top of page

Fueling the Future: David Benzaquen Unveils Key Strategies for Plant-Based Success in the U.S. Market



In the latest episode of the Plant Based On Fire podcast, we had the privilege of hosting David Benzaquen, a titan in the plant-based and alternative protein industries. As the founder and CEO of Mission: Plant, David brings a wealth of experience and insight into what it takes to launch and scale plant-based businesses in the competitive U.S. market.


David's journey in the plant-based sector is nothing short of inspirational. His strategic prowess and entrepreneurial spirit shine through every venture, from founding and successfully exiting a pioneering plant-based seafood company to steering Mission: Plant in empowering global plant-based brands to thrive in the U.S.


David’s insights during the interview were a goldmine for anyone looking to penetrate or expand within the plant-based industry. He discussed the critical importance of understanding consumer needs and market dynamics, emphasizing, "In a sector as competitive as alternative proteins, robust research, and an informed strategy aren’t just beneficial—they’re essential."


Mission: Plant operates at the intersection of innovation and market demand, specializing in helping foreign businesses navigate the complex U.S. market. With over 50 years of combined experience in the space, the team at Mission: Plant understands the nuances and pitfalls of the industry. "Our industry lives at the cross-section of strong and growing trends," David noted during the interview, highlighting the vast opportunities for agile, innovative brands ready to deliver what consumers want.


David also touched on the role of consumer insights in shaping product development and marketing strategies, a service perfected by his other venture, Moonshot Collaborative. This consumer insights firm is dedicated to the plant-based sector, helping businesses make data-driven decisions that enhance their market fit and consumer appeal.


For budding entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners alike, David’s advice is invaluable: "Success in the plant-based industry hinges on more than just a great product. It requires a keen understanding of the market and the ability to adapt and respond to consumer trends quickly."


Don’t miss this compelling episode full of actionable insights for anyone passionate about making a mark in the plant-based industry. Tune in to learn from one of the sector’s most seasoned veterans and discover how you can leverage trends and consumer insights to drive your plant-based business to new heights. Join us on Plant Based On Fire, and let’s keep fueling the fire for a sustainable future!


LISTEN TO OUR OTHER PODCASTS 



>Episode’s Transcript

Please understand that a transcription service provided the transcript below. It undoubtedly contains errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions.


Bryan (00:00.642)

Hello everybody. Welcome to Plant Based on Fire, where we talk about plant-based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in our industry. I'm your host Bryan. And joining us today is David, one of the world's leading experts in plant-based and alternative protein industries all across. And he is the founder and CEO of Mission Plant, a firm that helps launch foreign plant-based businesses into the U S market. And so I'm so excited to have you on the show, David, welcome.


David (00:32.317)

Thank you so much for having me, it's a pleasure.


Bryan (00:34.878)

I look forward to chatting. We got to chat a few weeks back, I think, maybe it was a month or two ago, I forget, just one-on-one to say hi, I believe, right? And so here we are officially on the podcast recording yet and talk to us just helps set the stage for us. Like what initially drew you into the plant-based life and especially alternative proteins and how did your journey begin?


David (00:59.477)

Sure. So I've been plant-based as a consumer for 25 years. And thank you. It's rare that I find somebody who has beat me out. But then again, my kids have been plant-based since birth. So I'm jealous. So I got into it for the animals. I was privileged to be exposed to some thinking early on about how the animals that we eat are so similar to the animals that we live with. And it really opened my mind.


So at the age of 18, I went vegan before that. I went vegetarian a few years before that. And I started my career actually working in the nonprofit world, working for animal protection nonprofits like Farm Sanctuary and other places where I had the privilege of dedicating my day, day in and day out, to advocacy work for the animals and to fundraising for these organizations. And I really loved the work. But I had an epiphany one day where I realized that I wasn't having as great an impact I wanted to.


And it had to do with the fact that I was working so hard to convince people to change their behavior. But that the way we really change behavior isn't by telling people to do something different, it's by making the solution easier to adopt. And so my motivation to get into the business world, something I never thought I would do would be realizing that if I could make the plant based options or products as attractive, as affordable, as delicious as the animal based equivalents.


Bryan (02:11.021)

That's right.


David (02:26.633)

people would say why not rather than why. And that's been my goal. So in 2010, I shifted from the nonprofit side to the for-profit side. I'm gonna spend the last 15 years working in sales, marketing, strategy, consulting, investing all in the plant-based food industry.


