Podcast #9: Wild For CEO and Founder Aleem Ahmed speaks with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a company centered on the world’s smallest grain, Teff.

Big Idea Ventures is launching our very own podcast “The Big Idea Podcast: Food”. Each week Big Idea Ventures Founder Andrew D. Ive will speak with some of the most innovative minds in the food-space and talk about the exciting projects they are a part of. 

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Read the transcript of the podcast below:

 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

product, aleem, retailers, stores, ethiopia, people, opportunity, wild, chips, ingredient, founders, salty snack, important, food, brand, snacks, ethiopian, category, grain, farmers

SPEAKERS

Andrew D Ive, Aleem

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Hello there, welcome to the Big Idea Food podcast. This is Andrew Ive,  your host from Big Idea Ventures and today we will be talking to Aleem, the Founder and CEO of Wild For Superfoods.So this is an interesting company. Normally we talk about alternative proteins and other sorts of innovations in that space. Wild For is using an ingredient from Africa called teff. Teff is the smallest grain in the world, has high nutrition and nutty flavor, a really interesting ingredient.  So let’s talk to Aleem and find out what he has to say about developing Wild For snacks. If you have any questions or comments, please do leave them at the end of the podcast or YouTube video. Whichever platform this is on. Please do like and subscribe so that we can send you more podcasts and more videos later. Thanks very much. Let’s get into the conversation with Aleem.  Hey Aleem, how are you? 

 

Aleem  

 

I’m great, Andrew, it’s good to see you again. 

 

Andrew D Ive 

 

Good to see you too, sir. Welcome to the Big Idea food podcast.

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So we’ve known each other for probably a year, maybe a bit longer than that. 

 

Aleem

 

Yep. About a year. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

About a year and we’ve worked a little bit together. I think this is a great opportunity for people to find out about you and also to find out about your company. Would you mind telling us a little bit about what you’re up to?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, thanks, Andrew. I would love to. I am the founder and CEO of Wild for Superfoods and we help active families live healthier, through a line of high protein, nutritious and delicious snacks based upon the ancient Ethiopian grain teff, and teff is a secret source of lasting energy for Ethiopia’s elite marathon runners.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So, Teff, in terms of what people can actually consume to get this teff, that is sort of the secret energy source for marathon runners. What are you selling them? What do they get? Where do they go? What do they taste? You know, what is it?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, we’re selling high protein, air pop chips, at Whole Foods in the metro New York area, and all across America on Amazon Prime.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So how did you guys come up with this? Is there a story behind it?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, absolutely. I was inspired to start the brand when I worked for the Ethiopian agricultural transformation agency, helping some of Ethiopia’s 6 million farmers improve their yields. I realized that there was an opportunity to connect African farmers to international markets. There would be a huge opportunity to improve their livelihoods, but also to provide nutrition and functional ingredients that would help consumers drive their nutrition forward.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Fantastic. Let’s break down what Teff exactly is. It’s, it’s what? Take us through exactly what the product is, what the actual core ingredient is….

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, tough growth. It’s a grass that looks almost like wheat, but it’s gluten free and it’s the world’s smallest grain. Because of that, by virtue of its ratio of the outside to the inside of the grain, teff has more fiber than any other product, all the fibers cover the body and the shell of the grain and so it gives us some really unique, interesting attributes. It’s got a nice mild nutty flavor. If you’ve had Ethiopian food before, you may have tasted teff in Ethiopia’s flat spongy bread NAJIRA that’s fermented and when it’s not fermented, it has kind of a nice, mild, whole grain flavor to it, which is really appealing.

 

Andrew D Ive

  

So a good energy source, a great source for fiber, and a nice nutty flavor, any other aspects that people should be aware of?

 

Aleem 

 

Yeah, it has about 12% protein, which is very similar and comparable to kinoa and, you know, from a sustainability perspective, we see that teff is a drought resistant crop, it uses maybe up to half the water that corn uses and, because of that, it’s going to play an increasingly important role as our climate goes through increasing variations over the next several decades.

