Many emerging CPG brands were nearly obliterated by Covid-19 not because there wasn’t market demand for their products, but because the retailers who were their pathway to the consumer stopped listing new products.
Additionally the ability to impact sell thru by way of demos came to a screeching halt. So depending how widely distributed you were when Covid hit really set the stage for your success or demise.
SnackConscious launched into retail in January 2020, so demise should have been our result, but we were unwilling to accept that possibility.
It’s now June 26th, 2020, more than 3 months since Covid impacted how grocery stores operated their business. SnackConscious’ new store listings over the last three months have been 75% lower than our objective and what we did in February. Most retailers are still not looking at new listings often saying “let’s review when things get back to normal.”
When we’ve been fortunate enough to land a new store listing, which takes a special kind of persistence, we’ve been unable to be in store to sample the product, talk to consumers about the features, the ingredients, and the benefits of SnackBombs. These discussions and sampling is something integral to launching a new listing.
Emerging CPG brands have not only struggled to land new accounts, but have been challenged to drive consumer demand because in store demos have been eliminated. The result has been less than stellar off the shelf velocity for these new brands, often leaving a retailer disappointed in their choice of listing a new product.
At SnackConscious, after we were knocked down in March, we got up, dusted ourselves off and started to think of ways we could tackle these challenges. With no prior CPG experience and only a year of direct to consumer marketing under our belts we thought this may be our advantage. That being our lack of experience, our naivete. While others stood by waiting for the storm to blow over, we walked into the storm's path with no preconceived notions, and little ego. We were not about to be taken out before we even got started.
Everyday in April we called on retailers who said ‘not now, no new listings’, and we called them back the next week and the majority said still not now, no new listings!’. But each week a few heard our answer to their objection and we listed us. We invested in samples by sending the store SnackBombs for their staff who were putting their life on the line to ensure the community had groceries. We sent them samples for their VIP customers, we continued to invest in social ads to drive consumer awareness and we brainstormed ways to drive in store demand with other emerging CPG brands. This was hard, arduous work. It was like taking one step forward and 9/10 of step back. It was like pushing a boulder up a hill, a slippery, heavy boulder up a very steep hill. Some days we didn’t want to get out of bed. Some days we didn’t get out of bed.
By the end of May we had onboarded nearly 75 new accounts and by the end of June we had finally knocked off three of our top 10 most wanted accounts. This still wasn’t where we had projected to be, but we were not out of business and we were getting positive feedback from the stores we were listed in. One of our investors sent us this picture from a store in his neighbourhood demonstrating our hustle was working.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
This is how we weathered the storm. Although we operated on a lean budget with very low overhead, we got leaner, we did not know was going to happen and because we were not yet a profitable company we knew that every dollar counted. We each took pay cuts, we gave up our co-working space, we went through our overhead line by line, product subscription by product subscription, every single expense was scrutinized and debated over on its merit to get us through this storm.
We knew we were only as strong as our team dynamic so we frequently went back to our values to ensure we were living them as things got tougher and tougher, and they did get tougher and tougher. There were tears, there was fighting, there was anger, some weeks felt like months. But when things got bad, we recapped why we were doing what we were doing. We reviewed our values of transparency, accountability, simplicity, drive, radical candor and respect. Our values are there so when shit hits the fan we have our guiding principles to keep us aligned and on track.
We created an alliance with four other snack brands so we could share data, collaborate on marketing, sales and product development. Pre Covid we likely would not have done this, although these were not direct competitors, we were all vying for the same consumer dollars.
We had daily team huddles, including challenging each other and reporting key metrics more frequently.
We made decisions around who was a fit for the team long term and who was not.
Every week we got more and more focused on what really matters, saying ‘no’ more often to projects, meetings and shiny objects.
Steel is forged by melting iron to its weakest point. It certainly feels like we were melted to our weakest point. Although we would have preferred to have hit all our milestones we set out in December 2019, the fact is we could not have with what happened to our economy and the stage we were at in our launch. We are coming out this stronger, but we are by no means out of the proverbial woods. We are more knowledgeable and boy oh boy is our hustle strong right now.
It's how we reacted to the adversity that defined us. Adversity itself is inevitable, and it was certainly not at a good time for such a challenge as we were just launching. But it happened and we surrendered and we are stronger for it.
“No matter who we are, life is going to put us through the changes we need to go through. The question is: Are we willing to use this force for our transformation? I saw that even very intense situations don't have to leave psychological scars, if we are willing to process our changes at a deeper level.” Michael Singer, The Surrender Experiment
Everyday we push opportunities for the top 150 accounts forward.
Everyday we reinforce our brand values and product benefits through social media, email and our distribution channels.
Everyday we challenge each other to be our best and examine our blind spots.
It’s a lot of repetition, and it takes a lot of stamina and resilience, but it’s what’s making the difference. We will win over buyers, we will gain market share one consumer at a time, and we will meet our overarching objective of cleaning up snacking, we won’t be deterred.