Bryan (02:29.166)

you can give it to me and then it's a collection to show. It'd be fun to show black so I can.


Bryan (02:45.118)

Amazing. I'm so jealous. I'm only what 12 or 13 years into this. So you got me beat. But I do have a few people on the Real Men Eat Plants podcast that have got, Geoff Palmer comes on that show and he just celebrated 40 years. So just, yeah, awesome stuff there. So tell us more about like Mission Plant and how does it reflect your vision for the future of food? Like you unpacked it a little bit, but give us the full scoop.


David (02:59.773)

Amazing. Geoff's fantastic.


David (03:12.437)

Sure. So over the last 15 years, I've had different hats. For a number of years, I had a previous agency called Plant-Based Solutions, which did strategy consulting for plant-based companies here in the U.S. And I sold that a few years ago to start my own plant-based seafood company, which at the time was called Ocean Hugger Foods. We became known for making tuna out of tomatoes, and it was a lot of fun.


Bryan (03:36.27)

I love it.


David (03:37.561)

I sold that business back in 2020 to Yves Potvin a guy who founded Gardein, and he now owns it. He's rebranded it as a company called Conscious Foods with a K, selling frozen sushi rolls. And so I'm a small shareholder in that business, but I was trying to decide what to do next and I was approached by a company that was overseas and didn't have boots on the ground in the US. And having worn many hats, first as a salesperson, then as a...


a strategy consultant that is an investor and an entrepreneur myself with having tried on everything, I realized that I could be very helpful to these companies that were overseas and didn't have any resources here and could act as a kind of 360 solution for them. So my team and I at Mission Plant, we work with companies from pre-market getting ready for their launch to all their go-to-market strategy. And once they're in market, we act like an outsourced general management team helping to run their...


daily operations and marketing and sales opportunities.


Bryan (04:37.347)

That's awesome I honestly I can think of a couple I help coordinate 1 million cups locally And so there's a couple of vegan businesses. I've seen come through the million cups thing I should definitely connect you with on that front. That's that's just awesome to hear and see I guess I think I was just talking about this on another podcast with a few other people about how


David (04:48.893)

Great.


Bryan (05:00.542)

You know, Europe and the rest of the world seems to be getting it a little bit more than the people in the United States, right? They've already at least, you know, banned certain dyes and food colorings. They banned the high fructose corn syrup. I feel like this revolution is happening, like you said, like to get us back to more of that nature oriented foods and stuff. And so like.


You're bringing these foreign brands into the United States. And some of these challenges are that you are going up against the fact that the United States produces corn and we have a lot of corn left over and we have to turn it into something high fructose corn syrup being one of them. And like that's way cheaper than a lot of these other things to get to market and to get that mass adoption. So


You know, what, what tips do you have for businesses trying to enter into the United States or even the ones that are trying to get started here to get into the bigger box stores, et cetera, uh, help us unpack how to navigate that a little bit.


David (05:58.581)

So, I think the real attractive aspect of the reason that the companies are so interested in coming into the US is because the market's just so much more established and larger than a lot of the markets they're used to. Where I think you see that a lot of the European markets in particular are quite accelerated is to your point in terms of natural products, in terms of clean labels, in terms of protecting consumers and the environment from problematic ingredients.


When it comes to things like alternative protein, we've seen two different things. First, we've seen that the US is actually quite accelerated in terms of the size of the market and the adoption of these products over the last many years. But what happened in the last five, six years is that there was such a massive influx of capital into the US market in the alternative protein and plant-based spaces.


that we had companies grow very quickly, sometimes faster than demands could keep up. And in Europe and other places, they weren't able to do that. They kept growing organically and slowly. And so here, where we've had a bit of a dip in the market, largely tied to the fact that investors who were looking for these massive returns, who aren't really used to how food and packaged product companies grow and how they scale.


Bryan (06:56.503)

Yeah.


David (07:18.573)

were disappointed with the returns or the speed of returns they were getting. And so we're seeing valuations drop and sales start to decline. In Europe, on the other hand, you never had that kind of bubble. And so companies have grown slowly but organically and in a very stable way for many years. We will see a return to the growth here, but I think it's going to be more organic. A lot of what happened is that when you look at the way that packaged product companies and food companies in particular grow,


is a very high OPEX and CAPEX business, high operating expenditures and capital expenditures business to run a food company, right? You've got to buy ingredients, you've got to manufacture, you've got to transport that food all over the place. If it's not shelf stable, you've got a really big expense and challenge of transporting in an imperishable cold state way, then you've got to convince not only the restaurant, not only the distributor.


