Audrey Burger, Head of Category Marketing at Primal Kitchen
Audrey Burger is a Pennsylvania native, now living in Chicago. She recently celebrated 5 years at Kraft Heinz – where she worked predominantly on Frozen Foods in the Category Marketing group. She has been a part of many new brand launches (including over 100 new SKUs). Most recently, she moved to Primal Kitchen to head that newly formed category marketing group, focusing on Marketing, Sales and Analytics. When she’s not working, you can find her cooking, traveling and cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles and Sixers.
*Please note that transcription may not be exactly 1:1 to what was stated in the video.
Broadening your Audience with Primal Kitchen, Audrey Burger | VisualFizz Growth Series
Dan Salganik (00:31): My name is Dan and I am one of the co-founders at VisualFizz. And anyone who doesn’t know who VisualFizz is, we are a digital marketing firm based in Chicago. We’re a full service agency, very heavily geared towards growth and growth-based businesses, as well as, with and educating and trying to really stir up some really great conversations. So, today we have Audrey who will provide us just a really quick summary, then we’ll kind of get into the meat and potatoes of, well, no food pun intended, but we’ll get into the meat and potatoes of this conversation.
Audrey (02:49): Cool. Thank you for having me. I’m Audrey Burger. I am the head of Category Marketing for Primal Kitchen, which is a subsidiary of Kraft-Heinz, where I’ve been over five years, leading up analytics, sales, general management across various businesses. Spending a lot of time in the frozen business unit.
Dan (03:09): Awesome. Thank you. And so if any of you guys have not attended our VisualFizz Growth Series or seeing the previous digital one. The way we set it up is very similar to, if you guys have heard of this podcast, ‘How I Built This’, and what we’d like to do is try to start from the beginning, all the way from childhood and see how these individuals have progressed into where they are today. Talk about today, talk about what they’re doing, and then end with chatting about what they can, what you can do on your end as an attendee, as a follower, as a viewer, to either do somewhat like Audrey is doing, take your own path, or utilize any of us as resources here. After that, it’s a bit of Q and A’s.
So like I said, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them at any point. So Audrey, I would love to chat about, so food is my favorite topic, first of all, food and travel. And I know that you are traveling right now during COVID, I’m actually traveling. And though we’re from Chicago original. I’m originally from Chicago. I know you’re a transplant from Pennsylvania, but as we’re living in Chicago, we find ourselves in two very different coasts, which is the fun part I guess, of the world we live in. So I’d love to learn more about,how did it all get started? What was your childhood, your upbringing? Was it related to food? Was it data? I know we talked a little bit about psychology, which we’re going to get into. I’d love to learn a little bit more about that first.
Audrey (04:42): Yeah, for sure. I love the, “How I Built This Podcast’. Some of those people have really clear stories about how they came to where they are. I definitely am not one of those people, but maybe that’s more relatable. I am a Pennsylvania native, as you mentioned. I spent the majority of my life in the suburbs of Philadelphia. When I decided to leave that area, I just stayed in Pennsylvania and went about six hours further to the University of Pittsburgh, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to do. Anytime I saw something cool, I just added it to my list. At some point in a school assignment, I wrote that I wanted to be a part-time lawyer, actress, mom and athlete. I watched Legally Blonde and was well, now I have to be a lawyer and I have to go to Harvard.
I had no clue what those things meant. I just saw that someone was doing something cool, and I wanted to do it. But pulling myself back to reality. When I went to the university of Pittsburgh, I started off with a psychology major. I was convinced that I wanted to be a market researcher. I really loved the idea of human behavior and the factors that affect it. It took me probably less than a semester to realize that marketing was probably more my jam. It really is one big ongoing social experiment of human behavior, how we can affect it day-to-day and the various pieces of creative that you’re always seeing, and how that’s affecting behavior. So that’s how I got into the marketing space. But it wasn’t something that I woke up one day and was, I need to be a food marketer. Definitely not my path.
Dan (06:23): It’s funny, I paid part of my way through college with focus groups. So when I was in that world, I wanted to be a market researcher also. I thought it was so cool that these guys travel across the country and talk about the most obscure items. And they ask these questions and it’s part psychology, it’s part marketing, it’s part, behavioral science in a sense. And it all seems to play a role in marketing because marketing, even though it’s becoming partially more of a science, it is still heavily, it is more of a qualitative thing. You have to have an emotional response to things, but then it becomes quantitative when you take that response and you, and I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but it does become quantitative when you do take a large sample size and you create data out of it.
Audrey (07:19): Absolutely. I was the same way in terms of trying to find that balance. So I ultimately, landed on a marketing major with a statistics minor. And going to those two classes felt worlds away at the time. There wasn’t a lot of intersection in my education of those two things, but in my job day-to-day, totally constantly bouncing the quant and the qual, and asking that question of the why behind the numbers. Because if you don’t know why, you’re just doing a little bit of journalism, and you’re not actually answering any questions.
Dan (07:53): So as a kid or a teenager, were you a numbers person then?
