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I'm Sari Kimbell and I've done just about everything in the food industry. I have helped hundreds of packaged food business entrepreneurs, and now I want to help you make your delicious dream a reality. Whether you want to be successful at farmer's markets, online, or wholesale on the store shelves, Food Business Success is your secret ingredient. I will show you how to avoid an expensive hobby and instead run a profitable food business. Now let's jump in.
Hey there, everyone. Before we start today's podcast with the infamous Brandon Hernandez, I wanted to just take a minute and kind of frame why I'm having the guests that I'm, I realized as I was thinking about it, Jordan, Brandon, and then my upcoming guests, Rob, they're all kind of speaking, talking to entrepreneurs, they all work with entrepreneurs who are at like, the next level, right. And a lot of them work with grocery, like wholesale level, large scale manufacturing. So I think it's really important that you guys understand kind of what you're getting into especially in that area, if you decide you want, you know, yours. I always talk about like your sales channels, right? What's your goals? Do you want to be on store shelves and if you do, then it's really good for you to hear, I mean, there's a lot of great nuggets in these interviews. But it's really good for you to understand the industry that you're going into. But I also want to just say upfront that this is not the only way to have a successful business, grocery is not the only way. And in fact, the pandemic really actually opened this up a lot more to different types of businesses. You can have a very successful profitable packaged food business in farmer's markets, only doing farmers markets. You can do it through ecommerce, you can do it through food service, you can do it through grocery, as an option. You can do it, there are other types of wholesale, as well. So I would say all three of my guests, not that they have a negative spin, but like they're in the reality of it, and they're working with very large scale manufacturing. So my intention is not to discourage you or to make you feel like oh, I'm never gonna get there, right? It's so far off. Or maybe I don't even want those problems. But Brandon and I talk about it in this interview about having a lifestyle business. They work, you know, Brandon, Rob, they work with people who are looking for that big exit, right. Who are wanting to grow a business and then get equity and eventually sell the business for, you know, some large millions of dollars payout. That may not be you and in fact, I would say probably the majority of the people I work with in Food Business Success, that's not them. So I just, I want to like set a framework that this is really like what we talked about I think can be, you could use a lot of the concepts for your own business and get a lot of tips and ideas here that you can apply but be careful that you don't compare yourself too much to this one way of doing it. And that there is success other ways. That you get to create the business that you want and that feels good and is fun, and that you can have a lifestyle business that is also very successful. So I just want to come in before we start the interview with Brandon, and set that up. I also talked about the beginning but there is some profanity, so make sure that you're listening with headphones or around the appropriate audience. And before we started just to give, I wanted to give some shout outs, some wins, of people in our Food Business Success community.
First of all, Ryan with Pup and the Pepper, he came back from Fancy Food where I took a group to Fancy Food Show, and he came back and did his first pop up. And it was really successful. It was his first in person event and he was just blown away by the success but we also celebrated him inside the group. And so congratulations for that, many more to come as we head into warmer months and he can get out and do more. I also want to celebrate Yvonne from Leaf Berry on our call a couple of weeks ago, our group coaching call. We coach through her wholesale strategy and she was just like, I just need one. How can I just get one client? I just need one wholesale account to say yes. And she was getting lots of no's. And we offered her, you know, other people offered her some ideas and then I offered her a strategy, and then she and I had a one on one call. And she just posted on her stories that she got not only one, but two wholesale accounts that same exact day, and it was a couple weeks later. So I just want to give her a big shoutout for keep showing up and doing scary things and getting out of her comfort zone. So many other successes, some wins. You know, I can't even name them all here. But I thought I would start this episode out with just like some cheering on and positive momentum and that this is possible for you. All right, on with the interview.
We have a repeat guest. I think you're my first repeat guest, Brandon.
Brandon Hernandez 6:07
So unfortunate for you. And for everybody else. Buckle up, everybody.
Buckle up. So my guest today is Brandon Hernandez. And you can go back listen to our first podcast together Episode 27. We were just laughing about how we're gonna start measuring our relationship and Brandon's career in the years that, the years of the podcast, right, so every year, we'll have you back on.
Brandon Hernandez 6:37
Is that like dog years, do I get the count like podcast years? We'll figure it out.
We'll figure it out.
Brandon Hernandez 6:44
We're innovating every day, Sari. Every day.
That's right. Pivoting, innovating. So if you haven't, can't tell by now, we're going to keep this kind of cash. And I should just warn you right upfront. There's probably going to be some profanity, so if you're with us anyway, kids, maybe.
Brandon Hernandez 7:05
No, no. I've cleaned up my act. I'm reformed, no shit.
Okay. And I should just, for anybody listening, if you're in CPG. You know, I try to keep things pretty clean on here. But if you're in the food business, the food industry, just get used to it. It's part of the vernacular.
Brandon Hernandez 7:28
You pick the wrong guy for that, I'm in the facility right now.