Bryan (08:09.383)

Mm-hmm.


David (08:13.473)

and the restaurant or the store, but then the consumer also to buy it. So there's so many middlemen that you need to work through. And when you need to convince all those people, the time to scale is really long and the margins are really thin because everybody's got a piece of the pie just to be able to get it into the consumer's hands. And so it can take many years for a company to reach profitability. And even when they do, companies in the food space may sell for


Bryan (08:17.515)

Yeah.


David (08:40.369)

two or three X revenue if you're lucky at maturity, right? That's a really fantastic exit. But a lot of the tech and real estate investors are expecting 40 or 50 X returns because one person coding behind their desk can build a multi-billion dollar business, but you can't do that in food.


Bryan (08:54.132)

Yeah. That's right. Yeah. And I think that's, that's very, very important to, to point out. Cause I've spoken to so many businesses getting started and like just the initial operating costs to buy the machines.


and to train the staff on how to use the machines. Because you have to build these things in bulk. So you're going to buy the big fermenter, the big whatever you need to do it. So yeah, it's such a big thing. So I hope that there's some innovators out there that are going to build these food innovation labs and stuff and collaborate with some of the smaller people to share the equipment.


Some of those kinds of things could be really helpful to helping. I know we're spoiled. We have one nearby here in Charlotte, but I think other cities need to innovate. That's right. Yeah. I love, love that spot. And there's so many cool, amazing vegan products coming out of that lab and that space. So you've successfully sold to businesses.


David (09:39.119)

Mm-hmm. North Carolina Food Innovation Center. Let's face it.


Bryan (09:54.69)

Um, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs sort of building a business, trying to get to that exit in mind, you just touched on it a little bit, but like, what are some of the secret ingredients to building on that, that roadmap?


David (10:07.413)

So I want to start by saying that successful exit, it depends on how you define it, right? I mean, I've been fortunate enough to keep businesses alive to the point of sale, sometimes with tremendous success, sometimes with less. And I think that's a reality of being an entrepreneur. And one of my favorite things to speak about is my failures. I really enjoy hearing other entrepreneurs share their mistakes and failures, and I've made many in my career. And so...


Bryan (10:12.23)

Yes.


Bryan (10:22.606)

Mm-hmm.


David (10:32.961)

I don't want to pretend that it's been all rosy and that I'm some, you know, guru of business, right? So much of it is about learning what works. The greatest learning I think I've had is that one has to be ready to pivot. And every single business I've had that has failed, it's because I saw that there was a need to pivot and I, and I shied away from it out of fear or shame or whatever it may have been that led me to not make the decision to make the change that I knew was necessary out of


Bryan (10:59.726)

Hmm.


David (11:00.329)

fear of setting my investors or fear of disproving the thesis that I had. And what does it mean if I was wrong and all these things. And the reality is that that's the entire point of business is that you're going to see what the customer wants, right? And you need to be willing to listen to the customer and see what works. Sometimes it's not just what the customer wants, also what's feasible. Right? I mean, the company that I had making plant-based seafood was an extraordinary success, except that, you know, we were making


Bryan (11:13.005)

Yeah.


David (11:28.369)

we were making trucks and trucks of raw tuna out of tomatoes, which meant that many more trucks of tomatoes, a supply chain year round of fresh tomatoes. It's really complex. And so one has to be open to the learnings and really willing to understand and learn and make changes. And that's the biggest learning I've had. And it's been the difference between success and failure. And the other thing, as I said, it's really about listening to the customer. I think that so many companies and so many entrepreneurs launch


Bryan (11:37.142)

Yeah. Yes.


David (11:58.245)

with the belief that they just need to sell or they just need to raise that extra dollar and then everything will work out. The reality is we often chase the wrong paths because we haven't asked the right questions and I'm a big believer in market validation and customer insights and consumer research. I'm privileged to be one of the partners in a business called Moonshot Collaborative, which does consumer insights work specifically with consumers beliefs around this space. And I think that really validating our assumptions.


Bryan (12:09.486)

Mm-hmm.


David (12:27.481)

seeing what flavors somebody really wants or what's the value proposition somebody really cares about. Are they really motivated because of the animals? Are they motivated because of health? Are they motivated because of cholesterol? Are they motivated because it's cheaper? We need to understand what the fundamental pain point that we're solving for consumers. Those are some of the things that I think about a lot and that I like to help companies think through.