Audrey (08:01): I don’t know if I was necessarily a numbers person in the sense that I loved math. As a numbers person in that I wanted to be bright. And so, data, in a way is just the being able to answer a question. I don’t know how I would have existed in a world where Google wasn’t easily accessible. Because if there was a question I was always looking for the answer to it, right, wrong or indifferent. I wanted to know, why is the sky blue or what’s the air quality in California today? Any of those things, I wanted to be able to quickly answer those questions, and not just because it’s my opinion, but because I have factual representation behind it.
Dan (08:44): And it makes sense.
Audrey (08:44): Yeah. You could just call me basically a nerd. That’s what I was.
Dan (08:48): That’s okay. Nerds are cool nowadays.
Audrey (08:51): True.
Dan (08:51): No, that’s very cool. Let’s go into the progression of how you got to where you’re at. I know we chatted a little bit over the past couple of days, and it’d be interesting to learn that progress that you’ve taken, to before getting into your current role. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Audrey (09:12): Yes, for sure. So maybe a little bit of a theme. But in scool, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my marketing degree. Same thing, if the guest speaker came in, the same way, like you I was convinced I wanted to do that. Media buying sounded really luxurious, creative, startups, market research. I worked in basically anything that I could do to volunteer, to work as an intern I tried to do. Because the easiest way for me, was to rule things out. So I worked at a startup. I worked abroad at a creative agency. I got to work with big company like Comcast. Just dipping my toe in a bunch of different areas. But through the end of that, I transparently still, wasn’t totally sure what was my thing. So I came to the crossroads, my junior year, I had enough credits to graduate college.
But I also had two years of eligibility. I was running cross country and track at Pitt. And so, it seemed like a natural choice at the time. Me not really knowing what I wanted to do, to keep running, apply for grad school and just stay in school and give myself a little bit of a buffer. But I wanted to apply to local companies just to keep all my options on the table. I wanted to make an informed decision. Luckily for me, a local company in Pittsburgh, Kraft Heinz and I started to meet with them. I started to understand what they were doing there, through their Corporate Management Training Program. Which was really perfect in my opinion, because you got to try everything. So you had a chance to do training rotations in functional areas. And then at the end you had a placement and I was, perfect, this is my dream. I’ll go somewhere, and then I’ll be able to test all these things out and figure out what works for me, which is perfect. I had to reckon with the fact that I wasn’t going to go to the Olympics. It probably didn’t make sense to keep running. And I decided to go and join Heinz, which about, four days later became Kraft-Heinz. And so, I’ve been there ever since.
Ironically, I never learned about category marketing, which is what I do today in school. So I never had a chance to convince myself that’s what I wanted to do. But I feel really lucky that I stumbled upon it, because it is my perfect mashup of management, and analytics, and marketing all put together.
Dan (11:37): And I was going to ask a little bit about that. So you found yourself working, like you said, at a number of different companies that range from big to small and everything in between. Obviously, Kraft Heinz is massive. Did you find yourself liking working at the companies? Are you finding that with category marketing, it becomes almost a startup within a larger company? Can you speak about how you found yourself in that space? Because that’s something that we find pretty common is, there’s a lot of large businesses, corporations, but they give these micro projects the chance to grow. And it’s almost like you’re working on a startup budget, but the infrastructure of a large company. For my opinion, sometimes you get the bureaucracy of the big one and the startup of, the money of a startup, and you’re like, wait a sec. I can’t do both of these. So can you speak a little bit about your experience working within that space, and how it may be different, or maybe similar to those experiences?
Audrey (12:38): Yes. I think you hit the nail on the head. For me, I had the opportunity, we still had our offices split at the time for our marketing function. And so, I spent a good chunk of time in Pittsburgh with what I’d call like our core frozen team. And that felt like a whole different world and company to me,. That was my universe and its broader Kraft-Heinz universe. So we still had town halls and check-ins right with everyone across the globe and across the U.S., but the day-to-day is this smaller core group of people, that you’re working cross-functionally with. And to you, that’s your whole business, that’s your whole world. The same way in a startup, that’s your whole business, your goals are all tied to that. That’s your day-to-day. And the bigger picture is absolutely a benefit you get to learn from so much more, you get the resources from other teams. But yes, it really does feel like a separate culture, separate worlds within each of these teams.
Dan (13:38): That’s interesting. And do you guys, when you’re working on Primal Kitchen, which is what you’re doing predominantly or solely right now. Are you working with other teams that are similar to yours outside of Primal?
Audrey (13:56): So PrimalKitchen is actually a really unique positions company within Kraft-Heinz. So it was acquired about two years ago, but the original management team is all still there. We’re still led by our co-founder and president Morgan. And it really is, the way that I like to think about it a little bit. Morgan reports up through one of the Kraft-Heinz business unit. It feels a little bit sometimes, like Kraft-Heinzis is sitting on the board of Primal Kitchen. So we still have those reportings. We still go and check in and talk to those teams but we really are running autonomously. Morgan is at the helm and everyone that has made this business a really exciting and cool business to work on, are still there and they’re still driving the day-to-day. I’m just the newest member of that team. And I’m kind of thrilled to learn from all of them, that have those startup roots and have built this company from zero to what it is now.
