coronavirus natural foods

More than anything, we miss being out in our community meeting people, admiring grocery store aisles, and tasting food. But, in doing what we can to help our community get through these tough times, and with our team working from home, we’ve been turning to the internet to get our fill. On Wednesday, we tuned in to Naturally Network’s Words of Wisdom for Times of Crisis webinar. Some of the industry’s most inspiring leaders walked through big and little steps for businesses to take to protect employees and remain standing through this coronavirus crisis. Inspired, we pulled together notes from the much-needed 2 hour webinar so that we could share them with those who happened to miss out or couldn’t find the time. Stay strong! We can’t wait to be breaking bread soon enough.

Terry Tierney, former CEO, Daiya Foods

  • First global crisis in the social media age
    • Be careful about what you take in and what put out 
    • More than one set of eyes on each piece of communication your biz puts out
  • Human suffering is going to occur. Have to recognize it, honor it, and figure out how to best move forward
  • No playbook for next best steps, be guided by your biz’s core values
  • What used to be fun/funny company activities are now seriously meaningful
  • The 3 L’s for now: Leadership, Liquidity, Long Haul (this might not last long, but plan for it. Make sure your teams knows what will happen if this goes on 3-6 months) 

Jane Miller, CEO Lily’s Sweets

  • Prioritize communication and staying connected
  • Tactics Lily’s Sweets is using: 
    • Sending daily update to whole team (on biz, how company is moving forward, share “wins” every day)
    • Weekly zoom calls with whole group 
    • Virtual happy hour
    • Doing special projects across teams to keep people engaged 

 

Gary Hirshberg, Co-Founder Stonyfield Organics

  • At early days of Stonyfield, had great product but no supply and no demand 
    • Extrapolating learnings from those tough times to now
  • Good news for small and new brands: high demand and sampling going on right now across natural companies that Gary on the board of 
  • Three general pieces of counsel:
    • 1. Take Care of Yourself: Sleep, eat well, exercise. Your team needs you
    • 2. Over Communicate: In Stonyfield’s darkest days, overcommunicaton (especially In hindsight) was essential for success.
    • 3. Watch Your Cash: This is not the time to launch new products (too much cash burn). Double down on strengths and build volume on leading skus. Draw down credit, and don’t have anything you don’t absolutely have to have

Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia

  • Health and safety of your team isn’t the first priority, it’s the only priority. Companies are only as good as the team. 
  • Decisive action is critical: “half-actions” create confusion and need continual revision. People need clarity.
  • Evolve to meet new conditions: Now’s the time to inspire teams to reinvent how we do biz and how we do our jobs. There’s no “going back to the old way” when this is over. Learning how many things can change, big and small, to online.
  • Frequent communication: have lots of team meetings, one-on-ones
  • Different categories having different demand spikes
    • Comparison of Coke and Anhauser-Bush:
      • 50% of Coke’s consumption immediate consumption (restaurants/on-site), while 15% of Anhauser-Bush’s consumption is immediate 
      • So Coke might see more of a lift in retail sales since people can no longer get it at restaurants–making up for the 50% of on-site consumption. AB might experience less of a demand spike.

 

Denis Ring, Founder of OCHO, Creator of 365 and O Organics Private Label Lines

  • UNFI and KeHE distributing lots of staples right now
    • Non-necessities experiencing wild swings up and down (Nick Green, below, thinks otherwise based on Thrive Market info)
  • Doesn’t think stockpiling will decline as rapidly as it increased.
  • Thinks it’ll take several months for suppliers to get caught up with demand 
  • Shoppers seem to anticipate shelter at home to last ~2 months

 

Nick Green, CEO of Thrive Market: 

  • Seen 3 waves of demand surges in panic stockpiling
    • 1st Wave: Early stockpilers – late February to early March 25%-50% demand increase
    • 2nd Wave: When more people started to consider the prospect of quarantine, 100+% demand increase. This phase largely over, been happening in individual cities as they issue shelter in place orders)
    • 3rd Wave: Starting  last week, with people expecting to be at home. Green expects this to go on until shelter in place is over (and doesn’t expect demand to decline too quickly)
  • Originally people were just buying staples (panic buying) now, people going back to buying the things they’d normally buy, like chocolates etc. 
  • Predicts ~1 month where demand will stay pretty uniformly up across grocery (though demand still over-indexing on staples products), shopping baskets are starting to return to looking like normal
  • Thinks there will be a lot of long-term changes
    • More online grocery shopping
    • Brick and mortar v. e-commerce
  • For Thrive, fulfilling orders is the hardest part. It’s mostly manual–can’t scale people quickly. 
  • Opportunity to drive trial: “people aren’t thinking about the brands they’ve alway bought or how products look, but which products can feed them and their families”
  • Promising future on the other side of COVID for health-forward products 

 

Carlotta Mast, Market Leader of New Hope Network

  • Great time for little brands to collaborate, even if otherwise competitors
    • Co-marketing
    • Pool marketing and consumer education resources
    • Collaborate on supply and manufacturing

 

Seth Goldman of Honest Tea and Beyond Meat

  • Cut all trade spending, doesn’t make sense to have discounts right now
  • Get better/extended terms with buyers and suppliers
  • This is an unplanned opportunity to sharpen your biz from all angles
  • Buyers don’t want to hear from you now, they’re swamped keeping shelves stocked. 
    • But some buyers have nothing to do–University cafeteria buyers, for instance, have nothing to do
    • Try to figure out which buyers aren’t doing much now and reach out to them 

 

Mark Retzloff of Industry Pioneer, behind Alfalfas

  • Important to track with consumers right now. 
    • Don’t put stuff on discount, just get it to your consumers
    • Understand how you can alter products or services to meet new needs.
    • No going back to an “old normal”, things will be different from here on out
  • Preserve capital and increase capital efficiency right now (financing won’t go back to where it used to be for a long time and small companies will be most hit by this)

 

Blair Kellison, CEO Traditional Medicinals 

  • Important to show up for manufacturing employees 
  • Vulnerability is important, be honest about not knowing, and lead with your heart 
  • Leaders will be judged more on demeanor than expertise right now