Lost in the Supermarket

A Look Through the Lens of a Serial Food Entrepreneur

April 13, 2021 SupermarketGuru
Lost in the Supermarket
A Look Through the Lens of a Serial Food Entrepreneur
Chapters
Lost in the Supermarket
A Look Through the Lens of a Serial Food Entrepreneur
Apr 13, 2021
SupermarketGuru

One of my favorite topics to discuss on Lost in the Supermarket is innovation in our food world and to interview those insightful game changers. On today's episode, we have Keith Belling, CEO and Co-Founder of Right Rice. Keith is one of those innovators who look just a little bit differently at our foods which opens up a whole new way of looking at our grocery stores.

Show Notes Transcript

One of my favorite topics to discuss on Lost in the Supermarket is innovation in our food world and to interview those insightful game changers. On today's episode, we have Keith Belling, CEO and Co-Founder of Right Rice. Keith is one of those innovators who look just a little bit differently at our foods which opens up a whole new way of looking at our grocery stores.

Phil:

Welcome to Lost in the Supermarket. One of my favorite topics to discuss here is innovation in our food world and to bring in those insightful game changers , those innovators who look at things and our foods just a little bit differently to take a look through their lens, opens up a whole new way of looking at our grocery stores. On today's episode, we've got just one of those thought leaders joining us. Keith Belling. Keith is a friend and one of my go-to guys, when it comes to innovation in 2007, he looked at potato chips through that lens and created, founded. And as CEO, led Popchips to a $100 million company in under five years and changed the chip industry forever then just two years ago, again, looking through that lens, he looked at another rather state. And if I can say boring category race as the founder and CEO of right race , he created a breakthrough veggie rice that continues to re-imagine the rice aisle, which is now available in more than 6,500 stores nationwide, including Kroger, whole foods, sprouts, Wegmans , and other leading retailers along with of course, Amazon, right. Rice is a complete plant-based protein. That's packed with vegetables and delivers more than double the protein five times the fiber and almost 40% fewer net carbs than a bowl of white rice does also it cooks up in about 10 minutes, Keith, welcome to Lost in the Supermarket.

Keith:

Well, Hi Phil, thanks so much for having me. I'm thrilled to join you.

Phil:

So, you know, looking through that lens and you look at that rice aisle, you know, what makes you think that the time is right for veggie rice ?

Keith:

Well, if I, if I take a step back, first of all, let me tell you how I think about innovation. For me, it tends to be very personal. It tends to be something that's driven by something I'm passionate about it and craving . And when it came to pop chips, it's kind of funny. I , I found myself eating too many Doritos, fantastic product. I loved it, but I was really looking for something healthier. And when I couldn't find something that just went out to try and create it, and, you know, obviously it was a great experience. I love doing , um, you know, many years later, you know, always thought there was maybe one more sort of Pop Chips, like brand in me. And again, it came from something very personal. I love rice. It's one of my favorite foods. I , I used to eat it all the time. Um, but I found with all the empty calories and the carbs, I just wasn't eating it as much as I used to. Um, you know, I, wasn't a fan of the cauliflower rice alternative, you know, fantastic vegetable, not particularly good to me as , as rice. Um, and I thought they really had to be something better. So just as I sort of set out, you know, in the , in the potato chip world to come up with pop chips, I figured there had to be a better tasting, better performing alternative than, than white rice. And, you know, look . And when you sorta think about rice, it's, you know, it's a two, three, $4 billion category. It's a massive category. Um, it's one of the most beloved foods across every culture and cuisine. And when you sort of start there, you know, you've got a really big market. And then I , again, coming from a very , just a very personal place, as I, as I thought about how I felt that, you know , the empty calories and the carbs, I started talking to people and I, and I found out how many people were thinking about it the same way. And, you know, as I talked to folks, I kind of got, you know , several familiar responses. One was, look, I just don't eat rice at all anymore. I eat way less than I used to. Um, again, in each case because of the calories and the carbs or the , or the frequent response was, you know, look it's , I feed it to my kids. Cause the only thing they'll eat, I just wish it were more nutritious. So I knew there was a big market. And, you know, we started thinking about this. We launched two years ago , um, you know, almost exactly two years ago from now, you know, it's been about nine months or year before that working on it. And it was really before this plant-based trend really took hold. And even what we're seeing now with alternative meats and the like , um , with alternative proteins. So we were a little bit ahead of our time as we thought about it, but we really looked at this big category of rice, super popular product, you know, again, boring part of the grocery store, the rice aisle , and just saw a big opportunity and, you know, and, and dove in.