Dan (14:53): That’s great. That’s very cool. And why don’t we talk a little bit about Primal Kitchen because that’s where you’re at right now. And I think that’ll help us understand a little bit more about, we understand the structure, but yes, definitely more about what are you guys selling? What’s your role there? It sounds like the growth has been amazing for the company, over the past number of years. So definitely would love to hear more about the background there.
Audrey (15:21): So Primal Kitchen for anyone on the call that doesn’t know what Primal Kitchen is, it’s a natural foods company. It was really founded on the idea of Mark Sisson. Our co-founder had this blog called Mark’s Daily Apple. And he set out to just write a blog post every day about health and wellness, and just bring some light to some areas that he thought he had done a lot of research on. He had learned about food, and the power of food in your life. And so, in launching Primal Kitchen, it was really this insight that there were a lot of people that gave up things that they loved, when they started eating healthy. So like mayo, for example, it feels kind of counter in some ways to say that our natural foods company, the first thing we launched was mayo. But, from the sales, you can tell there were a lot of people really missing mayo.
They’re missing condiments, they’re missing dressings. And so, Mark really talks about it in a way that, when you’re eating clean, meats and vegetables can get boring quickly. The thing that keeps them interesting is sauces and condiments. And so, we now have over 70 items, even more than that, probably, across eight different categories. We’re in frozen, we’re in sauces. We have bars and collagen and powders. And really all at the core of the idea that you’re making healthy eating easier and accessible. So the past few years has really been about getting our product into more places. You can absolutely find it in any Whole Foods and any natural food store. And we’re really excited to continue to grow our space in the conventional, like Walmart, Target’s, Kroger’s of the world.
Dan (17:04): Yes, and that’s a big step because I think with any natural food company, you have to go through the local side, get your local guys on board here, and then you get the Whole Foods, and that’s like a big accomplishment. And then once you can get into the big box, the large, big box retailers, that’s a huge accomplishment. And do you think that working with, and maybe this isn’t, I don’t know, but do you think working with Kraft Heinz has helped in that sense, getting the support of a big company? Or do you feel Primal Kitchen would get there because of the sheer need and volume that they had to support, or both?
Audrey (17:45): Yes, I think it’s a little bit of both. The reason that Mark Morgan started looking for a partner was because the goal was to get the food to as many people as possible. And sometimes that requires the infrastructure and scale of a larger company. I think the benefit that we have of being partners with Kraft-Heinz, we took a while, Kraft-Heina did, took a while to get into the natural foods game. But the benefit of that is we were able to see a lot of other companies, and how they did it both right and wrong, and the best ways to keep those companies growing. So the lessons were learned, the writing was a little bit on the wall. How do we make sure that Primal Kitchens stays the amazing thing that it is? And at the core of that, it was letting Primal Kitchen run and do the awesome things that it was already doing. It comes with support, comes with money when you need it. But not really interrupt the infrastructure, the speed to market that was working really hard for us.
Dan (18:38): That’s great. That’s really interesting. And I think that puts us in a good place to talk a little bit more about the central theme of our discussion is, utilizing data in marketing and advertising, understanding audiences, things like that. So I’ll ask a very general question which is how do you utilize your data on a day-to-day to understand your market? What’s your process like? And maybe even how it’s how it’s evolved over the past, the years that you’ve been at at Primal?
Audrey (19:13): I think there’s no shortage of data today. And then, it’s of course, evolving every single day. I think at the core of where Primal Kitchen started and this remains, is it’s a business born out of content and then fueled by community. So we have such an amazing infrastructure of social followers, of blog posts readers,of people that are reading Mark’s best-selling books. That’s the best data you can have, is this one-to-one connection with people, that we’re always going back to, it helps us better understand the why. On the other side of things, we play in so many different channels. We have e-commerce, Costco, natural, conventional, we’re doing a lot of data wrangling. We’re trying to understand, if we are getting data from wWhole Foods or Walmart, how are we comparing those sales? What is the value of those sales? What are the metrics and benchmarks that we’re looking at? And then trying to understand what I’d call the total universe. It really is an omni-channel business, but it’s not super normal for a food company of this size.
So, typically you have the majority of your sales are coming from brick and mortar, conventional. The opposite with Primal Kitchen, it was launched on e-commerce, see the huge direct to consumer business. And so, every week, every month we’re thinking about how are we selling in the broader universe? Where are consumers choosing to buy our products? Which products are they buying? And then, how do we make sure that we’re constantly being available in different total universe places? That way, that we’re looking at the bigger picture, because it’s really easy to say, Hey, we’re up in this location? Without truly understanding did that person come from somewhere else or are they switching up from a competitor? There’s a lot of the question of the why, because the data can’t just be taken at face value.
Dan (21:08): That’s really interesting. And I want to go back to the data, but based on what you mentioned, we’re finding that there’s a lot more direct to consumer than ever before. I assume it gets even further skewed because of all the delivery service apps. So it’s who’s buying it in a certain regard, and then you have your brick and mortar, where somebody is going physically and buying it themselves. What would you say is the, I don’t want to say the future, but really where are we headed in terms of food purchasing? And particularly, maybe some of the items that are a little bit more of a, I don’t want to say a niche category, but something that’s a little bit more specialized, like, like some of the items at Primal.