 

Andrew D Ive 

 

So right now the core ingredient is sourced from Ethiopia. You think it may have applications in other places?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, I think so. Teff is indigenous to Ethiopia and is used there to make their bread NAJIRA. Najira is made with 100%, pure teff but it has a flavor profile that could fit many cultures, many cuisines that could be widely applicable all across the globe.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

 And is it tough to get in the sense of needing to develop a supply chain from Ethiopia back to the US, so that you can manufacture your airport chips?

 

Aleem 

 

So supply out of Ethiopia is definitely a challenge. However, other African countries are growing teff. For instance, South Africa has been growing it for several years now, growing it for the International natural foods market so that it’s readily exportable and it supports the livelihoods of African farmers as well. So, in that sense, we’ve been able to work with some of the world’s largest Mills that have deep, diverse supply chains to work with South African farmers and source from there.

 

Andrew D Ive

  

So why, I mean, obviously, we should all care. But is there a reason why you in particular care about farmers in Ethiopia?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, because of my work experience working for the government of Ethiopia and getting to know some of the farmers and specifically having spent some time with them. I learned that the price the farmers receive is roughly 30% below the wholesale price and so the opportunity here is for farmers to connect directly with brands, receive access to the wholesale price and in turn use those higher profits, to invest in their own agricultural output, such as better seeds and fertilizer, but also into their own livelihoods like medicines for the family when they get sick, or uniforms for the kids to go to school. We think there’s a virtuous cycle, farmers get better prices for their grain, that their families prosper even more.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

And you mentioned working in Ethiopia for the government. Were you walking past a notice board in college one day, and there was an Ethiopian advertisement for someone to go work with them. Is that how it happened? Or is there more to it?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, you’re right, there’s much more to the story. My mother’s family is actually from East Africa, she grew up there. So my grandfather lived in Tanzania, and then Kenya. That’s what originally led me out there to explore my roots in East Africa. My first job was in Kenya, working in western Kenya on drinking water safety projects, in rural and agricultural communities. I realized that what was really, really important to these communities was the agricultural prices they were getting for their crops, how to get new seeds, and new planting practices.  Through that opportunity, I became really passionate about agriculture, and then I learned about another opportunity at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transform agency from a friend who was living in Addison at the time. I immediately applied to work for them.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Fantastic. So now you’re in San Francisco.  You have found a great ingredient that you think has the potential to be beneficial, not just in Ethiopia, but other places as well, in terms of its nutritional profile, its fiber content, the taste, and on being the smallest grain in the world. Take us through how you ultimately arrived at an airport chip that you’re now selling in Whole Foods and direct to consumer.

 

Aleem  

 

During my time in Ethiopia, I saw this opportunity that I thought could  be really big. I thought it could be the next kinoah and decided to come back to the US to get my graduate degree. And when I came back, I saw that Kinoah had gone from the whole food salad bar to huge bags, in Costco.  I took that opportunity in grad school to write my first drafts of the business plan, and collected some advisors and showed them the idea and they said well this is great on paper, but prove to us that you can sell anything, just anything to your target customer. 

 

Aleem

 

That sent me down an r&d path with bags of tough flour and other gluten free flours in my kitchen in Cambridge. We started mixing different blends and the first product we came up with was actually a pancake mix and we commercialized that online and in Cambridge we started to sell it through our website.  We saw a 30% repeat customer rate within the first few months and took that data out to stores and sold it to independent natural food retailers in the greater Boston area. 

 

Aleem

 

Pretty soon larger natural food retailers were knocking on our door trying to get a hold of the product and that really forced us to circle up with our advisors again and ask if we want to take a pancake mix national?  Do we want to be able to? Can we support this product? And that led to a broader process where we looked across a range of categories, a range of opportunities, we looked at bars, pastas, cereals, and identified the salty snack category as an opportunity to do something incremental and to do something really tasty that customers would find valuable. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So does the pancake mix still exist or not?