Phil:

And let's talk about the flavors because also besides , um, the, the size of the industry , uh, there, wasn't a lot of flavor that were really interesting there.

Keith:

Yeah, that's , that's a good point. It's funny. Once we develop the concept of the grain, you know, this sort of like what you described, packed with veggies high in protein high in fiber way, lower carbs. Once we kind of got there, we were thinking about how we wanted to address the market. And , um, and again, one of my favorite products is, you know , Spanish or Mexican rice. And I started thinking about that and I started thinking about flavored rices now, popular and convenient. They can be. But again, I stepped back and thought to myself, when you look at what's out there now, you know, you sort of rip open that package of that mystery packet of seasoning. And the only thing you knew when you were getting seasoned rice was lots of MSG and sodium, right ? And so we said to ourselves, okay, how do we take this idea? You have living this really, you know , easy to cook nutritious, great tasting rice and make it seasoned. And it was actually, you know, really worked out, really worked out well for us. So we enrolled our rice, our grain and seasoning, and it's all non GMO. Gluten-free vegan, all the things you hope for today. Um, but we thought a way to , to give you, you know , an already seasoned Spanish rice or our liquor verse launch a line, can't pull it just really tasty flavors. So when you go to cook it and you pour it in that pot, it's just one step boil water, corn , the bag of right rice, the planar season. And then at the end of the day, you know, it's 10 minutes to 12 minutes, you're , it's cooked up and ready to go. So then

Phil:

Big surprise. Uh, you're you're still innovating. And I guess about a week or so ago, I get this great box of risotto. So, so now you're in the risotto business as well as the rice business. Um, I've just tasted one so far. Um, the black pepper, which I love because I am the love , uh , pepper. And tonight I think I'm going to try the wild mushroom. So what made you say, okay, risotto is next?

Keith:

Well, again, if I take a step back, the way, the way we were thinking about building our brand and the platform was, you know, we started with right rice, we call our core product line now, the plane and season. And then, and then we said, you know, what we wanted to start to create was quick plant-based meal solutions. We wanted to find ways to take rice path beyond the , just a side dish, great side dish that it is and think about meals. And so actually what we did a year ago, one year after we launched, we launched right rice medley, which was actually our kind of call it a next generation. Rice-A-Roni, you know , you know, great tasting. But instead of it being made with rice and pasta, it was actually made with right rice and ancient grains veggies. And my favorite of those is actually our fried rice. And it's a 12 minutes make a really great bowl of rice fried rice. So that was step two. And then the third was actually the risotto. It's something we found consumers asking us for all the time. You know , we felt they really went well together in the grocery store. They're all in the same part of the store and the same aisle where we are. And risotto is , uh , as, you know, a fantastic dish, complicated if you're lucky it's 25 to 30 minutes and we make a mess in the kitchen and at least for me, more often than not, I did it wrong. And so what we wanted to do and see if we could really simplify risotto and it really turned out great. I mean, what you have, there is a, you know, it's kind of funny, I'd say it's a dairy-free, but very creamy risotto. Um, people always ask how we made a dairy-free , I guess that's a little bit of our secret sauce here, but it's our, it's our, it's our it's right. Rice made with, you know , a great seasoning and it cooks up in 12 minutes in one pot and you end up having this incredible result. And I like to say so easy, I can't mess it up with great flavors. And , and the response it's only been a couple of weeks, as you said, with response has been graded. People are just so surprised and now they can have a risotto, you know , that you can make up. You said it literally 12 minutes.

