Lost in the Supermarket

Nice Cream Ice Cream

March 22, 2021 SupermarketGuru
Lost in the Supermarket
Nice Cream Ice Cream
Chapters
Lost in the Supermarket
Nice Cream Ice Cream
Mar 22, 2021
SupermarketGuru

SupermarketGuru and RDBA CEO interviews co-founders and best friends Hannah Hong and Mollie Cha from Must Love, a modern-day non-dairy ice cream brand.

Show Notes Transcript

SupermarketGuru and RDBA CEO interviews co-founders and best friends Hannah Hong and Mollie Cha from Must Love, a modern-day non-dairy ice cream brand.

Phil:

Thanks for joining us today on Lost in the Supermarket today, we're going to talk about a nice cream, an ice cream company. That's really making a difference. Must love, which is a modern day non-dairy ice cream brand must love is a hundred percent plant-based non-GMO and it's available at all sprouts nationwide, hopefully a lot more stores to come. And the Muslim mission is to create the most delicious dairy free treats that bring together ice cream lovers who want to make healthier choices. I'm joined by co-founders and best friends, Molly Cha, and Hannah Hong. Hannah has a background in brand management and serves as the creative side of most love. Molly brings nearly 15 years of experience in finance and the CPG industry. So I've got it . First of all, welcome to Lost in the supermarket.

Hannah:

Thank you Phil so excited to be with you.

Phil:

So, you know, talk to me about the beginning . What made you decide to go into business together? Number one, cause I know very often when friends go into business together, they don't stay friends very long and , and do a non-dairy ice cream. Give us the origins.

Hannah:

Um, I think I'll answer the non-dairy part first. So Molly and I have both been lactose intolerance and so our early twenties, so we've always been in the non-dairy space as consumers, like literally when the only thing available with soy milk. Um, but uh, you know, we were on the lookout for a plant based ice cream that could really satisfy our sweet tooth, but we didn't feel like we had to compromise on our , our health choices. And so, you know , we couldn't really find something that, that fit the bill in supermarkets, because plant-based doesn't necessarily always mean healthy. And then, so we created must love. Um, so that's a little bit about the product and then do you want to handle the best friends?

Molly:

Well, we've been best friends for over 16 years now. We met, u m, in undergraduate. So i t it's quite a bit of time a nd, y ou k now, it's kind of crazy to think how long ago it was. But, u m, you know, we, we were in school together. We were roommates in our early twenties, lots of crazy adventures together. U m, you know, ended up, I moved to the East coast and Hannah was in LA and I found myself back in Los Angeles and H annah actually recruited me to work with her at our previous job before starting m ust love. So we had the chance to work together as colleagues, u m, and we worked in food. So I think at top of mind, both of us have a really entrepreneurial spirit. So we were really excited about, u m, you know, the prospect of starting something together. So I think just thinking about different food ideas, that's kind of what our d ay t o job was at our previous company. And the dream I think was always to find a way to, you know, we were working together at the time, but start something together. So we did actually have a pretty deep conversation in those early years, because exactly to your point, we've seen so many friendships and family dynamics really shift when people go into business together. So we were really thoughtful about not saying like, Oh, this would be fun working with my best friend, but really thinking through what the impact of that was going to be. Um, we actually spent a weekend like grilling each other on what their philosophies about starting a business were like and how we would resolve conflicts, even though we had been roommates together. Um, and so we, we, we were really thinking through all of that really carefully before starting the company. So I think that having that conversation up front was really important , um, and kind of set the tone to make sure that bottom line success or failure, like our friendship is the most important thing. Um, and you know, four or five years later we've been able to maintain, I think even a closer relationship,

Hannah:

I call it our like premarital counseling, that self guided premarital counseling.

Phil:

So, you know, you went to Berkeley, so you grew up in , in the hotbed of health and wellness, if you would having a little bit of myself. Um, so you know, what kind of influence did that, you know, Bay area, Alice Waters , um, you know, influence have on the kind of recipes that you wanted to develop?

Hannah:

I mean, I think that's very insightful , um, that it definitely had an impact on our food philosophy because we've our most formative years were spent , um , you know, in undergrad and immediately afterwards in Berkeley and then in San Francisco, which there's so much innovation on California cuisine and , um, you know, farm to table, all of that like really came from that area and , and Alice Waters, like you mentioned, like the pioneer in that. And , um, so we were always looking for, you know, products in supermarkets that could also live up to that kind of value that we expected from like restaurants and our personal cooking at home. And , um, so I think that definitely did have an impact. Anything else?