 

Aleem 

 

The pancake mix does not exist anymore? We hopefully one day will bring it back as a seasonal item for our early fans and supporters.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So a pop chip? What’s it similar to? Or is it not similar to anything, is it completly different from everything? What would you consider to be your kind of not competitors, per se? if someone was to look at your product and look at somebody else’s would they see any similarities to other things?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, I think it has kind of the airport attributes of a pop chip, but it has the hardier  texture of a pita chip. So in some ways, you get the best of both worlds, you get an air pop chip that isn’t fried, but you get a hardier texture of a pita chip. You get, you know, five or six grams of protein per serving, which is two to three times the amount of protein you would get from other chips in this product arena.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So is it keto friendly, or I mean, it’s probably not completely keto. But is it keto friendly?

 

Aleem 

 

It’s not keto friendly. Keto folks are really focused on reducing carbs. This is a whole grain product with carbs. One of the interesting attributes about teff is its starches and it’s made up of resistant starches, which our bodies digest slower like fiber and these are something that, in turn, feed friendly gut bacteria that support the growth of short chain fatty acids, which actually counteract diabetes and obesity. It’s a fascinating crop that we’re still learning more about and part of my mission is to really bring more attention to these crops so that more research can be done on it as well.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So where do people find the product if they want to check out you know, the product itself, the packaging, etc? Where can they go?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, if they happen to be in New York, they can go to Whole Foods, anywhere, any of the whole foods from Connecticut to New York, down in Jersey, and anywhere else in the world. If they want to take a look at it, they can look at it on Amazon by searching Wild For Teff.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So I went hunting for it in Florida. It’s not in Florida. Not yet. I was scanning the aisles in Whole Foods, desperately looking for your product here, but it’s not here yet. When are we going to see it down in other places aside from New York and Connecticut, New Jersey?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, we’re working with a lot of exciting opportunities. Currently, we think between q3 and q4 this year, we’ll be able to see it showing up in retailers and other regions across America.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So I’ve just managed to find it on Amazon. Wild for tortilla chips made with Teff, ancient grain, high plant protein superfood vegan snacks, gluten free, sweet and smoky barbecue. That sounds good. Wild for okay, so you’ve got a sweet and smoky barbecue flavor. I’m going to open up the store so I can see what other flavors you have. Okay, and a sea salt, six grams of protein in a bag. Okay, so yeah, it does look a little bit like air popped, but I can see what you’re saying about that sort of pizza chip or pita chip depending on who you are and what you want. The kind of pita chip angle to the texture and so on and high in protein. This looks like a great product. I’m so glad we invested in it. We’re, we’re happy to be your partners. So you launched the product when?

 

Aleem  

 

We launched the product about two years ago in Whole Foods in the northeast and we really learned a lot about how to build a brand in retail in bricks and mortar in Whole Foods, and that was a great experience for us. Then last year we  took on DTC through Amazon and we are learning a lot about how to reach customers across the US online. Awesome.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Where do you see Wild For going over the next, let’s say, three to five years, if everything goes to your plan? Where is this business going to be in three to five years time?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, we hope that it will be a familiar household name in three to five years and we hope that our products will be found in mainstream retailers across America in big box stores and in national food retailers. We expect to come up with a set of new flavors. We’re working on a delicious vegan white cheddar jalapeno right now, which we hope will be out before the end of the year. And yeah, we anticipate building some additional flavors and we also hope that customers in three to five years will be talking about Teff in a similar way to how they do now about Kinoah.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

What do you think are the key challenges in terms of achieving that sort of vision of where Wild For is going to be in three to five years? What are some of the things you’re going to need to solve or address?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, I think we’re gonna have to continue to figure out how to build our presence in bricks and mortar retail, and work with retailers who want to help tell the story of Teff and we’ll have to help complement our in store presence with offline, online storytelling, working with influencers, who can tell the story of new grains, new crops, and be able to have people learn about the importance and value that Teff offers them before they even come into the store as well.