Phil:

So you mentioned that you really started with right rice before the plant-based industry really went through the roof , uh, look into your crystal ball, where is plant-based going? Um, we've seen, you know, a lot of brand new products coming in. Um, we have impossible foods. That's about where do you file for this huge IPO? Um, plant-based here to stay fad trend. What do you think?

Keith:

Well , look, I mean, the only thing I know is on more often wrong than right. But , um, you know, my, my opinion is it's, we're in the early innings of the plant-based movement. I think it's whether it's from a standpoint of our health, nutrition or sustainability and the environment, I think it just means so much to so many people. And look it's clearly led by , um, the alternative meats. I mean, impossible and beyond had done just a fantastic job. And, you know, you just look at what they've done in food service. It's a classic, you know, every segment of food service and how it's grown. So , um, look, I think, I think plant-based, it's early innings. I think it's going to continue. I think people are looking for healthy alternatives. Again, I, I look back at some of the products, like what we're seeing with egg with just a egg and again, the alternative meats and, you know, we're seeing what's going on with, right, right . People are just really gravitating towards these alternative sources of proteins and , and healthier, you know, easy to cook foods.

Phil:

So when, when you look back over the past year and a half , uh, during the pandemic , um, and we started to see some empty shelves on supermarkets , uh , consumers really look behind the scenes for the first time and looked at the supply chain. What, what are your learnings , uh, from, from the pandemic as it relates to the food world?

Keith:

Yeah . That's a great question. I think we're all learning still right every day about this, about what's going on. But look, I think first and foremost, you know, I think what I've learned from it is how important sort of quick meal solutions are to people. Um, you know, and , and I don't think it's going away. I think it's something we've all focused more on. We're all, everyone's busy and have so many things going on even more so during the pandemic. But , but, but I think people are looking for really quick ways to make nutritious tasty meals. Um, so, so that's sort of one part of it. Um, you know, I think people start to experiment a little more there , you know, they know they need to try new things. It's , it's probably almost pretty binary. They're either going back to the basics of the classics and filling their pantry. But when you're stuck at home, you don't get to go to restaurants . You're probably a little bit more open to try new things than you did before. Um, and look, I think the trends we're seeing, whether it's e-commerce with , you know , meal delivery services and what's going on at home, you know, bringing again great foods to your home and whether it's the territory or purple carrots or distro and thistle. I mean, we love to see the reaction that these guys are all having in the market, right. Freshly it goes on and on, you know, to delivering great foods to people at home. And so I think it's been exciting to watch how the trends have changed.

Phil:

So, Keith, I know you mentioned that , uh , after Popchips you were looking for one more brand that you had in you. I, I don't, first of all, I don't believe that I know you too well, there's going to be another 10 brands , uh, that come out of that lens of yours. Um, what , what do you think, you know, the future is going to hold for the entire food industry. Are we going to see , um, and I'm not talking about plant-based, but are we going to see a lot more innovation , um , as a result of what we've been through in the past year and a half?

Keith:

I sure think so. I , I look, I, I think the pace of innovation is gonna accelerate. If anything, I think, you know, food is one of those affordable luxuries. I think that we all , you know, not only do we need, you know , what's sort of the live to eat and need to live , um, you know, food is there and it's there for all of us. And it's, it's, it's something I think we'll see a lot more innovation. I think again, whether it's in the grocery store ever, I love the story. We can talk more about plant-based foods because you know, there's a lot of the grocery store left, I think, to , to innovate around. And I think, again, I go back to food service , um, same thing. I mean, you know, every menu, every segment of food service is looking for, you know, healthier flavorful, sustainable items. So I don't think it's going to slow down. I think more and more people will continue to focus on innovation in and around food.

Phil:

Well, Keith , thanks so much for adding your insights , uh, to Lost in the Supermarket and , uh, tonight,.right? Race risotto beyond my plate.

Keith:

Uh , fantastic. I can't wait to see what you cook up and thanks so much for having me Phil.