regional company that was trying to go national and they were just primed for that next level of growth and that’s what I really love is strategic is one of my top five Clifton strengths. And so I love to take a ridiculous amount of unconnected information and bring it together, find the common thread and create a strategy. I saw they were with everything that they were doing and it was a little bit all over. I could see at the core who they were and what the potential was and that is really what excited me about that brand. So what hence the reason I continued to tap on their door about every two weeks, I’d be like, “Hey, what’s going on? Hey, congratulations on that award. Hey, did you see this article? I thought you might like it.” It just went on and on and I finally did say to them, “Hey, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not going to go away until you tie me through.” And they said, “No, no, we love hearing from you and we definitely acknowledge that. We really need a director of marketing and we’d love to keep talking to you.” So it was not in vain.
Diana Fryc: You got little sales in you there, my friend.
Darcey Howard: That’s the first time I’ve heard that although sales is definitely not my bailiwick.
Diana Fryc: Well, for the context of this conversation, we’re talking a little bit about taking a passion brand and driving it to high performance and it kind of set us up a little bit about what coconut was had going for it. Maybe part of the history and that context so that people can kind of go okay. What were you working with as you came into the company?
Darcey Howard: I love the story. I’m so glad I get to tell it. So, for those of you that are not familiar with Coconut Bliss, they started in about 2005. As you mentioned, Luna and Larry, they were two people that honestly they were looking to create a vegan ice cream that was not made with soy, and they were just really passionate about this project. They got a used ice cream maker from goodwill, like all great necessity entrepreneurs are and they started playing around with coconut milk and a GAVI which really worked well with the fats in coconut milk. And they started creating these wonderful flavors and all these different little inclusions and they lived in what’s called an intentional community which to maybe those of us from way back but basically call them and they would have these tasting parties and they would invite friends and neighbors over and it got so popular that they started selling it hand packing it and selling it to the local natural grocery stores and coops and from there again continue to grow in popularity. They started distributing it up and down the West Coast, bought a freezer truck and they’re still hand packing. And they continue to grow that until they got picked up for distributions.
Which are definitely more focused on natural foods distribution; then it got so big that they kind of looked at each other went okay well this started out as a fun passion project. Now it’s getting a little bit bigger than we can handle. We need to look for a co-packer and that’s when they reached out to the Gibson family that owns Lochmead dairy here in Eugene actually their production facilities in Junction City and they reached out to them and interestingly enough Lochmead had been producing and co-packing for So Delicious. They’ve been doing their own ice cream their dairy ice cream but they also had non-dairy experience and knew how to dedicate a line to be certified for vegan and non-dairy so they started co-packing. They created a relationship, started co packing and then finally, Luna and Larry said, “You know what? We’d like to sell; we’d like to sell this move on to some other projects.”
And they approached the Gibson family, Gibson family said, “Yes, we’d love to buy it.” And so it’s been owned by the Gibson family since 2010 and then, again, continue to be just a really passionate team of individuals that were very committed to people first, to all organic ingredients, to a lot of things that other larger companies would look at and say, “Wow, that’s really expensive. Maybe we cut out some of this or not, everything’s organic, it would be cheaper, but there’s absolutely no compromise in the product.” And it really grew to a place that to get to that next level; and again, that’s where I got really excited and looked at them and said, “Oh, you are so on that precipice and I want to be part of the taking this brand there.” And so over the course of the last three years, we’ve really gone around about how to approach this and very thoughtfully approached in who they decided to partner with on this equity stick.
Diana Fryc: I think that’s really powerful for especially the Gibson family dairy farmers to be able to understand how important this product was for people who could not. Most of the people who are vegan well some people who are vegan are vegan because they have to for dietary reasons others I call it for religious reasons like it is definitely a lifestyle and for them to be to be able to honor the original Luna and Larry, the vision and keep tried and true to it. I think it’s a really fun story and pretty powerful too.
Darcey Howard: I would say that Kim Gibson is really a key part of that. She holds that same kind of value, and has been very true to the original founder’s wishes and their commitments.