 

Andrew D Ive

  

Okay. And what about from a company perspective?  I’m wondering if there are things that you need to address and build so that you can be a stronger, bigger, faster moving company, whether that’s, I don’t know, team building, or, you know, whatever. 

 

Aleem  

 

We continue to look for fantastic folks with experience in sales and natural foods across the US. Also looking for professionals with industry experience, in selling specifically salty snacks. We think there’s some real specific category knowledge that can be really valuable and of course, we continue to look for great folks who’ve invested in other snack brands in the past and look for continued partnership with investors seasoned in the industry.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So basically, sales folks, people with experience in chips, investors who are sort of knowledgeable about this space, those are some of the things that you see as being critical for building this business. 

 

Aleem  

 

Yes, I do. 

 

Andrew D Ive 

 

Perfect. Okay, so from a fundraising perspective, however, I’m guessing that like all startups, like all young companies, that’s been an interesting road to date, any sort of, without naming names, any sort of horror stories, or any sort of interesting learnings that others coming up behind you should be aware of from a fundraising perspective?

 

Aleem 

 

Yeah, luckily, we haven’t had any horror stories. Okay, I think we’ve been lucky to have great folks who are both value aligned with us, but are also supporters of our cause as well. So I think that’s been great. And I think one thing that’s been important, not kind of understanding the length of pandemic and how that would change bricks and mortar retail, was to be able to maintain a low burn rate. I think that’s been critical and important as we’ve kind of adjusted to unforeseen circumstances over the last year.  

 

Aleem

 

And then I think this idea of velocity and momentum is really important as well. 

To share with other founders to build excitement around achieving a milestone and translate that milestone achievement into velocity and momentum, with conversations with investors. I think that can be really important, giving them a sense of urgency of coming into the round. I think that can be a really important thing to do and it can be challenging, but I think one way to do it is around traction in the business.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So how do you think you do that? I mean, one of the things, when I’ve been speaking to founders, getting investors to believe there’s a sort of a fear of missing out or some form of burning platform or need to make a decision. Most investors don’t feel that way, they feel like they’re in the driving seat, they can make that decision when they’re ready and sometimes that means never. What do you think are some of the ways for founders to be able to create that sense of urgency?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, I think one way is the launch of a product at a new retailer can often be because there’s a deadline and launch the product to order inventory. And I think this can really be used as a mechanism to generate both excitement, but also time pressure, to say, hey, we’ve got this great, fantastic National Retail rollout opportunity. We need cash in the bank to spend on inventory, we know how this will turn from inventory investments into revenue. And that can really help drive those conversations forward. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

One must also have the ability to say to those investors, you know, we’re about to get more distribution from a new account, that’s going to change our velocity as a company that’s going to change our revenues. When that happens, that will increase our valuation and you won’t be able to get such a good deal, then, as you can now. So you need to make a decision before we pull the trigger on that distribution and that revenue, because unfortunately, we’re going to have to change our valuation at that point and you’re going to get less of the company for your investment.

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, I think it’s really kind of closing the logic there, closing the loop can really help that process.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Awesome. So we’ve covered the product, we’ve covered the story of how you got here, we’ve talked a little bit about fundraising from a startup perspective, is this something you would do again, would you recommend this to others, ie starting a company? 

 

Andrew

 

And by the way, starting a snack company is particularly tough. I mean, there are big, big companies that are dominant in this space, they own a heck of a lot of the shelf space. It’s tough for you, for the little brands, to support their products and get them the kind of distribution they need to be a fast growing company. So would you recommend starting a company to a potential future food founder? And would you recommend they get involved in snacks?