Audrey (21:52): I think at the core it’s being available everywhere. You think about delivery, you think about Uber, we’ve gotten to a place for people they want to be able to push a button. Their car comes to them, their food comes to them, their deliveries come in two hours. That means we need to be available consistently in every single channel. If they go into Walgreens, we need to be there. So making sure that we’re available everywhere, I think we’ve proven that our brand wall, it started as specialty and niche. It does serve a broader health and wellness need. It democratizes in a way, healthy eating. And so, making sure that we are available in all channels and all outlets, I think is obviously the dream. And then on top of that, having digital at our core, I think there is no question that people are going to continue to accelerate in e-commerce. So having that infrastructure in place and especially knowing we started there, is really important for the future.
Dan (22:56): I agree. And that makes perfect sense because in order to be present on delivery apps, you have to be present in retail. Unlessyou’re going through a wholesaler. So that definitely makes sense. So you’ve worked on the launch of over 100 new skews with these guys, which is no laughing matter. It sounds like a very delicious matter. Let’s go into some of your favorites that you’ve worked on and maybe, if there’s any unique stories around any of the products you’ve worked on or just any passion projects? I’d love to learn a little bit more about some of those skews.
Audrey (23:39): Yes, for sure. So I was all in our frozen business unit. It took a Herculean effort to launch that many items over several years I think. There’s a few that are definitely favorites. So when I first started, it was already underway and I had the pleasure of seeing it through, but Devour Frozen Meals launched right when I joined the company. And it really was taking a new approach to the frozen meal category. It was a little sleepy at the time. There was a lot of the incumbents, no one was really bringing in anything that was upping the ante on flavor. And we went into research and we found that there was this unapologetic need to want a really good mac and cheese. Plain and simple.
Audrey (24:27): I want to have good mac and cheese with better bacon, better cheese, better noodles. If you bring that to me, I’m coming to the aisle. And that was just huge group effort to get that out the door, at the speed that we did. And just last year it was named one of the Nielsen, Top 25 Breakthrough Innovations. We got to bring it to the world at the Super Bowl. We’ve done quite a few different campaigns on it and it’s scaled super quickly. I’m really proud of the work that the whole team did on that. Because it really is a big effort to bring a brand of that size to a category where, the top two to three players make up 80% of the category already. You’re really fighting against giants.
Dan (25:13): Yes that’s, that’s great. And I assume you probably had to use a little bit of that market research background to understand the consumer trends and what they’re looking for. Because you’re absolutely right, I think until pretty recently, when you look into the frozen food section, it kind of all blends in together. And so, to find food that’s either more natural or differentiates. It’s not easy all consumers to start thinking about those products versus either their go tos or the competition, which is not in the frozen food section. Because from what I know it’s an incredibly competitive space just to get into the frozen and/or refrigerated sections.
Audrey (25:58): Exactly. I think clearly understanding the segmentation and the people who are shopping in your aisle is really important. I think it’s easy a lot of times, for us as marketers for our buyers, for our agency partners to think of themselves as the consumer and that’s not necessarily true. There’s a lot of people that are shopping for really different reasons. And the reason someone might pick up a Devour, they’re probably trading off between also buying a Domino’s pizza. And so, are we competing then with delivery services? Yes. Maybe more so than we’re competing with a healthy entreé down the aisle. So thinking about what our consumer is firing and what they’re hiring has been really imperative in bringing new items to the aisle. Especially if convenience is being a core attribute of frozen. Thinking about what other convenience solutions do they have to choose from is definitely one of the primary reasons why we needed to make sure we were upping the ante in a bigger, not just better than theaisle, but better than other alternatives.
Dan (27:00): That’s really interesting and I want to touch on that. How are you understanding the intent of these individuals without being there, in the aisle, physically asking them, why are you buying this? What are you doing maybe from your data side and then beyond that? Is there anything else that goes into understanding those consumers?
Audrey (27:25): Yes. I think it always is going to start with the numbers. How big is the market in its entirety? Because it’s really easy to find something that is a huge need, for maybe a really small market. And so the effort behind it, isn’t going to pay off. But once we see a stagnant category that people are buying all the time. People come back to frozen meals regularly. They’re coming back a lot, but nothing new has really broken through at that point. The question really does come down to the why. So going into groups, going into quals and quants and category labs of putting all the meals on the table, and trying to figure out what makes you happy? What’s the dissatisfier. That’s how we can start to write a brief, and test, and iterate to make sure that we’re truly solving the need that we’re seeing in the numbers. Why aren’t people shopping this category? So it really is kind of what we talked about at the beginning, like starting with the quant, making sure there’s an opportunity, and then bringing in the qualitative to validate that.
Dan (28:27): Definitely. And I will tell you, one of our previous clients was the Chicago Mac and Cheese Festival, and there is a demand for macaroni and cheese, I’ll tell you that. I think there were 1,300 people that attended. There’s a lot of Macra. There must have been thousands of pounds of macaroni and cheese. So I want to talk a little bit about the branding element and the design aspect. I know we didn’t get to chat about this in our initial call, but is that a role that you play in as well? Understanding what design or what type of colors or what kind of topography or imagery goes onto the packaging, as well from a data perspective?