Diana Fryc: Well so let’s now let’s move on here. So you are now in this role at Coconut Bliss and you as a change agent, and as you know change agents role is to change things and sometimes that can be tricky because you’re going to have to sometimes help people see some of the things that they didn’t think need to change need to change. Here you are technically an outsider working with fortune 100 brands you brought into charter this new course. Tell us a little bit about some of the learnings that maybe you went through and they went through in order for you guys to be able to move forward and some of this might have been through the brand rebrand process. I think we talked a little bit earlier like there was kind of some self-awareness that they already had coming into this change but let’s talk a little bit about the learnings that maybe you guys as a team had together?
Darcy Howard: Yeah, that’s a really great question. Again very perceptive because this is a very special brand with people that are so dedicated. I was coming in here, I am coming in from New York, also love the energy or maybe even piss and vinegar. I’m like, oh, yeah we’re going to shake things up. But honestly, that wasn’t my goal initially, was to shake things up. I knew that this team and this brand would not tolerate that. They were very, very self-aware and coming in. It was clear to me even as we continue to have conversations prior to me going on board.
That traditional CPG background that big CPG background from someplace that’s much larger holding company. That wasn’t going to be their ilk. They weren’t looking for that, they were looking for somebody that understood the sustainability and the people first and the commitment organic, but was also just at the core. One of that a passionate individual that has a tolerance for doing things maybe a little slower and focusing on doing it the right way and that’s definitely my approach to brand strategy is we can go fast, or we can go sustainably do it right.
I would rather see something that’s going to have stickiness and stick around for a while, than to just push something really hard through a square peg through a round hole. So that compassion was something that we both shared and a delicate approach. There are also people that work there that had been there for 11 years or eight years. There are people that have been there for a long time, so coming in and making sure that I’m appealing to what’s important to them first, before sort of dictating what’s important to me or what I see is the possibility was really important and it had a good impact overall, it’s just a good way to create a strong team that sticks together.
Diana Fryc: You know what you’re saying here is reminding me, I interviewed Jane Miller, she CEO of Lily’s Sweets, and we talked about how to transition this two different basically cultures together, and you’re doing exactly what she recommended it, and even so much as creating a courting process, which is somewhat what Jane did, she says, you should probably have lots of conversations with these brand owners before you join so that you already have a sense for what this team is ready for. And so you’re kind of describing that already. It’s kind of exciting to see that it works. Yes, of course it works. But it’s kind of great to see that experience.
Darcey Howard: Jane is so right about that, getting a sense of what their tolerance level was going to be and then mapping of course, of how we are going to get there is just spot on with that and like I said, it makes it more sustainable transition for change.
Diana Fryc: So moving on now, you guys are working together and was there anything interesting? Or were there any learning uncovered for you? Or the teams as you were going through the brand process because now we’re unpacking the baby and now we’re pulling things apart. Talk a little bit about that and were there any hurdles in the way that you needed to kind of learn to get around or that they needed to learn to get around?
Darcey Howard: I think that the sort of national voice that the acumen and the voice they had us being started out in a commune by people that were really looking to create an organic vegan ice cream. They’ve been using a voice for 10 years that was, I would describe it as humble hippie and as you’re getting into Kroger and even Whole Foods globally and expanding to Canada and Australia that humble hippie approach didn’t really translate on a national level and as a global brand but yet the core of the team was still a group of humble hippies. I mean, like we were slowly kind of moving into this bigger space, and being able to convince them in again, a very compassionate way. Being able to convince them that humble hippie doesn’t really speak to that larger, more aggressively seeking audience that’s looking for this brand. It keeps you in the background, but the fact that they had so many years of experience in creating organic, sustainable sourcing and a plant based item not to mention also certified vegan.
If we could switch that tone to be more authoritative plant based experts and bringing the team along with it to say, this speaks to this larger audience that we know is there out there and they’re looking for us. Where are they? Where are they? Where’s the organic, dairy free ice cream? Where’s the organic plant based ice cream? And so they were looking for us, but we were not we’re speaking their language. We weren’t talking in their tone. So really making that transition around a more authoritative tone and switching from that vegan to plant based was a big step.
