[Podcast] Founders’ Fundamentals: Iced tea vet Seth Goldman discusses brand-building basics

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Eat the Change
Source: Eat the Change

Related tags Podcast Startup company

Food and beverage brands should focus on the fundamentals of growing slowly and strategically to set up long-term success while also complementing a founder's vision with a team of experts with diverse skillsets, Seth Goldman, co-founder and chief change officer at Eat the Change, shared in the first episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Founders’ Fundamentals podcast.

FoodNavigator-USA’s Founders’ Fundamental is a monthly podcast series on the basics of creating and growing food and beverage CPG brands in today's ever-changing retail landscape. The series will feature interviews with industry consultants, investors, brokers, lawyers, successful founders and thought leaders and providing founders with resources and perspectives to build their brands.

From Honest Tea to Just Ice Tea: What was different in starting the two tea brands

Having previously built and sold the iconic Honest Tea brand, Goldman spent the last several years growing Eat the Change, including the Just Ice Tea organic tea brand, with his business partner chef Spike Mendelsohn. Recently, Eat the Change released Just Ice Tea in cans to expand into other channels.  

While acknowledging “it was very different” launching the two tea brands, Goldman explained that starting a new brand requires a balance of resources, from finding the right retail partners to hiring the right talent.

“The first time is more terrifying because you just do not know what you are doing, and you do not know if you are spending your time the right way or your resources the right way, and you have ... limited time and limited resources, and so you need to allocate them. The wrong way can be really costly, and you can go out of business,” he said.  

‘You always want to grow strategically’

While a brand might feel compelled to expand into as many retail stores as possible, the company should first focus on ensuring that it can grow successfully within a specific region and not overextend its capital and human resources, Goldman recommended.

“You always want to grow strategically, even when it is eventually with that later partner. … You may have the desire to go succeed in a Walmart — just because of the dollar opportunity — but when the time is right that will become apparent for a large retailer, and until that time just always be strategic,” he said.

For Eat the Change, this means focusing on one or two channels and finding retail channels at the beginning where they drove high velocities, which ultimately lead the way for larger retailer opportunities, Goldman said.

“We are about 18 months in the market, and we still know the most effective thing we can do is get high velocity with our product. High velocity is often a direct tradeoff between wide distribution. If we get wide distribution — meaning we go to a whole bunch of stores that we cannot support — our velocities will be lower, and then it will be less compelling to other retailers. So, for now, we are still focused on [going] where we know it is going to do well, and then you know that will attract the attention of others,” he said.

He added, “As long as you can keep creating good velocity at the store level, that will really create other opportunities because even a buyer will look it, and they say, ‘Well, okay, they... seemed like an up and coming brand because they have a lot of distribution.’ But then you look at the velocity — and if that is not high — then it is not really of interest to a retailer.  

Growing a team strategically: ‘You have to make sure your product is working first’

Founders need to take the same careful consideration in building out the team, Goldman explained.

“First, find great people. You have to find people who have assets and talents and mindsets that are complementary to yours, but not the same as yours. If you are going to hire people who are all the same as yours, just hire yourself. ... Finding great people is absolutely one of the keys,” he said.  

Before hiring a team, a founder should also ensure they have market traction and a consumer base, Goldman explained.

“You have to make sure your product is working first. If you do not have the right product – the right fit for the market — then bringing on people will only exacerbate that problem because it is not working. So, make sure the product is working. ... It can be at a small level, just a few stores. But once you have clarity on that, then bring on the people that can help support,” he elaborated.  

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