Bryan (12:33.09)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (12:41.611)

Right.


Bryan (12:49.518)

Absolutely. I can't underscore that enough. Like my favorite book is talking with humans. It's this little 6070 page you can find the PDF online, but like it's all about customer discovery. You have to


David (12:55.53)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (13:03.658)

You have to line up those interviews and figure out what they want in a big, big way. So, um, it's, yeah, it's so interesting to see that, uh, micro, you know, I say fail fast and fail often, right? Like test that out, you know, spend 50 bucks on this or whatever, and whatever you need to do to, to test out your theory, uh, quickly. And then I'd say, um, you know, I'm trying to help.


businesses build some of these plant based advisory groups that they really need. Like you need to be able to bounce these crazy ideas you as a CEO have in your head off of two or three people to say like, you should run with that. Like I see there's some merit there. No, that's a little out there, too much capital to try it. So like, I can't underscore like find that partnership with your investors or find some advisors that you can lean on to have that kind of insight.


So what's going on at Mission Plant? Do you have some success stories? Do you have some companies that you can share about or give us some of the inside scoop if you can.


David (14:05.349)

Absolutely. So in the last few years, we've worked with a number of fantastic companies. We helped launch a company called CHKP Foods, which makes non-dairy yogurts and cream cheese out of chickpea. It's a fantastic company. We were privileged to be with them from the very beginning before they were chickpea foods, before they had their name, and before they launched in the US out of Israel. And really wonderful company that's been celebrated as an all-star at Whole Foods. And


Bryan (14:18.518)

awesome.


David (14:32.657)

Love for anybody to check them out, chkpfoods.com, delicious yogurt and cream cheese. Low in sugar, high in protein, really good stuff. Last year we worked with a company called Yoeg, which makes the, it's the world's first plant-based eggs with runny yolks. So they make poached eggs and sunny side up. They are unbelievably delicious. And you know, that's a good example of when we try to understand what the real pain point is, right?


Bryan (14:50.21)

Those videos are all over the internet. Those are, those look so cool.


David (15:01.753)

So many people think eggs are healthy and don't think about chicken sustainability that much or chicken welfare that much. And so in trying to understand the nuance there, what's so exceptional about those eggs for people who don't mind eating eggs is how hard they are to screw up. Now that sounds silly, but an insight that we got from speaking with consumers was they loved the versatility of eggs, but they hated the finnickiness of them. They hated that if their kid yells across the room and they need to avert their eyes for a second, their poached egg is ruined.


Bryan (15:16.231)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (15:24.426)

Yes.


David (15:31.237)

And so what's amazing about these eggs is the yolk will never set. You're never gonna have the risk of salmonella, so you don't have to worry about undercooking it. It can be microwaved in a minute flat. And so it's a really perfect egg every single time. And that's an insight that goes far beyond a plant-based diet, right? So that was a wonderful company to get to work with. I'm still privileged to be involved in that company as an advisor and friend. And right now we're working with two companies. One is called Mush Foods. It has a product called 50 Cut, which uses mycelium, the roots of mushrooms.


Bryan (15:50.519)

Mm-hmm.


David (16:00.369)

to blend with meat and the other company is called Anina and it's a company making these upcycled plant-based vegetable whole grain vegetable dishes ready to cook entrees that are absolutely delicious and It's a really great way to get your you know Two cups of two cups of vegetables in every serving high fiber high protein all in shelf stable dish So that's a really fun one as well


Bryan (16:02.135)

Yeah.


Bryan (16:21.805)

Yeah.


Bryan (16:25.506)

Those are some amazing ones. Yeah, I've seen so much happening in the mycelium space. So that's really exciting to see that continue to take off. Well, please invite them on the show for me. I'd love to do a deep dive on each of them if they're willing and able, but that sounds like some great, amazing ventures you've got. And I love that because my...


Daughter keeps asking me, can we play with the eggs? Cause she's, I guess, seen her friends doing it or whatever. And so like, you know, I have to get some of those and see if we can't have a crack at. Awesome. Well, tell us some of the, you know, you're in all these spaces and I'm sure your inbox is even more full than mine of some of the new cool things happening in this space. What are some of the trends that you see and which ones excite you the most?


David (16:55.061)

Great, well they just launched in retail, so they'll be much easier to find very soon.