Diana Fryc: Well, I would say in that 10 year time, because between 2010 and now, the natural industry has shifted radically. We’ve gone from predominantly founder owners smaller brands, we didn’t have any multinationals. Now at this point it’s a macro trend. Plant based is part of so many people’s vocabulary and so was there a little bit of that learning too? No vegan is a small audience now and actually the acceptance of plant based or non-dairy is bigger even with people who aren’t organic. Was there some of that learning going on in there and kind of new audience definitions and what’s happening trend wise?
Darcey Howard: Yeah, there was a big part of this was we did the first consumer insights study that the brand had ever done and we also did a lot of AB testing to get an idea of, okay, just who is looking for us and it became very, very clear. Again, that we were sort of speaking to the wrong audience. But to your point about plant based, it’s interesting because it keeps getting sort of referred to as a trend and I feel like a trend, you define it more as a prevailing tendency or an inclination. And that feels a lot more like how we describe diets, like keto, or anybody remember Atkins, or even vegan, those are things that are that are definitely chosen some of them to your point more religious, philosophical, but I think that plant based is something that is so inclusive. Who doesn’t want more plants. How difficult is it to eat more plants? Not really. I don’t view plant based as much as a trend, has more just a broad and inclusive approach to eating and yes, you look at beyond meat or even impossible burger.
I mean, you look at there are companies that are definitely making a lot of money and gaining a lot of ground, but they’re also helping to move that conversation forward. So I would have to say that it doesn’t feel to me as much like a trend. And as we looked at it, that was one of the kind of aha moments that we had was, “Hey, wait a second. There’s this thing over here called plant based.” And it goes more also into that having that more global voice. We are incredible. We are ice cream for everybody. It’s delicious. It’s creamy. It’s very allergen friendly. It’s gluten free. It’s organic and so being more inclusive in our mindset versus the exclusivity, which is what vegan feels like. When I say veganism is vegan, they go, “Oh, that’s all about eating nothing like I can’t eat anything.” And you say plant based and they’re like, “Hey plants, I can eat that.”
Diana Fryc: So when you when you’re thinking about this transition coop that you were helping while you were coaching Coconut Bliss, is that’s kind of keep seeing that as your role is more of a coach and a guide through this process? And then some of the work looking back at some of the other brands that you’ve worked with, are you seeing any kind of learnings for these passion type brands that are like hey, here’s some things that you should be considering as you’re kind of going about your day to day, not like there isn’t tons of other things, but when you’re thinking about the business, in whole in we’re coming up that time of year.
Where people are starting to do their planning for next year; what are kind of some of those learnings that you can pull from this process that you went through with Coconut Bliss that you could say, “Yeah, these are some things that I always suggest brands are to keep their eyes on?”
Darcey Howard: I love that you asked that question because working with a passion brand isn’t for everybody. Like I said, you can’t just come in and be like, “You know, we’re going to shake things up.”Being a change, you can either choose to be a changing agent or a disrupter and I choose to be a change agent because I feel like change is hard for a lot of people and unless it’s something that you actually are comfortable with, and being an agent allows you to help shuttle or guide to your point through that process. Whereas a disrupter comes in, doesn’t really care, who gets disrupted, but just wants to make sure that things are getting upturn so that we can then create a new path.
So, to your point, for a passion brand, which I think is a lot of who you’re speaking to, what you’re really reaching out to, with your fabulous podcast. With a passion brand, having an understanding- and I know that this wasn’t something that they had, it’s what their brand ethos was. They knew what they were comfortable with; they knew what they would and would not do. But defining that ethos so that you can then build those hardware guardrails; and it makes it so much easier when you have that in place to be able to say yes, this is us or yes, we will do this. No, we won’t do that. And when you start to understand that piece of laying down your brand guardrails so that you understand exactly what road you’re on, where you’re playing, also makes it a lot easier to understand who’s looking for you. Like I said, it’s a really big aha moment for us, which was, wait, it’s not just vegan hippies that are looking for us. It the other thing that we were able to do by applying that passion but building those brand guardrails was to create our personas. Like Heather, she is the young woman who is single goes to yoga, buys an ice bowl and Instagram set with a selfie. We’ve also got our allergy free Ashley, she has kids, one or both of them are navigating allergen restrictions and she’s trying to test her family and willing to pay more to make sure that everybody gets what they need. So, we developed this persona, which was great, because then again, we knew who we were talking to, we had our own guard rails. We hadn’t diminished the passion that was still there and we were still able to speak to the vegan hippie, but everybody got to come along for the ride and it broadened our audience. It improved our sense of reach. It dictated a little bit more how we were going to approach the rebrand and it gave us a different viewpoint of our mission.
