With 23 years in the industry and experience sitting on several private equity-backed boards (he recently left the board of Justin’s), John Maggio will join the panel discussion “Telling Your Story at Retail: How to Get Your Product OFF the Shelf,” at Natural Products Business School at Expo East. Maggio is an operating partner and advisory board member with AccelFoods, an accelerator for early-stage packaged food and beverage companies. Here, he gives us a taste here of what we can expect to learn during that session.
What can we expect from your Expo East panel?
John Maggio: I suspect it will be a collaborative conversation with some do’s and don'ts thrown in. In short, demos are important as ever but there are many ways to create buzz through social media, digital coupons and trial sampling that I'd like to explore with the group.
Building great food, a beautiful brand and a solid team only gets you so far. If you can't move your product off the shelf, how will anyone ever see what you've done! The heavy lifting really comes after
the product reaches the shelf, although many falsely believe that just hitting the shelves is a win.
How does Accel differ from other VC funds that operate in the natural foods space?
JM: AccelFoods has an accelerator "arm" and a venture "arm." We're the first to do this in our space. Our supplier partners, mentors and advisors help build a solid base for early-stage companies. We make larger investments in the growth companies we see breaking out within categories we like and teams we love! Our investment size also helps set us apart as much earlier-stage than most traditional VCs.
There's been a proliferation recently in the number of mainstream CPG companies launching VC funds to invest in natural brands. What impact is that having on the startup climate for natural foods brands, as well as on other investment/accelerator entities?
JM: I think it shows that CPG recognizes the tremendous volume of innovation and it's great to see them coming to the table earlier. Regarding AccelFoods, specifically, we have a great relationship with all of the CPG groups that have launched funds. One of the amazing things about this industry is the willingness to share practices and information to grow the collective movement. For Big CPG, it can always benefit from looking deeper into the entrepreneurial world, and for small companies, the benefits from the collective brain trust at a big CPG company is fantastic. Time will tell, but it sure should be a win-win situation.
Do you ever see growth occurring too quickly? How does Accel strike a balance between growing quickly and not growing too much too fast?
JM: ‘Too fast’ can be a drain on cash and margin for sure. ‘Fast and big’ are both pretty relative terms, but we encourage strategic growth, not just growth for the sake of more revenue. Brand building really can't be short-cut although some of the consolidation, combined with the increasing online interfaces, has created outlets for more buzz, sooner.
What are some of the biggest or most common mistakes you see smaller natural products companies make?
JM: A solid financial and fact-based selling plan. At AccelFoods we work really hard to make sure our entrepreneurs understand the impact of the hard work and thoughtful planning to make sure financial and sales goals are aligned. Many early stage companies don't understand the myriad costs that impact gross margin, or when and how.
Catch Natural Products Business School at Expo East.
When:7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sept. 21, 2016
Where: Hilton Holiday Ballroom 6
Learn more here.