David (17:14.281)

Definitely mycelium, as you said, is just top of everybody's mind. You know, there's something really special about this ingredient. If you're growing it like Mush Foods does when it's farmed, you know, the biomass of mushrooms, for example, which are just one of the fungi that have mycelium, but right, mushrooms, we usually eat the fruiting bodies, which is 5% of the biomass of this organism. The other 95% is trapped underground.


Bryan (17:26.19)

Mm-hmm.


David (17:41.317)

It has the same nutritional profile, the same taste and texture, unbelievably valuable from the consumption perspective, but we usually can't tap into that. And so what this company does is they grow it above ground, which allows us to access 60, 70% of that organism every seven to nine days when they can harvest it. So they're getting so much more nutrition, so much more incredible food, and so much more efficiently. Not only are they able to access so much more, but actually they don't need lighting or oxygen


the environment underground instead of above ground. So mycelium is an amazing ingredient that can be used for everything from fabrics to furniture to food, super, super healthy, high in protein and fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals, and it's a really great ingredient to play with for so many different things. Other areas that I'm really seeing excitement are in tapping some existing categories around new ingredients that are solving for...


Bryan (18:13.293)

Mm-hmm.


David (18:40.233)

particularly regenerative farming, soil issues, or other things. I just spoke to one entrepreneur at Natural Products Expo West who has a pecan milk. And pecan is an interesting nut. It's native to this country, unlike a lot of nuts here. It's extremely low in water usage, and yet nobody's really leveraging this incredible ingredient. And so she found that she can help restore our waterways and help to do so much for the environment while celebrating this really nutritious ingredient.


Bryan (19:02.752)

I don't want to touch a real lesson.


Bryan (19:08.651)

Yeah.


David (19:08.681)

So a lot of different things like that are happening as well.


Bryan (19:12.062)

That's awesome. I feel like what is it the hemp the hemp mycelium is the new hemp I fear remember hemp being the big thing whatever a while back But yeah, those that's some really cool stuff happening for sure I think mycelium is gonna change the game, especially when I feel like when the climate change hits


David (19:18.389)

Yeah. For sure.


Bryan (19:32.746)

certain point and we realized like we really have to stop with the This this insanity with the cows and it takes years to grow Etc and you can turn around this my ceiling like you said in a week or two Um, and yeah phenomenal phenomenal. So those are some great insights Um, and you I mean you have to work with at least a hundred or more brands. What what's been like that common?


factor that you've noticed of the most successful ones that you've helped work with.


David (20:04.361)

Humility, willingness to pivot, like I mentioned. Definitely humility. This is an industry that there is no such thing as going it alone. There are so many moving parts from the technical aspects of growing and manufacturing and safely manufacturing and transporting food to the nuances of marketing and sales and branding and distribution. There's so much going on. So really building a good team around you, surrounding yourself with good people and being humble is a huge part of it.


Bryan (20:30.59)

Mm-hmm.


David (20:32.189)

being thoughtful in the way you spend, it's not necessarily about having more money. You do need a lot of money for this, but it's not necessarily about always having more money. I think that was one of the mistakes that people over-raised and relied too much on the ability to access capital from outside rather than thinking about how to be more efficient with those dollars. But understanding how to spend and how things take time to grow is really, really important. And a resiliency, right? I mean, these are very difficult industries.


And one has to be willing to ride with the punches, know when to push through and ignore the nose and know when to pivot. And there's no perfect science to that. Sometimes it's an art of knowing when, you know, doors are gonna be slammed, but you still gotta break through them because you're the one with that crazy good idea. And sometimes you gotta say there's a reason that this does not work.


Bryan (21:08.29)

That's right.


Bryan (21:11.886)

Thanks for watching!


Bryan (21:17.674)

That's right. Yeah. And know when to join forces maybe and know when to, you know, do some more customer discovery at the farmer's markets or something. Um, I think it dovetails into like, I know I've been in the healthcare space and have helped many companies scale. Like there's this, um, inflection point, like we know, okay, we're onto something and now we're onto it.


David (21:30.953)

Absolutely.


Bryan (21:45.57)

How do we go from 300 per month to 3,000 per month? And how do we build that scaling thing? What are some of the significant challenges you see once you've proven that market and you're trying to scale?


David (21:58.961)

Yeah, so much of it is about it's, it's first of all, it's very dependent on the category you're in and the channel you're in. So if you're selling in retail versus food service versus direct to consumer, they're all very different nuances, but so much of it has to do with the partnerships you build. And really it is very, very difficult to try to build all these different pieces of the, of the engine together. And so.