Molly:

I think, you know, fundamentals who are our ice cream. So we have two specific kind of basis of our, of our ice cream. One is bananas and that was the original recipe we formulated it's really ingredient first. And , um, you know, we want it to lean on the natural sweetness and the texture of real fruit. So it's, it's bananas, coconut milk and dates, dates where additional sweetness and you know, some flavor. And so when you were original re originally formulating, we didn't go to an R and D house to just say, this is kind of the , yeah , the idea. And this is the calorie count we wanted to hit. We started with bananas. The inspiration was literally like bananas in fr frozen a food processor. And it has the texture of saucer. You can't just automatically freeze that because of the chemistry of ice cream. Right. But that was the inspiration and , and through development and working with our partners and developing it in our own commercial kitchen, when you first started, we wanted to make sure that ingredients were the kind of forefront of it. Um, and making sure that we were not hiding behind science, which is great. I , I, we love innovation and food that that's our background, but for our personal food philosophy, I think there are a lot of influences on whole ingredients and being as close to the source as possible. I mean, we love packaged food, but also we're home chefs love to cook. Um, and so I think that this is the closest you can get other than making yourself at home.

Phil:

So from what I read, you know, must love , um , wants to be a fun, friendly, higher purpose brand. Why , why say fun, friendly, higher purpose brand instead of, you know, committing to the environment, making money? I mean, all that kind of stuff.

Hannah:

I mean, I , I don't think that we are not committed to the environment and we don't want to make money. So things are still true. Um , but I think the pinnacle of any sort of branded product is to have an emotional connection with the consumer. And , um, the , you know, the reason behind our name must love and then our product category being a fun-filled category, like you don't eat ice cream for vitamins or you shouldn't anyway. Um, that's the idea behind like the feeling we want to create in our consumers, because it is when you share ice cream with your family or friends, it is about togetherness and having fun. And we're trying to impart a little bit of our best friendship through our branding to our consumers.

Phil:

So if I was going to apply for a senior level job at most love, you're going to say no.

Hannah:

Yeah , because you're not our best friend going to become friends,

Phil:

But I'm not a girl.

Molly:

No, no, no, we not, not a requirement. We are probably women led and founded. Um, but that definitely is not a requirement. Um , I think, you know, the brand personality stems from our, our initial friendship and , uh, that's kind of the feeling we w we want you to get when, look at our packaging and just enjoy the product, but definitely, you know, there's , uh , I think what's important from a corporate perspective is that we don't take ourselves too seriously. Um, obviously we are serious people. We run a company, but we do want to enjoy life and have our product be something that people share with our family . So that's really more of the brand personality that we want to bring forward with, with Muslims ,

Phil:

Share with me the conversations that you have with supermarket buyers that, you know, you're a startup, you're female led , you've got something unique, you've got something special, you've got something fun. Um , and you're sitting down in front of , uh, probably not right now during the pandemic, but prior to the pandemic, you know, you're sitting down with this buyer of ice cream from the supermarket chain. Who's probably pretty jaded. Who's probably, you know, just been there for like 20 years and saying, Hey , yeah, I've heard it all. Um, what, what's been your experience talking to supermarkets and what have you learned?

Hannah:

Um, I think at the end of the day, no matter what, it always comes down to taste. Um, Molly loves telling the story, which now I'm going to tell a story about the very first time we ever walked into a grocer. Um, it was a independent Leebron grocer , um, in downtown Los Angeles. And we had an appointment, but we walked in and , uh , we had a whole sales pitch ready, like a 20 page PowerPoint presentation. And we started going through it and he was just like, stop, stop, stop. Let me just taste it. Grab the spoon, literally out of his pencil cup holder and dug into our art . We didn't even have packaging at the time we put our ice cream in Delhi cops that looked like homeless containers. They were clean and new, but they looked like hummus. And , um, and he just ate it and he tried two or three of the flavor though . I was like, okay, do you want to bring it in next week? And that was, that was the conversation. And that , you know, it's evolved since then, but I think the root of it or the root or the core of the conversation is still really the same. They , at the end of the day, you need to taste it. And that's what sells the product.

Phil:

So in the era of COVID , um, where in-store sampling is not , um, permitted , um, how are you getting that spoonful in consumer's mouth ?