 

Aleem  

 

I think I would recommend it to them but only if they had a really clear incremental value proposition for the retailer and for the consumer. I think if the product looked and tasted very similar, or had ingredients very similar to what was on the shelf, I would warn some caution. I think one of the big upsides of snacks and food is that salty snacks is a huge, $20 billion category, with customers who are willing to try new products.  So there’s an opportunity if it tastes really good to drive a trial, and then some loyalty. And I think that, you know, some of these bigger incumbent players have really actually made their snacks less filling or less nourishing, in order to get customers to eat the whole bag. So that’s created a problem in the marketplace for some customers where they actually still want that salty snack product, they still want to get some nutrition and some nourishment from it and so we think we’re solving a problem for them.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

How do you see the snack category segmenting? Because once upon a time it was, you know, Lay’s chips. And it was just a kind of quick snack, a little bit of salt, a little bit of savory at a certain time of the day. And I see the category segmenting into all sorts of different benefits, all sorts of different deliverables. They’re sort of segmenting the consumer differently in terms of, you know, parents versus athletes. You know, there’s all sorts of different use cases. How do you see the market segmenting and where, from your point of view, is the most growth and most interest for you?

 

Aleem

  

Yeah, so I think the biggest segment still today, Andrew, is the traditional potato chip. Potato Chips are the biggest in mainstream and conventional grocery and then tortilla chips. Traditional tortilla chips are the biggest. And then outside of those two categories you have interesting functional ingredient products. Using plantain, chips become more and more mainstream. We see chick pea chips come in there. We’ve also seen grain free paleo keto products that become their own segment, their own sub sub segment. We’ve seen others you know, so I would describe a whole other cat as a subcategory of interesting functional ingredients, cauliflowers becoming another one.  We’ve seen chips boasting kinoah probiotics. So I think there and then we’re bringing tests to the table here, which nobody else is doing. And I think that this is an opportunity for growth. I think the potato and tortilla chips are traditionally growing with the population at234 percent a year, but most of the growth is actually 10%. You know, double digit plus growth is really coming from these more interesting functional ingredients that are showing up in the salty snack aisle.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So it is actually possible now if they’re smart about it, for people to not only get the satisfaction of a quick snack, but actually to get, you know, whether some functional benefit from their snack. So a kind of a satisfaction of the kind we crave but also some form of benefit to the body.

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, exactly. Some sort of feeling of satiation of feeling that you’ve put away your hunger for at least a couple hours till you can make dinner. So I think we are offering more than just momentary bliss. Now, the functional ingredients of the salty snack category.

 

Andrew D Ive

  

And also in your case, you’re benefiting the farmers who are creating the raw ingredients in the beginning of the process.

 

Aleem  

 

Absolutely. Yeah, helping them access new markets is, I think, a critical part of why I do this business.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Other people using your products in more ways than just popping open the bag and grabbing a handful of a snack, are they using it in recipes and things like that?

 

Aleem  

 

You know, they often use it. We see that our sea salt pairs really well with guacamole or hummus. People often supplement their salad or sandwich at lunch with this product. And we’ve even seen folks tweeting about discovering in Whole Foods who are buying something on the whole foods, hot or salad bar and then putting a few Teff chips alongside it. So it’s really cool to see how folks are finding new ways to incorporate teff nutrition into their meals and into their dips, sides and snack habits.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Do you see this has the potential, based on that kind of usage, to partner with companies that, for example, are in deep space, whether that’s you know, a Sabra or similar, are there opportunities to partner?

 

Aleem  

 

I think it would be really exciting. To be able to work with a large player to be able to merchandise the product alongside each other in store, we think it could be a really cool way that drives discovery and trial in retail. That could be really fun for customers.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

How do kids respond to this product?

 

Aleem  

 

When I was doing demos with  Whole Foods kids tried the product and loved it. Kids respond really well to the sweet smoky barbecue because it the little bit of sweetness kind of draws them in and then the traditional barbecue flavors are kind of really interesting and exciting to kids. Not spicy. not spicy at all.

 

Andrew D Ive

 

How are you getting the barbecue flavor?

 

Aleem  

 

The barbecue? We use a little bit of smoked paprika but we also use some garlic and other spices but we do it without having to add chilies.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Okay, great. Awesome. So in terms of manufacturing this product, you guys manufacture it in your own facility, or have you found a larger organization that can do it for you. How’s that working out?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, we found a large organization that manufactures them for us and we gave them our product specifications and then they made it to our order. And then we take it and we focus on bringing it into retailers working with them to put it in the right spot and developing smart promotional strategies around it. Perfect.