Aligning your interest with your distributors, with your retailer, food service partners, and with the consumers all throughout the supply chain, as well as your suppliers is really, really important. Understanding what is actually going to motivate them down at the next step down your supply chain downstream. What's going to motivate that person to celebrate you and champion your product over others when they have a thousand in their catalog? What's going to motivate that store to give you the right eye level shelving or that menu?


designer to put you in two different places in the menu instead of one. Really understanding the needs of each person in the supply chain and helping to align your interests with theirs is going to determine your success.


Bryan (23:13.026)

The kids keep walking by, sorry about that. Thankfully we can edit, right? What I was going to say. So what I was going to say is like, I think you hit the nail on the head with the fact that like, when I go in as a fractional CTO, like half of my battle is looking at the process, you know what I mean? Like let's look at the process and let's look at it in painstaking detail. Cause this workflow.


David (23:15.198)

Alright.


David (23:20.181)

I've got kids today, guys.


Bryan (23:39.782)

is so important and I have to call it out again. Like you mentioned, like talk to the restaurateur and say like, don't just put me in one dish, let's put three different dishes on the menu or let's go look at the store shelves. Like, why can't I be in this front end cap and over there and put me next to the fruit or whatever it is, like whatever those things are. So like that attention to detail on every little step of the way, you can make a list of 500 things and you don't have to solve them all today.


But you just have to know if there's an opportunity to chip away at that. I love, love that.


David (24:13.137)

And it's about understanding what their pain point is and how you can solve them. Right. If you say, I want you to put me in two places in their store, they're going to say, that means I have fewer products that I can sell, but can you show them that you're being present in that section is also going to help upsell something else, right? There's a reason that there's a reason that at a July 4th weekend, all the chips are put next to the burgers and the ketchup and, you know, because people understand they can upsell. And so what can you do to enhance it? There's a reason salad dressings are now.


Bryan (24:17.198)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (24:22.808)

Yeah.


Bryan (24:27.767)

Right.


Bryan (24:34.37)

That's right.


David (24:40.805)

in the refrigerator next to the produce because they're realizing that they can sell more of it with vegetables.


Bryan (24:42.69)

Yep.


That's right. And give that premium real estate to the people that have the best margins or whatever that is as well, unfortunately. So, well, you're coming at this from an investor angle as well, and I know in this post pandemic world, in this post like cash influx world, I feel like the market has changed drastically. I even see it in some of the fractional work that I do that there's less money out there to a degree, but I still tell my companies,


There's plenty of money out there for the people that are proving that it's worth it. So what do you sort of see as the investment landscape for people trying to raise money?


David (25:25.841)

Absolutely. It is a very tough time to raise capital for anybody, maybe even more so in our category. And that has to do with inflation in food. There's a lot of reluctance around this space. But I think where a few years ago, we were thinking that there was unlimited access to investor capital, we've got to think now about how we're justifying that investor capital.


A few years ago, you've been like, oh, I might as well raise enough money to last me three years. Now you say, no, I'm going to raise in tranches. I'm going to raise enough to last me this one year. And then I'm going to raise a second amount when I've de-risked and proven that I can justify the next amount. It also enables you to get a better valuation because you're actually able to make the pie more attractive for the investor, prove out that you de-risked more or achieved more so they feel more comfortable investing in you. So I really think it's about...


taking steps and baby steps. And it's about understanding the story to tell the investor. There are a few things that I see as an investor that automatically are gonna get a no from me. The first is arrogance. I don't tolerate it. If an entrepreneur is arrogant with me, they've just door slammed. The second thing though is not understanding the bottoms up business model.


You know, the number of decks or pitches I see or hear that say, well, the snack category is a bajillion dollars. And so if we just get 1% of it, of course, nobody says to you how we're going to get 1% of it. If you could prove to me that this is how many snacks they were in one in every hundred was going to be yours, maybe we'd have a conversation. But I want somebody to say to me, look, I've looked at this category, the average velocities in retail in this category are seven units per scoop per store per week.


Bryan (26:56.587)

Yeah.


Bryan (27:04.214)

Yeah.


David (27:15.089)

If we hit the average within a year, we'll be at that. So if we have this many SKUs in this many stores, and then we add this many stores the next year and this many, and then this many SKUs, our sales are going to go from A to B to C. That shows to me that you understand the real business. Because I think people are unrealistic. In many retail stores, you might be lucky if you sell five units per SKU per store per week. Imagine you got three flavors in a store like a Whole Foods.