Diana Fryc: I love what you have to say because so much of course, I think the reason why you and I get along so well is so much of what you’re doing with your team is so much of what we do and it’s so wonderful to hear and another organization being able to go through that like understanding this concept of and I might say this a little bit differently. But maybe I don’t know if you’ll agree with me on this, but this concept of being afraid of losing who we’ve already marketed to because we don’t know who’s really looking for us, I think that is when you’re looking for who’s looking for us. It’s like, you can’t get your current audience to buy that much more product. The only way to grow is to find a new audience and if there aren’t any more people that look like your current audience, you need to redefine them. How do you redefine them? You look for them; you look for the people that are looking for you. Am I hearing that right? Is that sort of the thinking?
Darcey Howard: Yes 100%. I would agree that Retail Voodoo is a master at that and a master at guiding their brands at that so I yes, that’s exactly why you and I get along so well that in just general good taste.
Diana Fryc: And great glasses. We’ve gone through a reap; we’ve brought this new person on board.
We’ve gone through a rebrand and right on the heels of that I’m sure this HumanCo conversation started because these conversations don’t happen overnight. Talk a little bit about what some learning were there. Was there any other new aha or were there any other like, Oh, I hadn’t considered this in our growth trajectory, anything new?
Darcey Howard: Yeah, there are a lot of learnings along the way. Like I said, HumanCo has been in the works for over a year. But the decision to do this and how we were going to get there and the words are well over a year complete closer to two. We definitely talked to some people during the evaluation process looking at wow, our cost of goods are very high. How do we feel about that? How do we make ourselves look more profitable and more desirable in this process without giving up? What it is that is at our core. So there was a lot of conversation around that but I also feel that the rebrand and hiring a PR are first PR agency and growing our impressions and share voice by 442% in three years. It got a lot of attention of people like HumanCo that was looking to develop as a mission based holding company. And so we capture their attention through the rebrand but we also capture the attention of a lot of other investors but also just the media in general and then consumers. There’s one thing in doing our first rebrand in 10 years which I always like to say is branding, it’s like dog ears. It’s like 120. It’s a long time to go without doing a brand refresh.
And so it was enough to decide that it was time to do that, to do the due diligence around the consumer insights, study, the A B testing, to understand who we were speaking to, it’s enough to do that, but then it’s kind of like, when you show up at the party, then what? Here we are, then what? Then you have to follow it up with a lot of tactics and metrics to be able to sustain that and take your place on the shelf and grow your overall brand presence, but also household penetration. Again, ice cream, eat it once a day. I mean, there are some people that eat more than once a day, but we have one day part, or ice cream or dessert. I think that it opens what we’ve done, how we’ve changed, how we talk about ourselves, our voice, who we’re talking to, has opened us up to being able to work with human core to explore things like a new base or a new category, whether it be creamers or Almond, or anything else. It’s opened us up for that opportunity to grow our day part but also to just grow our audience.
Diana Fryc: That’s exciting.
Darcey Howard: Yeah. It’s exciting.
Diana Fryc: Well, so we’ve learned a lot. Thank you so much about talking about these things. I wanted to kind of turn the conversation away sort of from poker net list for a minute and kind of get your thoughts on what’s happening in general with naturals. And what are you excited about either in ingredients or frozen or desserts or something? It’s kind of big, open ended question.
Darcey Howard: Yeah, I got to say, there are a lot of things that are going to come out of this COVID-19 quarantine, like people doing things differently. I mean, just sort of guessing by the timeline that you started the Gooder Podcast through this because, how do I connect with these people when I can’t see them? How do I get this information out there about other brands? So I think that we’re seeing so much innovation, and it’s times like these where innovation happens, and our econ is up 35% because people are stuck at home and alcohol and ice cream are kind of where people are finding their comfort, which I’m glad we can be there for people as a comfort that they feel safe eating. But I’m also seeing other brands that I’m super excited about, like Hooray Foods, they’re making a vegan bacon that’s just amazing. I mean, really cutting edge stuff. Yes, there are some other vegan bacons out there but this one, it’s a game changer. I’m super excited about them.