 

Andrew D Ive 

 

What were some of the reasons why you decided to go for a larger organization from a manufacturing perspective?

 

Aleem  

 

We think they offer us the ability to scale cost efficiently and quickly. You can put costs directly into inventory rather than putting them into machines, capital expenses, that would actually take a whole lot more capital to do that and, quite frankly, we wanted to work with folks who have the expertise, decades of making snacks or the experience to leverage that, rather than have to learn that ourselves directly.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Consistent quality, high quality sourcing of great ingredients, etc. I would have thought, 

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, it’s definitely made the process much faster to launch a brand.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So has this been something that you’ve been able to do without growing an enormous team as you’ve outsourced that aspect of production?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, I’ve been able to do it pretty leanly, at the moment I am the team.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

You empty the waste paper basket as well as being the CEO. That’s super nuts. So if you got run over by a bus, the whole brand would disappear right? 

 

Aleem

  

Let’s hope I don’t get run over by a bus haha ….

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

From now on you are not allowed out. Okay, so this is step one. Grocery sector is currently where you’re at, particularly wholefoods direct to consumer. By the way, while we were talking, I know that I kind of kept focused on the camera, but I just placed an order for eight bags of the barbecue from Amazon for $44, which is great. I’m looking forward to it arriving on my doorstep on Tuesday.  But what it did say is that the product is getting sold out. I think it told me that there were eight left. So people if they’re listening to this should rush, because, you know, if we have more than eight people listening to this podcast, it’s quite possible that there won’t be any product left when you come to order yours. So does it ever go out of stock because people are sort of jumping at it quite quickly?

 

Aleem  

 

You know, if it does, it goes out temporarily. But we get the inventory alerts pretty quickly and we’re able to resend the product to Amazon for shipping pretty quickly. So if you do order the last batch, don’t worry. We’ll send more and right away.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So you got eight, there’s eight left in inventory right now. Just so you know. Perfect. We were on it. Okay, so a couple of quick questions just remain, and then we’ll disappear. One piece of advice for a startup founder in the food category?

 

Aleem  

 

I would say it takes time so just be prepared to have a longer time horizon and be patient. I think that goes hand in hand with common advice of being persistent and not giving up.  The other one that I wish I’d known at the outset would be to understand a little bit more about field merchandising and work that’s done in stores at the shelf level that can be really, really important in the early days, especially in natural stores to drive velocities, drive growth, drive awareness of the brand. So those are two things to think about. For founders.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Yeah, let’s unpack that product review cycle. What’s that? And how do they take that into consideration as they’re building their business?

 

Aleem  

 

Retailers will break down their inventory of 1000s and 1000s of skews into subcategories and then once or twice a year, they’ll review that category of products and that cycle will take three to four months of review where they’ll take in new products. They’ll review price cost promotional strategies, review it against other products they have on the shelf, they’ll also review products they have on the shelf today and see who’s underperforming as well.  

 

Aleem

 

And that’ll give them an idea of what products they want to bring in and then have three months in approximately three months after you submit. You’ll find out if you’ll go live with that retailer, and that can be anywhere from an additional three months to six months out from that and so on. Depending on when you start your conversations with retailers, you could be looking anywhere from a year to nine months before the product actually hits the shelf through a category review process.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So if for example, you launch your product in January, February, March, and then your cycle for a particular retailer isn’t until q4, or October through December, you may have to wait nine months before you can even start the kind of sales cycle engagement cycle with that company, right?

 

Aleem  

 

Absolutely, yeah. And then that could be an additional six to nine months from that beginning of that review cycle to hitting the shelves.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So it could be as long as 18 months, maybe more, and that’s if they say yes, straight away.