Each is selling five units and it's selling at a $7 price point. You might gross $3 out of that after the retailer and distributor are taken out of it. And so you're talking about 15 units at $2 or $3 a piece per week per store. If you're grossing, that's before you take out your cogs and everything else. So you've really got to understand what kind of capital you're going to get from each of these and what investment it takes to stay on the shelf. And so I want people to understand and be able to show me that they really understand the numbers.


Bryan (27:51.115)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (28:07.958)

Yeah.


David (28:13.565)

What's your contribution margin on this skew in this month? I know there are investors at series B, series C want to see that, but I need to know that you know how to make money on one unit. I need to know that you understand your unit economics. I need to know that you understand how you're going to do the build to where you're going to get. And that's more important than any big numbers that you're trying to show off to me.


Bryan (28:19.444)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (28:23.095)

Yep.


Bryan (28:26.307)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (28:35.21)

Yeah. I, I agree completely. I, I run into that all the time as I try to walk them through that. And, um, some of them just need a class in Excel, but, uh, some of them need that background in, and how, how even getting into the bigger box stores work. You know what I mean? Some of them are pay to play. Some of them are, you know, free trial, whatever, and one store to prove it works. So there's like so many different ways you can, uh, spin that to get your foot in the door. Um, and I think.


Go ahead.


David (29:06.14)

One of the biggest mistakes people can make is going somewhere too big too fast.


Bryan (29:10.474)

That's right. Cause you can you even keep up with the manufacturing pieces of it, right? And the supply chain and right.


David (29:12.563)

as.


David (29:15.729)

You keep up with the manufacturing and also when you're at a place like that, are those consumers your consumers yet? Is there enough brand awareness? Are those consumers similar enough to your early adopter who's more similar to the lifestyle or the value proposition or the cost that you're expecting that you're going to get enough of them to stay on shelf? You need to sell enough at a time to make sure that there's nothing that could have done better than you or they're going to throw you out. And if they throw you out, you're not getting back in. So you're better off starting where you're likely to do well.


Bryan (29:23.169)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (29:30.594)

Okay. Yeah.


Bryan (29:40.374)

That's right.


David (29:45.585)

at a store that has consumers that are more appropriate for you, where you're likely to hit the numbers you need and then slowly build up.


Bryan (29:53.618)

Absolutely. And I think, I think one of the other things I see in the startup space is the challenges around regulation. So like, you know, okay, I'm worried about my nutritional label or what's a QR code, what's your PC code, all those things. So, um, what, what's your thoughts on how you help businesses, you know, get that first, you know, sticker on there that says, look, we've, we've vetted for how many calories, et cetera, et cetera.


Those things can get pretty costly.


David (30:26.441)

So a couple quick tips. One of them is a really small one, but it's massively important. There's a website called gs1us.org. That is the only website where you can buy original barcodes. If you Google buy barcodes, you're gonna find a million companies, because when you buy barcodes, you get a set of a hundred of them. So you're gonna find a million companies that tried to resell their barcodes. But when you scan that number,


Bryan (30:48.78)

Yeah.


David (30:54.917)

It's still going to come up as their company. I've scanned packages of ice cream and had it come up as Norwegian salmon. And that's a problem. You can only buy original barcodes from that place. If you try to go to whole foods or a major store or Sodexo or something, and you bring them a barcode that's not for your company, they're not going to accept it. So gs1us.org, barcodes, that's the only option. When it comes to nutritional labels, the, the standard labels are very specific and very standard.


Bryan (30:57.055)

Okay.


Bryan (31:01.865)

Hehe


Bryan (31:13.014)

Yeah.


David (31:24.321)

They're regulated by the FDA. There are websites where one can make those labels like RECI PAL or other places where you put in your ingredients and the volumes and then it spits out a label for you. You could also get it tested at a lab which is even more accurate and which is required by larger customers to prove that you actually have certain limits or certain numbers. Whatever you do, once you have your label completed, both the nutrition panel, the ingredient list and the marketing and design of your label,


Bring it to a lawyer who specializes in food law. Bring it to somebody like Rebecca Cross at Green Fair Law, who's a wonderful friend of the plant-based industry, or somebody else like that who really understands the nuances of how big the barcode legally has to be, what colors it has to be, what fonts you're allowed to use, where the nutrition panel has to be relative to the front of pack. There's something called a statement of identity, which is the type of product it is. Is it a 100% fruit juice? You can't just say apple juice.