Audrey (29:08): Yes, so we certainly are testing our packaging. It’s always the question of, for a lot of the new brands. That’s a much longer deep dive into consumer needs, states, colors, what’s in the category, what’s not in the category. But a lot of times what we’re looking at more likely is a renovation versus, a true evolution. At those points testing is super important. I think there’s a lot of times that you are going to look at the packaging and because you look at it every day on your computer screen, you’re, Oh my gosh, this fork is driving me crazy. Or this noodle is just in the wrong place. And sometimes you miss the bigger picture of the attributes that don’t feel important to you, but are important to a shopper, that once every three months comes to the aisle and they love your green cap. And you’ve never even really noticed your green cap.
So making sure that we’re testing packaging iterations is super important, because the impact that you can feel at shell, there’s that age old example of Tropicana. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, but they basically changed the straw in their orange and overnight their sales tanked. It was their thing that consumers can see and they immediately had to reverse that packaging change. And so, that’s definitely the thing that were preached. You don’t want to make that mistake. You want to test it. You want to know what are those key attributes that consumers attach to your brand. Even if those aren’t the ones that you set out to attach to your brand.
Dan (30:48): Exactly. Because you’re living it day-to-day, and you’re probably a very different demographic to the person buying your product sometimes. YSo that’s a very interesting point, especially with the Tropicana. I actually haven’t heard that and it’s crazy because you think people buy it for the product, but sometimes, it’s strictly the labels. I know that’s the case with that, I don’t know the brand, but the almond milk brand with the fun label. The design of the package, it gets me every time I want to buy it. That’s really interesting and I appreciate it. I want to talk through a little bit more around the general sense of understanding audiences, because I think that’s really important and that’s why a lot of individuals are listening in. So I’m going to be asking a few more generalized questions here. But what can either business owners or marketers do to better understand their audience? I’d love just some insight into what you do and recommendations.
Audrey (31:47): Yes, for sure. So, working at a big company, we of course, have the benefit of some built-in infrastructure. Years and years of testing, we have segments that we describe each of human behavior and we’re able to talk that consistent language. So definitely number one, recommendation is a consistent language. Understanding, you know, what are the different segments that you’re going after and who are you not going after. Because I think once everyone on your team, in your small business and your agency are speaking the same language. That, Hey, we’re going to call our core consumer Suzie, let’s live, breathe, eat Suzie. What does Suzie do and what would she do the absolutely not do? And it feels a little silly to do it, to like attach a name to the person. Once you do it, it makes you really objective about what your consumer would do and what your consumer would not do.
Audrey (32:45): So if you don’t have that broader universe of data, I think taking a step back and saying, what data points do I have? Social media, I think is an excellent one. Facebook has built in demographics, both from a geographic standpoint and a demographic standpoint. Who is engaging with your posts, what do they look like? And then what do their friends look like? If they tend to be urban and they have a higher income, and they tend to like things like Equinox, let’s go look at Equinox and understand, what are they doing? I’d like to sometimes if I don’t have the money in my budget, let me think of a brand that I think has the money, that aligns with my brand. And then I go and see what they’re doing. Who are they targeting?
What mac and cheese festival are they marketing at? How do I find those places that I believe they’re trying to reach their core consumers that’s the same as mine? That’s definitely my starting point. And then as much as you can, finding people in your universe, those super fans are the ones that are really going to drive your business. They’re the ones that are talking about you on social media, they’re interacting with you. Ask them, just shoot them a ping, put a poll on your Instagram. I think that makes a world of a difference to say, what is important to you and how can I apply that to the broader universe?
Dan (34:13): Definitely. And actually your answer was spot on to a lot of how we do things. Back when I was actually quite young, I wanted to start this shoe company. And I got on the phone, I don’t know how it happened, but with the CEO of Birkenstocks, back in the day, they were popular. And he gave me an hour and I was, how do you understand your demographic? And it gave me the advice that I still use today and I still recommend to our clients and to our team is start, what you mentioned, with the Suzie. Start with one person and build their whole life. Understand what Suzie does from the morning, she wakes up to minute she falls asleep and everything in between. What’s the commute like, what’s she listening to? Who are contacts? What company does she work for? Who are her friends?
That is important because you build out the Suzie and the Greg or whatever. And then you take the step further and I call it the inverse pyramid kind of methodology, if you will. And so, you start with that one tip, the one person, move into the 10 people, the hundred, the thousand, the 10,000 and so on. And then you start building out levels of demographics that way. And I completely agree with you in that sense, because we can no longer think the male, female range of this to this income, urban, suburban, because I think the complexity of the data that is available it’s so much greater than it has ever been, obviously. By creating and analyzing on an individual level, you’re able to almost create these sub categories of individuals that you want to focus in on. And it’s great that it’s being done in many places. That’s very nice.
I want to talk through growth because that’s obviously, a central theme around everything. From a growth perspective, where do you see yourself helping Primal Kitchen? And then, beyond that, how can individuals who are listening to this, take either their business, the company they work for, their organization and grow it themselves? Kind of a tough question to answer, but, Iove to hear your opinion here.
