Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups are great. They’re really, really, really great. Coveted and purchased by the case …by more than a few people I know. The all-natural peanut butter cups are USDA-certified organic and use only high-quality Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa. The straightforward and pure ingredients make these and all Justin’s peanut butter cups and nut butters, protein-packed goodness that we buy, hoard and savor again and again.
Justin Gold, Founder and Co-CEO of Justin’s, started the company in 2004 while working at REI. Over 10 years of hard work, vision and commitment has made Justin the successful entrepreneur he is today (and landed him a coveted spot in the Top 15 on the Inc. 500/5000 Fastest Growing Companies list, in the Food and Beverage category, two years in a row).
A visionary, Justin leads his team with positivity, humility and kindness. The Brandettes were lucky enough to catch up to him at the 2015 Natural Products Expo West for a sneak peak at his new Mini Peanut Butter Cups, a silly photo AND a look behind this booming brand.
Your packaging is so distinctive and bold, yet pretty straightforward. How did you decide on your graphics and have you ever been tempted (or asked) to change it?
Justin Gold (JG)- We actually did change our packaging. Our original branding was very colorful and magical, and focused as much on me as it did on the product. It was the perfect imagery to start locally and at the farmers market!
As the company grew, I realized that we needed a national consumer base and needed something playful yet serious, premium yet humble, natural/organic, yet delicious and could be on any shelf in any store in the US. Sound easy? Somehow our agency partner, TDA, nailed it. Once we put the spotlight on the ‘heroic nut’ I knew there’d be no turning back.
Negotiating great shelf space is a big part of ensuring not only product placement, but helps drive strong sell through as well. Any personal tips for winning a skeptical buyer over?
JG- This is a challenging question. There are lots of ways to gain ‘eye to thigh’ placement and, at the end of the day, none of these suggestions may work. First of all, you have to earn premium placement. There are several ways to do that:
- Build a solid relationship with the buyer
- Demonstrate high velocities
- Bring high dollar or margin contribution
- Have a popular brand (again leveraging the buyer relationship)
- Support placement with lots of demo’s, sampling, etc.
If the store doesn’t run a planogram your chances are greater to have influence on placement. Know where you want to be and how you can achieve that (moving other brands around, single facing double faced SKU’s, etc.), then walk the buyer over and just ask! Let them know that you’ll be willing to do the work right now and that it won’t take you more than a few minutes. If they say no, then be patient and try again after you’ve earned their trust.
We’ve heard you say sampling was a pretty big part of your success story. Can you share some advice for helping a new brand design a sampling strategy that really works?
JG- When starting out, I recommend only sampling at small events; better yet, only sample at the store. The goal is to train the consumer on where to find your products and for them to repeat purchase when you’re not there. Small events are OK because you have an opportunity to chat and create a memorable experience for testers. Once you’re a larger brand and have a tremendous presence at retail, then I recommend you start investing in a presence at larger events.
You’ve talked about your team at Justin’s being integral to your growth. What are some things you do at Justin’s to help encourage a productive and positive company culture?
JG- It’s everything and, mostly common sense, that keeps a culture positive. What is the right thing to do? How do you want your company or office space to feel? Be honest, open, positive, engaging, friendly, caring and kind to people. Your company is your family and if you take care of them, they’ll take care of you, and better yet, each other. Let people lead, let them make mistakes and listen. Great leadership isn’t always what you do, but what you don’t do.
Where do new product ideas come from and how do you ensure you’re headed in the right direction?
JG- Product ideas come from everywhere and everyone all the time! But I feel the best ones are filtered through an unmet market need that we are extremely passionate about solving. The future of our business is really around nutritious, on the go snacking that fuels our lives and adventures.
Festival season is fast approaching- what Justin’s product is perfect for Coachella?
JG- The peanut butter packs because you can squeeze it into your ears if you forget your earplugs. 😉
Let’s get to know the man behind the brand- what’s your power song?
JG- Ain’t No Easy Way – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
True or False- Jelly has a place on a Justin’s nut butter sandwich?
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