If it's 30% Apple, you've got to say it's what it is. So there's all these regulations and the government does not pre-approve these things, but if you don't follow them, somebody's going to sue you and that sucks. And so I highly recommend speaking to an attorney. It's a very quick process. They do this in a flash and they can help you avoid any of those mistakes.


Bryan (32:24.962)

Great.


Bryan (32:36.95)

Yeah.


Bryan (32:46.41)

I mean, and I have to put out that warning. I worked for a movie theater. I worked for a couple of these other businesses and there are companies out there that just go and find problems with you and raise the lawsuit to get the money from you. So they're all over the place and they will find you eventually. So dot your I's, cross your T's and make sure you got a good swing at it. We want you to be successful and to help change the world if you're watching. So.


David (32:59.517)

Yes.


Bryan (33:11.158)

Help me close it out. What's the vision for Mission Plant? What are you looking forward to? What will you hope to have in the US market soon?


David (33:20.277)

We're just so excited and privileged to support companies that are doing really groundbreaking things. Being in the space for 15 years, I'm so lucky that I get to be choosy. And I get to work with companies that are really changing the game. And I'm particularly excited about those companies that are doing something that's disruptive, that's opening up new categories. And I personally enjoy the ones where it's a little complex with how to speak to the consumer and what the argument is for the consumer, what the value proposition is. I really enjoy that kind of stuff.


Every year I get to see amazing companies coming forward. Mission Plan is excited to see this industry thrive. I want to see other people do what we're doing in other markets. Frankly, if I had the language, cultural, and geographical expertise, I'd be doing this in China where I could influence even more. I just don't have any of those things and I'm not arrogant enough to think I could. We need more supports across the world.


Bryan (34:07.81)

Yeah.


David (34:15.805)

beautiful thing is this industry is growing and there's always space for anybody with any skill set to get in. So I highly recommend that if you are passionate about film or passionate about accounting or whatever it may be, there are ways to help this cause with your skill set. So when I got into the industry, I mapped out the entire food industry from farm to fork and looked at every single job that existed there. And I decided that I'd land on sales marketing and strategy.


Bryan (34:31.799)

I love it.


David (34:43.709)

I'd never thought I would, I never even knew what marketing was until that time. And so, you know, if you're trying to figure it out, there is a place for you. We need you all. And the animals and the environment and people's hearts are going to thank you.


Bryan (34:47.511)

Yeah.


Bryan (34:55.682)

Absolutely. Well said, David. I think you should come back whenever you've got another round of cohort of companies coming through and spread the word. You've been just dropping tons of amazing advice, some great websites to check out. Um, how can the community that's watching this help you? What are the best ways to get in touch?


David (35:14.473)

Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. And it's a privilege to be here. Definitely you can find me at missionplant.com or on LinkedIn. That's the best place to find me. I'm very active there. If you are wanting to help me, one thing you could do is if you know of any companies overseas in the plant-based space that are looking to enter the US, please send them my way. And also wherever your business is, if you are thinking about launching something or you're launching a new product or rebranding or something,


Please consider hiring my research company, Moonshot Collaborative, to do surveys or interviews for you. We can very affordably help you to avoid some major disasters that can cost you a lot more in the long run. I've seen the benefits. I've seen what happens when you don't test and then when you do test. So moon is another great resource. And really look forward to hearing from everybody. Please join the space and let's go.


Bryan (36:08.878)

Clearly you are an expert in this space, David. Thank you so much for connecting with us and being on the show. I hope to have you back on soon. So if you've got some questions, the best way to get in touch with us is to like and subscribe whatever platform you're watching this on so you can see more of this cool, amazing thing happening in our plant-based space. But put your comments down below so the next time we have David on, we've got a long list of questions to help address with him.


David (36:16.053)

Good luck.


Bryan (36:35.882)

Because he's obviously got a lot of insights and experiences to share with our community. So thank you again David for being on the show Until next time everybody let's keep that fire burning


David (36:44.085)

Thank you so much for having me.


26 views

Comments


Our Real Men Eats Plants Podcast Is Here!

You can listen to our podcast on any of these portals.


Apple Podcasts     Spotify     Stitcher     Amazon Music     Google Podcasts     RMEP Podcast Website Page

bottom of page