Audrey (36:29): So start with your first question, at Primal Kitchen, we’re at a really pivotal point in our business where we’re trying to just be available to as many people as possible, but also choosing those right locations. And so, a lot of times in bigger CPG companies, you’re going to have an entire function full of what we would call category leadership. For us, that’s mostly just me, but that’s okay because, we are a newer brand. We’re a brand that’s growing and we are the category leader in a lot of our categories from the natural perspective. And making sure that our retailers understand the value of our shopper, what we’re bringing incremental to their category, and what we can do for them in the future is really important. So growing from the perspective of knowing, category leadership is really less so about what you’re doing. I, of course, want them to list me everywhere, but unless I can provide a value to my customer and my consumers, then they really have no reason to put me on shelf.
And so, when I’m thinking about growth right now, it’s really important for us to make sure we’re talking the language, we’re talking the metrics that are important to the person that is in between us and the shelf, which is a lot of times the buyer. But then also, making sure that what we’re putting on the shelf is going to be of value for our consumer. So when I’m thinking about growth for people broadly, the question is, who is the person that you need to go to, to grow further? What is your key stakeholder and are you providing information that’s of value to them? There’s a lot of value if I own a small business and I want to be on shelf at a local shop. It’s really easy for me to say, I need to be on shelf because I need to sell more of my product. What value am I bringing to the shopper? Am I bringing a more affluent consumer to your store? Am I bringing someone younger, am I bringing diversity? Making sure that you’re providing a value to everyone that’s helping you along the way, is really important and adds up to value back to you. Kind of a little bit of a cycle.
Dan (38:38): Yes, and that’s answering the why questions, why should I carry you? Or why should I care about your business? And that’s the tough thing to answer a lot of times, because you have to think unbiasedly in that regard. For example, we’re in the marketing space and what we deal with as a business is, why should I hire your agency when there are a million others? And the way I pitch it is there are a million others. I know that. It’s not a secret. But here’s what differentiates us. And then we get into what really does differentiate us, which is a series of things. A lot of it is communication, building relationships, the quality from our end, it’s good. It’s good in many different agencies, so you have to really think differently.
And I think from your guys’s end, it’s food. A lot of other people serve food and sell food. But what you’re offering is a different level of quality, a different level of care and a different style of variety that people are either not quite used to, but there’s a market for it. So you are bringing, like you mentioned a different demographic even into aisles that they haven’t been in, gone into. And I think you brought up a good point with the frozen aisle, because this is an aisle where I think if you are generally health conscious you don’t always go into the frozen aisle. Because you think, produce fish, a couple of other items. And then you’re Oh, frozen is frozen. But now you’re creating a market where you’re, Oh, actually, you could do both. You can be conscientious of your diet. You can eat good quality food. You can enjoy something that isn’t whatever. And you’re in a new market. You’re now in my aisle, which is the goal. So that’s really interesting that you bring that up. And I think from that end, there’s a bit of a learning curve, rather, not a learning curve, but a teaching curve that you have for consumers, especially the new ones who maybe are a little weary of your brand, since it’s newer versus the ones they trust. Is that kind of the case sometimes?
Audrey (40:51): Yes. I think what’s really important for us at Primal Kitchen, even at the core for any food, it has to taste good. You can’t have someone feel like they’re making a compromise. And we were just talking about this in a meeting the other day, but there’s something about Primal Kitchen that really opens people to a world of health and wellness, because when they try our mayo, or they try our dressing, they say, Oh wow, I can actually have really high quality ingredients. This is keto certified, paleo certified, there’s no sugar added, there’s no dairy and it tastes great. And once you open that door to say, there are products out there that fit your lifestyle, but also tastes good. You are not making a sacrifice here. It changes the way that someone’s thinking about you as a brand. How they’re thinking about the category, especially if you expand into other categories. So to your point about frozen, that’s a new category for us. But we’ve built up this reputation that we create healthy, great tasting foods. No matter the aisle we go into, and we’re hoping to extend our brand there as well.
Dan (41:57): That’s awesome. I’m going to give the individuals watching here, just a quick warning, we’re at 45. So if you guys have any questions that you want to ask Audrey or myself or anything general that you want to bring up, please message it in the chat or send it over to VisualFIzz, and let us know what you’re thinking. It helps us quite a bit. It looks like we just got one or a few. Oh my, it was like eight. Let’s go over. Let’s start. I have one here. What sources did you use to learn that the devour consumer bought pizza over other conventional frozen foods?
Audrey (42:39): About pizza? That’s the question?
Dan (42:42): Yes. Well, because you mentioned the Dominoes and so, how does that play in part, that concept?
Audrey (42:49): So there are really amazing data sources that tracks people’s eating over time. So basically, diaries, the same way that people track what you watch on TV. You use a subsegment to then expand to the broader universe. And so, that’s a really amazing tool that we have to say, Hey, I know that someone buys this product (a) Devour, for example, what else do they eat? That can open up a world of inspiration for us. They also eat a lot of pizza. They eat a lot of frozen sandwiches, they eat a lot of ice cream. And does my brand fit into the spaces in their life they’re already engaging in, but can I do it in a unique way? Is there a dissatisfier that I can solve? So that’s a tool that we use pretty regularly across our bigger brands that have enough data behind it, to argue where they’re eating and where they’re picking up products.