 

Aleem 

 

That’s right. Yeah. So be prepared for something like that. And I think one way to get ahead of it is even start planning the manufacturing launch date around the key retailer in advance.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So if that’s the case, how do you get samples to a retailer, if you’re not going to pull the trigger on a large production run? Because you don’t want to be sitting on inventory that becomes stale over time?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, you know, I think there’s approaches that I would advise founders to think about. One is to identify buyers or members of teams called foragers, whose job is to kind of identify local entrepreneurs, and send them even pre production samples just to get their feedback. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So pre production samples, tell us what you mean? 

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, pre production samples would be stuff that’s run on a line, but it may not have the fully finished packaging. It may not. It may just be in the kind of a silver plastic bag, but it’s something that’s come out of an r&d process that you know, is fairly representative of what you think you could make at scale. That can be a great way just to get the  retailer bought into the product. And then you know, sometimes if, if it’s a first time founder or brand that’s launching a brand new product before they’ll want to see the product, you know, in a finished bag, before they place a purchase order and finally approve the product.  

Aleem

 

And one thing I would advise founders to think about is discussing with your manufacturer, what an aligned trial might look like. So that’s something that’s not on the r&d line comes off the full production line, and it’s finished in finished packaging, you’ll pay more per unit for it because it won’t be a full scale production run.  But you’ll get a couple of pallets of inventory, a few 100 units of product that you can then show to these retailers. And then I would advise founders to sell the inventory online, set up a Shopify account and start selling online and drive some traffic to your brand and hopefully in that time, you will have gotten a retailer committed to bringing you the product and giving you a yes in a day for launch for the product.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So in that case, you potentially need to commit to a minimum order quantity with those manufacturers who will do a kind of small limited line. That minimum quantity of that limited line still could cost 30,000 40,000 50,000 dollars depending on the minimum order they need before they’ll start producing it right?

 

Aleem  

 

it can definitely be upwards in that range. You know, I think we were able to do it a little bit more cost effectively between 10,000 and $20,000 initially, but yeah, it can definitely be an expensive way to start. If you feel confident I would encourage the first step in the process, taking product off the r&d line, even if it’s not fully packaged, and start getting some sense of interest in the product from retailers.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Absolutely. And when and when they go through all of these different steps and processes to get to the point where a retailer says Yes, we’ll give you 100 doors or stores. When we talk sorry, anyone listening. We’ve talked about doors being doors and stores, they are the same thing, but people talk doors, I don’t know why they just do.  So there’s something to learn the lingo. If you want to get into one of the retailers. Once you get into those doors, you could find if your product doesn’t have the right velocity if the number of sales required on a week by week basis, that when the account goes through a review again next year. If you don’t have the velocity, your product could be taken off, right? Yeah, that’s correct. So what do people need to do? Once the product is on the shelf to make sure that they’re selling the product, they’ve got the velocity necessary to stick around.

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, so we found what we call the three d strategy to grocery retail success. That is, demos, displays, discounts and we find this is an effective way to drive trials and really, I think the key is not to do them separately, but to do them synchronously around the same time. 

 

Aleem

 

So, yeah, another important thing to think about is when retailers plan the promotions or their discounts on products in stores, oftentimes, that can be three to four months lead time to get on that schedule early, figure out when your price is going to launched and don’t wait till you’re actually in stores to ask about the promotional schedule, ask about it once you get approved.  And then get that on the books early. And when that’s on the books, use that event, that promotional discount event to go into stores, either you personally or with your field team members, and talk to store managers about this promotion, and ask them for better spots on the shelf or additional spots off the shelf, over the salad bar by the checkout. 

 

Aleem

 

At the end of the aisle it’s hard to overstate the importance of this, this is critical.  And then simultaneous to this, I would schedule a demo in these stores, when the product will be on display, and discount and sample the product, get people to try it, you can do it yourself or you can also hire brand ambassadors to go out and help you do this, with you alongside or in multiple stores at the same time. And this combination of activities will really help drive the velocity rates up and get people to try the product for the first time and if it’s great, they’ll come back again in a few weeks and pick it up.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

So a couple of things that occurred to me as you’re speaking Aleem, and I think that last point is probably the most important. You can do all the demos, all the discounts, etc, etc, as possible but if ultimately the product, when it goes into people’s mouths, isn’t compelling, and morish, where people are like, oh, I’ve got to buy myself another bag of these…. If it’s just a kind of a mehh, or an okay, product, all of the promotions, discounts etc in the world are not going to make that brand work. 

