Deb Luster, chief impact officer and co-founder of new macaroni and cheese company GOODLES is no stranger to Expo West, having attended her first show back in 1991. The 50-time healthy food innovator, including a stint as president and co-founder of Annie’s mac and cheese, has been driving brand growth for decades.
This year, she’ll be showing up in Anaheim with a new company that’s shaking up the noodle aisle. With all-star team of co-founders, including Gal Gadot (yes, Wonder Woman!), Jen Zeszut and Paul Earle, GOODLES is sure to be one of Expo West 2022's most buzzworthy exhibitors. From celebrating community, staying up to date on trends and embracing kindness to telling the GOODLES brand story and serving up mouthwatering macaroni and cheese, we connected with Luster on what it means to do things the “gooder” way on—and off—the tradeshow floor.
Tell us a little bit about Goodles and its mission.
Deb Luster: GOODLES are noodles, gooder! We founded the brand with a proprietary noodle recipe that is packed with nutrients but looks, tastes, cooks and chews just like the noodles we all love. We also believe that small acts of gooderness can have a huge impact. To us, GOODLES represents the start of a larger Gooder movement and mission, giving people permission to love their favorite foods while mobilizing people to spread acts of kindness into the world.
Chief Impact Officer is an awesome and extremely important role to have at any company right now. Can you share what that means at GOODLES?
DL: Our company is more than a food brand. It is completely mission based and our promise is to “Make, Be, and Do Gooder,” which I try to do every day both professionally as chief impact officer and in my personal life. As chief impact officer at GOODLES, I help in every aspect of the business but most importantly, I build partnerships with organizations that share our same mission. Our first partnership was with World Central Kitchen where we have been giving away at least 1% of all the products we sell to them to help feed communities in need. With this partnership, we are both being and doing Gooder which is crucial to our business. We also do Gooder quietly by personally challenging ourselves to create actionable tiny, surprising opportunities within our communities. For example, I have put Googly Eyes on something unexpected in my neighborhood to help spark joy!
Why is this work such a personal passion?
DL: As the founding president of Annie’s over 30 years ago, I helped them build one of the first multimillion-dollar companies focused on authenticity, transparency and genuine connection to our customers and community. Since then, I have helped to grow dozens of companies focusing on 3 P’s: Product, Purpose and the People. GOODLES is the culmination of all these learnings—my full circle moment is back to mac and cheese - authentic idealism and genuine brand magic. I am so excited to bring long overdue innovation and nutrition to our beloved mac and cheese category, while building an authentic community of do-gooders who also believe small acts can have a huge impact.
How can companies tell these purpose-driven stories on and off the show floor?
DL: We love telling Do Gooder stories through our many social channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn. There, we highlight Do Gooder actions/moments, Do Gooder organizations and communities and spotlight Do Gooder individuals, while challenging and inspiring our community to participate.
You’re no stranger to the natural products industry. What have been some of your most significant learnings after years of attending Expos?
DL: This industry is ever changing and these Expos have helped me stay up to date on new trends and innovative ideas in the food space. They also have shown me how important it is to network with those in your industry and to strengthen these relationships year after year because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together!
How is GOODLES preparing for its first Natural Products Expo?
DL: We have all hands on deck for the show. We are preparing by creating a fun booth representing who we are, finding collaboration partners at the show, and getting ready to serve mac and cheese while celebrating our community. We know if people walking the show try our mac, they will fall in love!
What are you hoping to get out of this year’s show personally and professionally?
DL: Personally, I am hoping to make new, lasting connections with members of the audience and brands being showcased. Professionally, our goal is to get GOODLES in the hands of everyone here, to give you all permission to love your favorite foods again, and to spread acts of gooderness into the world. Since I have been going to the show since 1991, I will also be seeing a lot of old friends!
I know mentoring entrepreneurs is another passion of yours. What are your words of wisdom for our amazing first-time exhibitors?
DL: Try to walk the show and meet others … At one of my first Expos, I met some people that became lifetime touchstones in the industry. There are many opportunities to create lasting relationships, partnerships and community. Also, be kind to everyone that comes up to your booth, especially those that have their badges turned over.
Be sure to join Deb Luster and a panel of industry insiders next Wednesday, Feb. 16, in Natural Products Expo Virtual (NPEV) for top tips on how brands can make the most of their time in Anaheim. Plus, hear from co-founder Gal Gadot during the Feb. 16 NPEV Keynote!
Expo Brand Bootcamp | Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 8:50 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. PST
Keynote: A conversation with GOODLES founders Gal Gadot and Jen Zeszut | Wednesday, February 16, 2022 8:00 a.m. PST to 8:30 a.m. PST
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