Dan (43:46): That’s great. I think I want some pizza now, and some mac and cheese, and some ice cream. So another question for you here is other than social media, what other sources can we use to find audiences? I’d say there’s probably also Google Analytics, which is the big one, but are there any creative ways or unique other things that we can utilize, or you guys utilize to get those really good information?
Audrey (44:15): No, I’m going to say social media definitely is the easiest one. But I’ve certainly stood in the frozen aisle in the past and just watched who’s picking up products and ask people questions. Don’t do that right now in Corona. And I don’t think people are going to want you to do that. But in a normal world, go and see what people are buying, why are they buying it? Normally people are not really phased by, Oh, I noticed that you’ve picked up a Primal Kitchen condiment, why? Store managers at grocery stores are a great resource. One of our leaders used to talk to store managers every single weekend. And I always found that to be really interesting because they’re the ones seeing the product come in. They know what’s moving, what’s not moving, what are people excited about. So finding people really close to the day-to-day interactions of your consumers is a great starting point. It’s all anecdotal, but it adds a ton of color that you’re not going to see in numbers.
Dan (45:16): That’s really interesting. So you just bring up a lawn chair, sit down for a little while and watch that, bring a sweater and then you go to the frozen section.
Audrey (45:27): Yes. One of the things we like to do, this is normally, with an agency, but you can definitely do this in a small business, is do a shop along. Let someone go through their shopping trip and ask them what they’re doing along the way. Go home and look at their cupboards, ask your friends to send you pictures and explain why they buy the brands that they buy. What about the packaging interests you. Really getting into the home, and the mind, and the consumer in whichever way you can, to so many great insights.
Dan (45:57): And like I said, back in the day I basically funded school through those shop-alongs and consumer studies. So I know that feeling. It’s very interesting to understand. They ask you so many questions and you really get into the mind of that Greg, or Susan, or Mary or whoever you’re trying to really reach. How did you identify the food items to roll out under a specific category?
Audrey (46:24): I’m going to try and interpret that. So for Primal Kitchen, the way that we like to look at categories and what we think makes sense is this overarching theme of cleaned up classics. We started with the mayo. That is just a product people are using all the time, but there is no cleaned up version for it. It’s not a territory that we’re going and saying, Hey, there’s a ton of people doing kale chips. We’re a healthy brand we should do kale chips. That’s definitely not the way that we’re identifying categories. It’s, there’s gotta be a dissatisfier there. There’s gotta be someone that’s not doing it today, or a way that we can do it different, or in a way that only Primal Kitchen can do it. And so, being judicious about the categories that we go into, and even the sub categories to make sure we are truly serving the consumers is always the starting point and the gate we have to get through.
Dan (47:20): And that makes sense. The thing that I’ve always found interesting with marketing and being just an entrepreneur is sometimes the sexiest thing is the unsexy things. And like when you look at how successful businesses are running, it’s like plaster, or nails, or just mayonnaise. And, that’s interesting because if you’re a big how I built this fan, they have to come on this show. But if there are other shout outs, it’s like Bob’s Red Mill I believe, who makes 40 varieties of flour. Back in the day, let’s say 10, 20 years ago, there were probably five distributors of flour. I’m just making that up. I’m not quite sure I’m not in that industry. But it was not interesting. There’s a big tub of flour, it’s flour or wheat flour, and maybe another flour, bleached or unbleach or something.
And now you go into it. And because of one company that revolutionized flour, and if you are selling flour, I apologize for bringing up a competitor. I’m not sure, but you go there and there’s a wall of this Bob’s flour and there’s 40 options. And no one thinks that flour’s going to do great, but he’s selling small bags for $10. Whereas the competitors are three and doing well. So I completely agree that finding your way in an industry or an area or a category that hasn’t been touched is probably the best way to make a huge splash. Similar to, I was going to say to the ketchup industry, but I noticed Kraft-Heinz, but the ketchup industry it’s similar, the condiments that you mentioned. I think a lot more consumers are looking for spicy ketchup or olive oil based mayonnaise and things like that. So I’m sure that Primal in some way is, part of the reason why they got acquired was because Kraft was, you know what, it’s true, we need to continue growing our food base because though there’s always going to be a consumer for regular Heinz ketchup. There’s probably a need for a different type of base or a different type of flavor of the ketchup. Is that kind of how it’s done?
Audrey (49:26): Yes, exactly. eople are not going to stop using ketchup as a way to get their kids, to eat their chicken, or whatever that is. Finding ways that we can make sure we’re fitting into lifestyles is really important. So for us, we have a sugar-free unsweetened ketchup, we have a spicy ketchup, we have just such a core contingency of people that are buying that regularly. So it makes sense. And Kraft-Heinz is the largest producer of condiments, that we would be a part of that bigger universe.