I used to work in restaurants, right? Like, oh, my gosh, right. The back of the house is just F bombs. And I think it's really every other word. So I think it's just an extension of that.
Brandon Hernandez 7:45
I will keep it as PG 13 as possible.
It's fine. So I just want to give people a warning, we are going to, I tell Brandon and he said I just want to shoot the show with you. So that's what we're gonna do. We're going to talk some cool things, things that Brandon seen in the food industry. And Brandon is with Whole Brain Consulting. He's half of the brain. The whole brain. You're the best part, right? Which one are you? Are you the left or right?
Brandon Hernandez 8:16
Because Will's not here. Yeah, I am the best part. But if he's here then it's 50-50. So.
That's right. They're both important. So before we get started, just tell people a little bit about who you are, what whole brain consulting is, just so they have a little background if they haven't listened to our first episode.
Brandon Hernandez 8:35
Sure. So we are an outsourced ops firm, which means we focus on supply chain, everybody's favorite thing of the day, QA/QC compliance, command sourcing selection, research and development, and then private equity due diligence. Generally pretty evenly split between those buckets were probably heavier in QA, supply chain, and command source. But we do, we have amazingly done a fair amount of due diligence over the pandemic which surprised the hell out of Will and I, just given what everybody was saying that the lockdown and everything but.
Right, people not making moves, but people are making moves.
Brandon Hernandez 9:19
We're not gonna put any more money out there and then they proceeded to dump $200 million in like a matter of a month. I'm like, guys, you're not, guys and gals, you're not putting money out there. Sure. Keep telling yourself that dumb.
So you guys did a rebrand. I love it. Love the new, the new logo and anything.
Brandon Hernandez 9:41
So that was completely unintended. I mean, there was this mid pandemic, like, we need to refresh. We're coming up on five years a whole brain and generally the rule of thumb, at least what I've ever been told is that every five years you want to look to refresh what you're doing or at least the logo and branding. And so it really was a slow burn. And then I just happened to be on, I have a good friend Kurt Phizola out of San Francisco. That's, he and I met pre-pandemic and then we continued just to meet over video and, like, we'd sit and have a whiskey and just BS kinda like what we do here. But not recorded and for the masses, just kind of, maybe it was a bitch session. I don't know. But it was, were just good buddies. And we just happen to be that sitting there one day. It was me, Pete, and him, and he just started doodling. And that's what he does. He's very artsy, creative-minded, and out of nowhere, he just say, hey, what do you think of this? And it was just sort of the initial and I'm like, holy shit that's what we've been looking for, like, where have you been for the last three and a half years? Because we'd gotten some conceptual stuff. So the fact that it just came out of sort of a doodle sesh. And totally unintended. And then as I go, let's carry this thought forward. And so that's what we ended up doing. But it was complete accident, more than anything.
The best, those are the best kinds, right? Complete accidents.
Brandon Hernandez 11:23
Bob Ross said happy accidents, right?
So I want to start with commands. That's where I want to start because, you know, couple years into the... No, we're not going to talk about that.
So, you know, I've been working now a couple years helping people, very small scale, fine co-manufacturing. Now I'm doing coaching where I'm more guiding them rather than doing, like what you do where you're doing the research. I just want, here's what happens is that people don't believe me about the struggle with co manufacturing, finding the right manufacturer, and just sort of the culture of it. And I'm not, this isn't a bitch session, this is more just like, what is the reality? Like, for instance, just the communication can be really challenging, the long wait times of hearing back from people or the sort of last minute changes, and pricing increases? And some of those things like, is this just the norm? Because I keep telling my clients, this is the norm but they don't believe me. Can you tell me?
Brandon Hernandez 12:48
I mean, they have every reason to believe you. You know, realistically the, so the pandemic did a couple of different things especially as it relates to co-packing, right? Which was, you know, you had a rise of people that had no business being in the food industry to begin with, but then decided to launch a firm and they were going to co-pack and that's what they were going to do with life. So from that perspective, you have a glut of people. Now they're working themselves out now that we're kind of defrosting. For what, however, you want to parse that whether the pandemics actually over with or not. Everything is, locked downs are going away. Mass mandates are going away. So, you know, I think a lot of the labor issue shortages, which is what really hammered people the hardest was the labor issue.
It still is, right. I mean, I think that's one of the biggest issues.
