Bringing a new product to market is never easy.
And when you’re ahead of the curve, it’s even harder.
Long-time food & beverage executive Renee Junge has been at the forefront of health-conscious brands like Jamba Juice and Sambazon, the company credited with bringing acai to consumers in the United States.
In her current role as CMO of Fyta, a plant-based food startup, she’s once again returning to her roots of building brands.
She shared her lessons in product innovation, from partnering with finance teams to creating new machinery to support products out in the field.
Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.
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On innovating their way out of product commoditization at Sambazon
“We were getting commoditized out [of the market]. So it became a price point war, but also the consistency of an acai bowl delivered at a retailer varied so much. So we created a machine that was incredibly consistent every single time – think of it like a Slurpee machine, it had incredibly consistent and the most pure acai bowls possible. And that was just a solution that we solved for our operators and that really accelerated growth tremendously.”
On partnering with finance to drive innovation
“We had some advisors come in and they talked about the Hershey Kiss and the iconic visual and experience of opening a Hershey Kiss. And we really got grounded in this idea of, “we have to have a very iconic and proprietary experience.” And so the CFO, he bought into that idea and realized that to catapult to the next level, we had to create this proprietary experience. So it was really him buying into the importance of the bowl, not just as a growth engine, but really as a brand engine.”
On why brands with a purpose focus on “Stakeholder Capitalism”
“Stakeholder capitalism is the evolved term of triple bottom line, which is just ensuring that you’re not only servicing your financial stakeholders, that you’re servicing your shareholders, you’re servicing the people who work for you, the people who are in the field. You’re aware of the environment. It’s holding yourself accountable to, in this case, people, product and planet.”
On what excites her the most about the CPG and food and beverage industries
“I think what excites me is how much the big companies who really have most of the power are committed to scaling new ways of bringing ingredients to market and new ways of getting people to be healthier. It’s very clear that we have to have people thinking of food as medicine and big companies are seeing this. Whatever their motivation is, whether it’s purely altruistic or because they see money in that move, you’re seeing companies move to scale. And I think that’s very exciting.”