Food In Canada

Five tips for leaders in the natural product industry 

Food in Canada Staff   

Food Trends Health & Wellness natural products

Annalea Krebs is the founder and CEO of Social Nature, an online discovery platform in the food
and health space, with over half a million shoppers. As she looks back over the last five years since launching the company, she presents five tips that can support your company’s growth into 2021.

Five years ago, I started Social Nature to help people make the switch to better products on their next
shopping trip. Many people think that with all the talk about sustainable consumption it’s mainstream,
but in 2019 only 17% of the average North Americans’ basket contained products that were sustainably
produced. Every year, people make 200 choices about what they put in their body, their home and the
environment; and through Social Nature I hope to inspire consumers to try natural products. Since our
launch in 2015, we’ve helped over 500 brands launch their food and health products in-store and online.

1. Tip: Create a culture of innovation with the 80/20 rule
The CPG industry hasn’t changed that much in the last 50 years, but when COVID-19 hit, the
entire industry was forced to quickly adapt. And those companies that had a culture of
innovation thrived. At Social Nature, we practice the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you focus on
your core strategy, but 20% of the time you’re trying new things. With this approach we’ve
developed innovative solutions that have kept us one step ahead of the market like our digital
demo programs, and so when COVID-19 unexpectedly cancelled all in-store demos we were
prepared to service the industry with a safe alternative. I encourage CPG brands to create an
always-on culture of innovation by leaning into digital platforms to quickly test and validate new
product concepts, to set aside some budget to try next gen marketing tactics or to experiment
with non-traditional sales channels. This approach will always have you a bit ahead of the curve
and results in a nimble company structure that has innovation and a change mindset built into
day to day operations.

2. Tip: Harness the Power of Consumer Influence
When we started Social Nature, we knew that in order to achieve our mission of inspiring people
to try more natural products that we needed to make the product testing experience social and
effortless. We know that the people you are connecting with in your daily life (your family,
friends and colleagues) are the most powerful purchase influencers. And so when our members
test products on Social Nature we invite them to share product reviews with their social
network. What we have found is that people want to promote products that they believe in and
have had good results with, and so supporting social sharing through technology and refer a
friend strategies, can really help scale a brand in a cost effective way. For example, our social
sharing feature has allowed us to influence over 5 million people to #trynatural products and
has been the main source of our community growth.


3. Tip: Use Digital to Drive Results In-Store
There’s a big debate happening in CPG right now whether to spend marketing budgets online or
offline. After helping over 500 food and health brands launch new products, I’ve learned that
the path to purchase starts online (even if the purchase is offline). And so here’s 3 ways you can
leverage digital strategies to drive results cross-channel: 1) online product reviews – even if you
don’t sell online you want to show up on the first page of search results and Google will rank
your website higher if you have product reviews 2) digital demos – advertise a video to tell your
brand story and send anyone that watches it a high value coupon to try your product in-store 3)
digital focus groups – get initial feedback on product concepts from consumers who sign-up to
your e-newsletter to de-risk new product launches in-store.

4. Tip: MVP your way to success
There are some principles that can be carried over to any industry. Like the concept of failing
early or validating quickly through minimum viable products (MVP) – a popular practice in the
tech industry. So often, we want to get everything perfect before we launch, but we can iterate
along the way with customer feedback. One of our clients, Ocean’s Halo, has put this into
practice and has benefited from a 90% success rate with their new product launches (compared
to an average 70% failure rate in CPG). Their winning strategy is to continue to do product
testing with shoppers when the product is on the shelf and to tweak and iterate the
product/packaging/pricing/placement mix based on real-time consumer feedback from our
in-market product testers.

5. Tip: Promote good stuff; not junk
Good never goes out of style. Many people have suggested I leverage our technology platform
and community of product testers to drive results for conventional products saying it’s a bigger
market. But I’ve got one life to live and want to play a part in helping fill people’s pantries with
good stuff, not junk. Sticking to my mission has also been good for business. It’s allowed me to
develop the fastest growing health & wellness community in North America and to become the
go-to platform for CPG brands launching better-for-you products. The ‘smaller’ total available
market has forced our team to get creative with our B2B marketing and has instilled a real
commitment to customer service which has our customers staying with us year over year and
often referring us to new customers. My commitment to our core values has also helped me
attract passionate team members that have stayed committed throughout our growth pains,
and recently we’ve attracted some amazing mission-aligned investors that are now helping us
scale to new heights.

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