We sat down with Lisa Mann, Managing Director and CMO of Raines International and former President of Global Nutrition as PepsiCo to discuss the future of branding in the food industry...
brandbuch: After you finished your MBA at Harvard, you centered your career around the world of food. What made you stay in this industry for more than 20 years?
Lisa: Three reasons: I love food, it’s always changing, and people are very passionate about food they love.
brandbuch: How has the category changed since you started?
Lisa: There’s been so much change! Mostly changes have been around health and wellness. The role of food has changed - food as medicine is a rising trend. And people wanting to take control of their health and using food as an important lever.
brandbuch: Health/Good for you has been a big trend that is here to stay. Brands are trying to find the right balance between health and flavour / indulgence. How can brands succeed in delivering both?
Lisa: Brands have to do both - they have to be delicious and good for you. Where things have changed is that people are smarter about health and wellness. There’s a role for indulgence, but it’s a little different now. On trend indulgence is ethically sourced and traceable cacao, for example. Ingredients really matter and how they come to us.
brandbuch: Can you give us some examples of brands that are doing it right?
Lisa: Oatly, Califia, Ben & Jerry’s always does it right. Sweetgreens. Trader Joe’s. Lily’s chocolate. From the Ground Up chips. SmartSweets. Hu chocolate. Nuts.com here in the US. Bob’s Red Mill.
brandbuch: I am curious about how you manage food with your big family, making sure they keep a healthy balance. What do you eat at home?
Lisa: Two of my three kids, my 24 year old twin daughters, moved in when the pandemic began. We’ve been cooking together ever since. We eat very clean and enjoy our indulgences. Our favorite dinner of the pandemic is my shredded brussel sprout salad (shredded brussel sprouts and parmesan cheese with simple dressing: EVOO, dijon mustard, lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper) with any lean protein, e.g., steak, chicken, salmon. One daughter has become quite the sourdough bread maker. And we all have our go-to indulgences. My girls like Van Leeuwen ice cream. I like Lily’s no sugar added chocolate. And my husband likes the sourdough bread toasted and topped with artisan jam.
brandbuch: You left Pepsico to focus on helping small businesses succeed in disrupting the food category. How has your experience been as an advisor for these innovative companies?
Lisa: Very gratifying. Entrepreneurs/disruptors are brilliant people, eager to learn and always challenging the status quo. It’s an honor to help them grow their businesses. These people are usually solving a problem they have themselves. Creating a product they couldn’t find. So many of them aren’t business people or marketers first. I love partnering with them because we always have so much respect for one another and an unquenchable curiosity to solve problems and succeed.
brandbuch: What would you say the future of the industry looks like?
Lisa: The future looks bright. Consumers are demanding good products and entrepreneurs are delivering. Even before the pandemic people supported new food brands, ones that have a purpose, enhance people’s lives, and offer variety along with function. If you’re like me, you’re planning meals and snacks all the time. It’s my favorite hobby! I wake up thinking about what I want to eat that whole day while I savor every sip of my coffee. Of course out of home eating will return… but the whole world has tried new products and recipes and they’re liking it. These new habits will stay and evolve. It will create opportunities for product loyalty and trial.
We haven’t even touched on how E-commerce is an enabler. Now that there’s a much higher level of adoption of e-commerce for groceries, manufacturers are figuring out how to leverage this distribution channel to both meet the needs of their loyal consumers and to find new ones. The good thing about food is we eat it every day, we’re passionate about it and there’s always innovation. Innovation of form, flavor, packaging, sustainability, ingredients, processes… the list goes on. Literally, it will never go stale!
brandbuch: As you know, at brandbuch, we are strong defenders of purpose as an engine for sustainable growth. It seems that there are many new start-ups that are capable of having a strong purpose, while big companies are less credible. How can big food companies refocus their business around purpose?
Lisa: Big companies can refocus around purpose if it’s authentic. They can’t change their backstory, so there needs to be some truth behind their purpose. It can be done, but brand folks need to be careful and hold themselves to a high standard.
brandbuch: There is a new generation of “clean lifers” coming who are very conscious and responsible. It is a generation that controls their spending and looks at every small detail before making a purchase. How can food brands be attractive to them?
Lisa: Food brands have to embrace “good for you and good for the planet” ethos. These clean lifers demand great taste and functionality AND sustainability. Packaging matters. Ingredients matter. Business processes, employee benefits… there’s no room for “posers.”
brandbuch: Last question. What does your future look like? What’s next?
Lisa: I’m very excited to share that I will be joining Raines International, an executive search and talent consulting firm, as Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer. As I look back on my career as a marketer and business leader, I know that true success comes from strong teams. I loved building highly effective teams and nurturing talent, supporting people to reach their potential, and also making tough strategic choices. In this next chapter, I will help business leaders build their c-suite team and support them as they identify big goals and work to achieve them.