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, that’s correct. It just isn’t. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

I think the other thing that Aleem mentioned, which I think is just a really, really great point and I’ve seen different approaches here, if a store says to you, we want to put it into all 300 stores or all 500 stores, that’s a risk. On the one hand, you’re going to be super excited about oh my goodness, we’re in 500 stores now but if you don’t have the capacity to really support those 500 stores, and in some way, encourage whether it’s through a direct relationship with the store and the employees, or promotions, etc. If you can’t support those 500 stores, it’s a risk. So am I wrong Aleem?

 

Aleem  

 

No, that’s absolutely right. I think until the brand has some exposure and awareness, it can definitely be a risk and I think that’s one of the reasons we stayed close to the metro New York areas that are in a focused geography, we’ve been able to provide much more support for the stores than we would have if we had the stores spread across the country.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

You can figure out what works. You can fit like your 3d approach. You’re learning all the time how to make people love your products, which you know, again, it’s about getting it into their mouths and getting them to taste it. That’s the most important thing. But you’ll learn what works and then you can roll that out across more regions as and when you get those opportunities.

 

Aleem 

 

Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. I think a focused strategy is really important.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Aleem, this has been amazing. I’m sure that people want me to ask you another 110 questions but maybe the best thing to do in this situation is for people who are listening to this who have questions I haven’t asked whether their potential consumers, potential partners, potential retailers, or you know, distribution partners in that sense, or even investors, is for them to reach out to you directly. What’s a good way for people to learn about Wild For to engage with you around your company and your brand and your products?

 

Aleem 

 

Yeah, absolutely. They can find us on social media, instagram, twitter, facebook at wild for teff. And that’s a fantastic way to engage with us online in social media.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Can you spell that out for folks?

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, that’s @wildforteff

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

From a website perspective, where do people go on the interwebs?

 

Aleem  

 

They go to www.wildfor.co

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

And on Amazon, they just type in…….what did I type in? I think I typed in wild for snacks and it pulled up your listing.

 

Aleem  

 

Yeah, wild for teff chips or wild for TEFF. All those should pull it out.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Awesome. Okay, so if anyone wants to get hold of Aleem and Wild For they can go buy a whole bunch of products off of Amazon. They are in the New York, Connecticut, New Jersey area, run to a whole foods store, your wild for.co website, I’m guessing you’ll update it as and when you decide to roll out to other stores, other regions. And that’s that’s, you know, that’s the best way to grab hold of you. Is that right?

 

Aleem 

 

That’s right. Yeah. And also, you know, follow us on social media and you’ll definitely be in the know about new retailers and promotions as well.

 

Andrew D Ive

  

Fantastic. Aleem, thank you for your time. I appreciate you. Thanks for being part of the Big Idea Food podcast today. 

 

Aleem  

 

Thanks for having me, Andrew. This was really fun. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Cool. Thanks, man. 

 

Aleem  

 

Bye. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

 

Thanks for listening to the big idea food podcast today. Great conversation with Aleem and Wild For. If you have any questions for Aleem or want to reach out to Big Idea Ventures or Wild For, you’ll find contact details below this podcast or below this YouTube video. 

 

Always appreciate your feedback and comments. By the way, if there’s anyone you think we should speak with in the Food Innovation space, please do let us know. We’re always open to meeting and talking with new people doing great things in food. 

 

So thanks for your participation today. Please do like and subscribe, and maybe come back next week and watch or listen to next week’s podcast. 

 

Thanks very much Andrew, signing out. Bye bye

Lorem ipsum | Vietnam | cesiscompany.vn

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