I can’t deny that I crush hard on Oatly, there’s a couple of talks that I’ve seen like their creative director do that I definitely crush pretty hard on them because they came out of the gate with that tone in that voice. It’s hard to shift gears on your voice like you couldn’t have gone from humble hippie to as bold as they are. We couldn’t have gone quite that bold. But I love that they came out of the gate doing that. So in plant based, those are definitely two that I am really enjoying watching what they’re doing and how they’re growing. And then as now an Oregon Residents, I will say that Union Wine Company, I geek out on them a lot Underwood wine in a can. They were one of the first to really do that and the way that they’ve branded it, they’re clever and their experiential marketing that they do is pretty exciting. I would be curious as to what some of the brands are that Retail Voodoo is working with that. If you can share anything that’s exciting happening there in that space that I should be watching.
Diana Fryc: The biggest area that we’ve actually spent a lot of time in this last year has been in the supplement space. And it was very funny. We spent a good part of last year in supplement brands. And then COVID hit and all of a sudden, all of the learnings from what we were doing became even more relevant. So there’s been some learning there and then food tech is super tricky because food tech and naturals don’t naturally go hand in hand. And so we’re watching that, we’ve worked with a couple of brands where we’re taking one product and turning it into something else. Like how with plant based brands, where we’re now making bacon or we’re making burgers and so there’s some other food tech that’s happening and can’t without being able to tell too much of course, what I can say is that innovation continues to be pushed.
My personal mission outside of Retail Voodoo because we love this food tech is trying to figure out how to make all of these healthy foods attainable by people who don’t fit the current profile for our naturals industry, which is upper middle class, predominantly Caucasian females. And like how do we start taking all of this learning and experiences that we have and start creating products for people who are needing the products and being able to educate because we’re such good educators. We’re such good educators, and we’re so passionate about it. So that’s my personal and that’s who the Retail Voodoo team is hunting for are those people who are willing to go, “I don’t need to make 40% margin on a $7 unit product. I’m willing to develop some products for different consumer bases that are in their best interest and I’m willing to make 10% margin on something that sells at $4.” But those are the brands that we’re looking for. And there’s not many of them to be honest, so I might have to create something myself.
Darcey Howard: I’ve had that same thought, I’ve had that same thought. I love that. That is definitely a passion that we share. And I think a lot about with Coconut Bliss because it’s a dairy alternative. And in the Asian, Hispanic and black communities there is a lot of dairy intolerance. And those are also some of those not typical natural consumers that I would love to be able to provide them the solution so that they can enjoy their life and understand what it means to have something that doesn’t make you feel sick.
Diana Fryc: Well, and some of these communities are people who don’t get nutrition education to begin with. So they don’t know that they feel crappy because of the food they’re eating.
They don’t have that education to even know. They just go, “Oh, I feel crappy.” And that’s the end of conversation. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. Interesting fact, I don’t know if I shared this with you before, that I’ve learned from now I can’t remember the name of the organization, but that people of color have a higher incidence of food allergies and food intolerances by a wider margin than Caucasians do. So when you think about our industry, and you have that information, and all we’re doing is targeting over here, we need to like, “That’s okay, let’s learn this and then let’s grow, let’s take our passion for food. Let’s take our passion for innovation and now, explore it out to other groups.”And it’s going to require a different kind of education and a different kind of listening to that for that consumer because their needs and their definitions of healthy lifestyle are different.
And I think once we can kind of key into that and go, “Okay, not everybody thinks this way.” We can start looking this way, then we can start making some really big strides towards those groups of people that need the help more than we do, quite frankly.
Darcey Howard: I agree. That’s one of the personas that we’ve been looking at that developing as a millennial Mateo. I mean, he’s mixed race, he’s lactose intolerant, he’s urban, he’s living an alternative lifestyle in some way that is really, food is important to him, but he’s seeking those solutions, and incorporating them into his decisions, but he’s young and he’s not necessarily making that ton of money. So he has to choose very wisely and how can we help to not only educate but meet him where he is.