Hannah:

That was a huge challenge and continues to be since we're still in it. Um, what we found is , um, digital marketing has been really helpful. Um, there's nothing that can fully replace that in-person interaction of a demo and trying it, you know, in store, but , um, digital marketing has been helpful in filling that gap a little bit. And so we've taken the money that we would normally invest in , in demos and put that towards , uh , digital ads to be able to remind our consumers and reach new consumers. Um, and then I think it's really down to the type of content you're serving to make sure that you're trying to communicate as much of the tastiness of your product as possible through a computer, which is hard. It's hard.

Molly:

Yeah. And I think also , uh , in our category, it's, it's very heavily promoted. So , um, we, we try to have a pretty healthy promotional schedule in terms of , um, you know, dollar offs just to, to incentivize people that are exploring the category to pick us up to try. So that initial trial is still happening, but it's definitely, you know, behind a frozen door. So it's much more challenging. So I think just making sure that we're still maintaining a healthy, if not even more aggressive promotional schedule to make sure if people are still searching online when they're online, grocery shopping, or if they're able to go in store that there is some exploration, it does incentivize people, if you're a dollar off or on BOGO , um , people will pick it up to try. So, you know, sampling, there's no replacement for that, but for the foreseeable future, we don't see that happening at least in our category. So we're trying to figure out other ways to get to that point. Exactly.

Phil:

So you're in an emerging category, plant-based , uh, call a plant base , plant forward, whatever , um, look into your crystal balls. And what is plant based going to look like in a year or two?

Hannah:

I think there's , um, two different ways that a lot of brands and consumers are approaching plant-based , there's like the more sciency for lack of a better word , uh , where there's like lab grown meat or lab grown dairy. Um, but it's still is meat or dairy in a sense. Um, I, I can't pretend to like, fully understand how it works because that's not our , our philosophy, but there's not way. And I think there's a lot of strides being taken that way. Um, but then there are also brands like, Oh, that's , we're really more focused on whole ingredients and staying close to the earth. Um, and I think you're going to see a lot of innovation from both types. And, but I also think there's consumer appetite for both, because, you know, there might be consumers who want, who are traditional dairy consumers who want something that's exactly the same , um, and getting lab based areas the best way to get that for them. So that's what I think is going to happen.

Molly:

Yeah. And I think also , um , from a consumer point of view, plant based as much more in the mainstream, obviously there've been companies that have had huge growth over the last couple of years , um, as plant-based companies where they previously would have been more niche. So, and it's not in of people being vegetarians, they're more what we call flexitarians . So to your point, plant forward, trying to incorporate just more plant-based foods , um, but still meat and dairy eaters. So I think we're hoping, and we're seeing that, that population in , um, you know, the mainstream is continuing to grow. So when it was more a natural channel play, I think that's moving into conventional. You're seeing some of those plant-based categories in conventional markets or mass markets growing, because there's more of an appetite for people just exploring, incorporating more plant based foods in their flexitarian diet.

Hannah:

And not to get like too , like, I dunno , not political, but like , you know , like being in the, being in the pandemic right now, like a big part of these, you know, I forgot the technical word for it, but like when there's animal to human transfer of viruses, a lot of it is from like factory farming and so of , um, livestock. And so , uh, whether it's wildlife or, you know, not wildlife, but , um, so I think there's going to be an even more urgent and important emphasis on finding replacements for that style of eating.

Phil:

So last question, what is must love look like in five years from now?

Hannah:

Um, so our mission is to make plant-based everyday indulgence , um , accessible for all families. You know, we're not , um, making something that's like $20 appliance. We want everyday families to be able to have delicious plant-based products and enjoy those small indulgent moments in their life with their friends and family or alone time. Um , uh , so right now we're really focused on our frozen novelties , um, and our bars, or no, sorry, pine and novelties. Um, but five years from now, you know, I think you could see our brand extend to different categories , um, uh, as long as we're filling that need.

Phil:

Gotcha. Well , um, Molly , Hannah, thanks so much for joining us today on lost in the supermarket. Um, good luck. I'm going to be watching you and I'm going to make sure that in five years you've got a whole assortment you're, you're gonna , you know, you're gonna make, Kellogg's looked like a , you know , tiny company.

Molly:

Thank you Phil, that's our dream too.

Phil:

Thanks again.

Speaker 3:

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