Dan (49:57): Guys, I promise you this wasn’t a setup to get the ketchup, it just came to mind. But it does make sense on so many levels that a company like Kraft-Heinz, shouldn’t compete with you. They should just do the acquisition strategy and work with you. And like you said, provide basically full independence because whatever you’re doing is right, right. Just give you a little bit of the resources, but let you run the show and be part of it. So that’s really cool. I do have another question here. How do you attribute the impact to sales from the packaging, if it wasn’t immediate?
Audrey (50:36): I would have to send you guys, I can attach the link to the study. There’s a pretty in-depth study on the packaging change from Tropicana that I think is a really great example. In terms of getting it on shelf, once you hit a critical mass of that on shelf and consumers not coming back and picking up at the same rate. A lot of that time that’s, shopability. So not being able to find the products that you’re used to looking for it. You either forego it, you pick up something else. It just creates a lot of consumer confusion. I will say that it’s definitely something you want to take time to make sure that you’re not rushed rushed to a decision. So someone likes to Chobani, they changed all of their packaging a few years ago.
And it was a pretty meaningful change in the packaging that they had, but they felt that they needed to do that, to move forward into new categories, into new brands, and not be kind of tied too much to that Greek style text that they used to have. I thought they did it in an excellent way. They put labels on all of their packaging. If you lifted up the lid, it said, Hey, we’re changing our packaging soon. This is what it’s going to look like. You know, they were training consumers to think about their packaging, knowing it was going to change, especially those loyal consumers. So there’s going to be an immediate death, people are used to looking for something, but in the end, I think that one was a success for them, because they really thought about how to make that a 360 change and not something that was sprung on consumers overnight.
Dan (52:06): Yea. And Chobani is a great example because it’s the unicorn of the food industry and the packaging world. They blew up and part of it is because one, similarly they took a new take on something that was relatively underwhelming for some time, which was yogurt. Which now you go to the yogurt aisle and it’s crazy. It’s half of the dairy aisle. And I remember when it was a couple of brands, then you’re ah, whatever. Or you get the ultra organic stuff, if you find the right store and you’re this just came from the cow last week. So Chobani is a really great brand to prove that point that, just give it time and let consumers know, because I do think that they have a very loyal consumer base that’s been buying them for years. That’s very cool. Let’s do one more question. If you were to attribute one major point to the growth of the brands that you’ve worked with. If there was one thing that just should be considered, what would it be?
Audrey (53:21): I think it all comes down to execution. In any brand, in any new item launch, if you take a step back and you look at other competitors that have launched in areas, there’s a lot of times they’re the same idea. It was really, really similar idea. At the core the food is the same, but maybe the packaging is a little bit different, or the delivery is a little bit different. And I’ve learned a lot from our failures of this food is amazing, I love it. Why didn’t people buy it? Because we probably didn’t execute great packaging or we didn’t execute great marketing that was clear in our message. Things that worked, things like Primal Kitchen have been executed in a way that made consumers really feel connected to the brand. They’re connected to Mark’s mission, Mark’s story that comes through in everything that we do. And it really makes me sit back and reflect and where were the pitfalls in execution that weren’t really clear about our mission, what we’re doing? Or how did a competitor beat us out on a product that at the core, is really similar, but the way that it came to life was really different?
Dan (54:26): Sure. That’s great. Well, those are all the questions I have. I know you just got almost grilled for an hour of questions but you definitely answered all of them really well. Once again, I want to thank everybody who attended today’s conversation. Anybody who will attend the conversation in the future, just for everyone’s notice we are going to posting this online fairly shortly, on the Growth Series page. As well as Future Growth Series’ I believe we have three scheduled and many more underway. If you or anyone you know, seems to be a good fit for it, let us know. Beyond that, Audrey, thank you so much for hopping on, chatting with me, answering questions. I’m sure if anybody wants to chat with Audrey further, has any questions feel free to contact myself, or Sydney, or VisualFizz or Audrey herself via LinkedIn?
Let us know if you need any help. Beyond that, as I mentioned we are VisualFizz, full service marketing agency. We work with a hybrid of small, medium and large businesses and really helping them grow and execute their marketing. And conversations like the ones we had today with Audrey really help us understand not only the role of other marketers, but how to utilize everything that we’re learning and bring them back to our clients. And I’m hoping that Audrey, our conversation has been beneficial and fun and I look forward to continuing to follow you and Kraft-Heinz and Primal Kitchen as you continue to grow. So thank you very much, everyone and hope to see you at the next event.
Audrey (56:14): Awesome. Thank you.
Dan (56:15): Well, thank you very much. Have a good one.
Growth is one of the best problems a business can have. It is also something that you, as a business owner, Director, C-Suite individual, or team member have to deal with on a regular basis. Whether it’s closing a sale, seeking outside funding from investors, hosting a successful networking event, hiring new members, or even simply not going crazy, you have to be mindful about the actions you take when growth happens.
This is why we launched the Growth Series. Many of us have questions and few of us have all of the answers. VisualFizz, a digital marketing company that predominantly works with ‘growth stage’ businesses has been asked these questions constantly and we felt that it’s time to provide you with some answers.
We have asked Chicago’s best and brightest to speak up and chat with us AND YOU about what they’ve learned through their years of GROWING their own thing. These individuals are industry leaders, founders of notable companies, sales geniuses, event hosts and personalities, and so much more.
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