Diana Fryc: And then the other thing that I’ll say, I learned this about a woman that I interviewed recently she’s a black woman. She said, naturals is in the black community doesn’t necessarily mean anything because they grew up with naturals, most of the time these families, particularly if you come from lower income, not necessarily middle class or upper, but most of these people are growing up where their parents are either buying fast food or they’re making the food from scratch. And so naturals for them is, I’ve been eating greens my whole life, that is natural. So, just like getting a clue and start to go, okay, that education is not there because the word naturals means something different to them, etcetera, etcetera. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.
Darcey Howard: She’s has like a really great voice. She’s a black vegan chef and personality and she has a wonderful Instagram Tabitha Brown. But if anybody is looking to kind of expand their view into how people of color are looking at natural or vegan and how they’re talking about and approaching it to meet their needs and their culture. I would say that she’s one of my favorites.
Diana Fryc: No, I love that. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you are like I really want to make sure to share this with this audience? Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you’re like, I really want to share this, it’s important?
Darcey Howard: That is a tough question. And I saw that you were going to ask me that question. I thought that I might be even more prepared than I am but I’m not. I think if anything, I always love to just kind of check in with myself, with people like you, with other brands on where their passion lies and what is important to them and to remind ourselves in general, that passion is so important, but sometimes it doesn’t pay the bills. And so, I love to hear and share just the ways that I continue to fuel my passion without missing the point which is at the end of the day, it’s called CPG for a reason consumer packaged goods and how to connect passion with the consumer, but also meeting the consumer where they are, not talking about them, not talking over them, not dismissing them, but finding ways to connect the passion of a brand because so many brands are creative.
I mean, think about the E myth. Every entrepreneur or wannabe, or who is an entrepreneur has read the E myth. And the fact that you start out with this passion, I always think about the story in the E myth about the woman that makes pies. She makes the most amazing pies ever. She makes great pies. Everybody wants her pies. And I think about that with Coconut Bliss, best vegan ice cream out there. But how do you scale it? And at what point do you realize that your passion may not be a business unless you are attracting the right people to your brand or to your product or to your passion and linking it? And I think about times when I had my own business and that was the one thing that I miss. Partnering up with somebody that complements and I feel like Retail Voodoo does a great job at that you and David just so complement each other in the work that you do, but also your approach, your energy, your methodology and finding that sort of complement to your passion to continue to be a business and attract consumers is important.
Diana Fryc: Oh, that’s very kind of you to say. I wonder, as here I have a couple more minutes with you. I wonder if you kind of reaching back into your past and I don’t know how far back you want to reach into look back in time in the last.
Darcey Howard: I’m going to get sketchy. I’m old.
Diana Fryc: Well, you and me both sister. That’s what I’m saying.
Darcey Howard: It’s all good.
Diana Fryc: Zoom does a nice job. Tell me if there was one piece of advice that you could go back and go, “Gosh, Darcey, if you could just give yourself a break here or think of things this way.” what’s that advice that you’d give yourself?
Darcey Howard: So funny that I think this is something that people always say, it’s almost like a cliché, but oh my gosh, your gut. Listen to your gut instinct, I think about the number of times that I walked away from a gut instinct, only to have it. More body parts only had to bite me in the ass later. And I think about what we’re going through with this acquisition right now. I mean, I will be perfectly honest and in all transparency, Hugo is a holding company. It’s not in a holding company’s best interest to have one brand having one director of marketing, it’s in their best interest. Like the reason why holding companies are successful is because they have shared resources and they gain efficiencies. So as I look at how proud I am that we’ve gotten to this place where we have been able to do this and partner with somebody that has an aligned shared narrative like HumanCo. I also realized that I’m probably working myself out of a job and that’s okay. There are other brands out there that needs my special brand of crazy, that need my compassionate approach to being a change agent. And that’s fine if you do your job really well as a change agent. You get to step back or walk away and be proud of what you’ve done and watch it continue.
Diana Fryc: I know that feeling.
Darcey Howard: Yeah, acquisitions are hard. I’ve been through a lot of them because it’s kind of what I do, is help brands grow to the next level. Acquisitions are hard on everybody. But if you can approach it with the idea that, we’re going to get through this together and that you can be part of the solution versus feeling like a jilted lover, it’s okay, it’s a good growth, it’s a good way to approach growth.
