To John Haugen, head of General Mills’ 301 INC incubation arm, “going to Expo West now is like going grocery shopping when really hungry,” he said during a panel discussion at last month’s FoodVision USA event in Chicago.
“When you invest in a business you’re investing in three things - the stuff, the brand and the people, and not necessarily in that order - and their stories and their passion are at the heart of the business,” Haugen said “Big companies have got great product knowledge, great marketing capability, great sales relationships, and great manufacturing and distribution, but when you put that up against the authentic story and mission of the founder, it’s super hard to replicate that.”
The importance of being authentic, and how to do it
Authenticity needs to be woven into the DNA of a company and brand, said Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea and executive chairman of Beyond Meat, because “Millennials are very good at sniffing out BS.”
In case you’re wondering what it means to be authentic as a brand, a report by food and beverage consultancy Watershed summed it up in five points: Clean ingredients, great taste, true to mission, culturally accurate, and transparent.
So once a small company has been gobbled up by a much larger one, is it possible to remain authentic to consumers? “These smaller independent brands can still be given freedom within a larger brand to continue what made them what they are in those small stages,” said Joseph Lake, manager of global science at McCain Foods.
“I think that the marriage between large and small has so many values—it’s not David versus Goliath, it’s David with Goliath.”