Diana Fryc: Well, there’s a little superpower with that that you are able to guide these passion brands, not only through powerful performance, but then through an acquisition, that’s a special set of skills because those can sometimes not complement each other. At least I would suggest to, you might want to just consider that is a set of superpowers.
Darcey Howard: That goes in the category of special brand of crazy, it’s part of my superpowers. You got to be a little crazy to love helping guide some guy to brand through acquisitions and possibly guide yourself, work yourself out of a job, you got to be a little crazy.
Diana Fryc: It’s always a need for that though.
Darcey Howard: It is.
Diana Fryc: Now, this is my last question for you. I wonder if there is something sort of interesting.
This is actually my favorite part of the whole interview is what sort of interesting fact do you have about either Coconut Bliss or non dairy desserts or manufacturing or some sort of like, “Ooh, I’m going to take this to my next Girls Night, I’m going to share this story or fact.”
Darcey Howard: That’s interesting. I mean, it’s almost like asking how the sausage is made, which is kind of a —
Diana Fryc: A little bit, a little bit.
Darcey Howard: But how the vegan sausage is made. Let’s see, what is my favorite factoid about our product? This is something that everybody has heard of, the power of coconut oil and MCT, but most people don’t know what that means. That means Medium chain triglycerides. And this is an interesting fact that coconuts, there’s maybe point 02 percent of the population that has any issue with eating coconut because it is technically not a tree nuts. The FDA often wants us to categorize it as a treatment but it’s actually not a treatment. It is called a droop. And a droop is also like an avocado that has the same MCT the good fats. So the avocado and the coconut are far closer in being cousins than anything else.
Diana Fryc: Then like a walnut and a coconut?
Darcey Howard: Yeah.
Diana Fryc: Wow, that’s kind of factual.
Darcey Howard: You can eat. I know a lot of athletes that eat Coconut Bliss as a recovery food because it gives them those medium chain triglycerides that positive, that good fat.
Diana Fryc: Interesting. We’ll see now you’ve upped yourself to two day parts just like that.
Darcey Howard: If you get a chance to go to the website and go to our recipe section, you’ll be blown away. We’ve done some amazing things with our product. It’s actually really fun to work with because when it melts, it doesn’t get watery. It doesn’t have that separation. So you can turn into a whipped topping, we’ve made soup out of it. We’ve made bowling with it. I mean, it’s a really fun product to work with. So coconuts fat kind of fun to work with.
Diana Fryc: I learned about the coconut thing when we were working with Hillary’s because we were received well because we were talking about being allergen free not allergen free if we use coconut or we technically like there was a lot of round robin, what does the FDA say versus what does the community say? It is very complicated issue for on just this one ingredient.
Darcey Howard: Yes. It is very diverse, very complicated.
Diana Fryc: I love it. If people want to reach out to you for any reason what’s the best way for them to connect with, is LinkedIn the best way or do you have Instagram?
Darcey Howard: LinkedIn is probably the best way, I have Instagram and it is filled with a lot of food. I love to eat I love to cook. I am a hell of a good mixologist. So you’ll see a lot of cocktails but yes, you can also find me there. But LinkedIn is a great way to reach me. I try to be active on LinkedIn and post and share but I definitely love to connect with people on LinkedIn. This is a difficult time for a lot of people. If there’s something that I can do to support someone that is looking to grow their career expands their experience in natural, just let me know.
Diana Fryc: Awesome and that’s D-A-R-C-E-Y for those of you that are tracking, you need that E in there, otherwise it’ll take you to somebody different
Darcey Howard: Yourself quite a special speller so, I have an extra Val in my name but yes D-A-R-C-E-Y, last name is Howard, H-O-W-A-R-D.
Diana Fryc: Oh my goodness, thank you so very much for your time today, Darcey. I hope you had a good time.
Darcey Howard: What a blast. I always find time with you being just tremendously informative and exciting. So I really appreciate that you would ask me to be part of your Gooder Community.
Diana Fryc: This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a creative marketing firm specializing in growing, fixing and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness and fitness industries. If your natural brand is in need of positioning, package design or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at retail-voodoo.com. And so there you go. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this channel and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do Gooder