Brandon Hernandez 13:46
Oh, yeah. And so from the perspective of what is it go back to? Or should they believe you? Yes, because line allocation was real. It continues to be an issue because if I can run 20 straight days of Kellogg's, or shut down, wash, do one day review, and then go back to it, I'm more likely going to stay with that Kellogg's contract. Because I don't necessarily care if you get mad at me or not. But the other aspect of that is, is that there is a proliferation of people that when you're vetting, they had no business getting in business anyways. And so, you know, they're unscrupulous from the perspective that, oh, you know, one of the biggest red flags, I always tell everybody, if they're willing to say, I'll run you without a contract, or I'll run you without a term sheet in place. That's an immediate red flag because it doesn't weigh down who's responsible if they screw something up? What happens if there's a recall? There's nothing that when did they accept a PO? When do they have to ship the PO? What if they don't meet those metrics? Like there's so much of that that's going on right now, and so many due to our society's credit, so many people that are getting into the business, not because it's easy money but because they see the potential there, maybe. You know, people don't even seek out whitespace anymore in a food aisle. And this is more your wheelhouse, so I let you explain to them what whitespace is. But they're leaning into some of these categories, salty snacks and all that, that, you know, what's the whiplash, the bullwhip effect going to be having that kind of glut that goes into it. But ultimately, you know, when you're vetting your comments, you know, red flags immediately are, you know, again, no term sheet, no quality control. You know, they want to own part of your formulation. There's a slide I can share with you that I just did a thing with the SFA a few weeks ago, you know, there's like, they want your formula, they want your GS1, they want your UPC, they want part of the, they want to own like a unique ingredient in your formulation. The reason being is it makes it incredibly hard for you to leave without some massive buyout, and it just crushes people. And so, you know, will co-packing get better, easier? Yes. When will that happen is probably going to take at least another six months to a year to work itself out.
Yeah. And you're talking about pretty large scale. I mean, some of the ones we're working with, it's like, they're small scale, and you just have to do the one run or, you know, you don't have the long term commitments. But I think the biggest thing I'm seeing is just delays and a lot of it has to do with labor. So right, especially if things are not, you know, a lot of my people aren't going to like highly mechanized, you know, products yet. So anytime there's more hands involved. That's a big thing for sure. I mean, labor is a big problem.
Brandon Hernandez 17:10
If you just want to say it's only Andrea's fault, I'll agree with you. That's fine. I hope she's listening to this and she heard that too.
And I'm not, she's not the only one by any means. And I love Andrea.
Brandon Hernandez 17:22
She's doing her absolute best. But man, it's a struggle for anybody, just that labor piece. And that's just, it's the reality of co-packing. Like, I just, I want people to hear if they get anything from this, or like, they might be like, what term sheets and all these things but like, patience, you're a small fish in a very big pond of other people's products that take priority over yours. And they're bigger clients, and there's a lot to juggle there. And well, and then we can talk about supply chain next, but then you throw in supply chain nightmares, right?
Brandon Hernandez 18:04
I mean, I don't want to discourage anybody from seeking it out or working in the business. Here's the thing. I don't care if you're making microchips for a computer. And that's what you're going to get into, there are small scale, and then there are bigger scale manufacturing assets. And I think people get lost in the majesty of having an automated line in the end. But the other aspect to that, that I don't think enough people appreciate or recognizes, how many of the products are actually made by hand though. A good example is Amy's, right? Amy's a little frozen entrees, and all that. They have armies of people that are still hand rolling enchiladas and putting it into, you know, whereas like a Hungry Man is on an automated line, it you know, out in the world. So, you know, there are, but you can see that flesh itself out in the cost differential. And so don't necessarily, don't assume that you have to be automated to get scale or to be recognizable. You know, do what's best for the product. The biggest thing is what's repeatability of the experience for your consumer. That's what they really care about. If every time they pick a bag up, it's different or a bottle, it's different or whatever, you know, that's what they care about, not, you know. A Dorito tastes the same whether I buy it in Washington, or in Florida, or in New York. That's, you know, it's just the consumer expectation of the brand.
Right, right. So any other kind of, from a small brand perspective, I mean, I think what I am seeing is brands kind of looking at, be more open to like self manufacturing, which is interesting, I feel like it's gone in waves where they're like, get it all out onto a manufacturer versus maybe I want to be in more control of it as a self manufacturer, are you seeing any trends that way?
Brandon Hernandez 20:15
So, the problem with getting into self manufacturing, can you do it? Yes. But understand that you're probably competing for the same equipment that a lot of other people are. So the used equipment market is getting crushed right now, much like used cars. Things that you would have paid a nominal fee for a couple of years ago, you're going to end up paying top dollar for now. So you know, it really, I always tell people, you want to own the process generally if it's a super unique, and there's some IP and how you do something, like considerable IOP not like I throw a dash of salt in at this point, or something like that. But like, there's something super unique in you're processing or the other side of that is that you want to create a lifestyle business. And I think that's something that we as an industry do not talk enough about is the rise and proliferation of the lifestyle business. There is nothing wrong with being your own boss, and having a brand that is, one, two regions of same thing Kroger Whole Foods, whatever, Costco. Guess what? It kicks off.
Amazon, it doesn't even have to be a retail store, I mean.
Brandon Hernandez 21:33
Kicks off a six figure check for you every year that you can live comfortably with. And guess what you don't take anybody else's shit. There's nothing wrong with that, there's that build the exit strategy is much different, it's a different time, that kind of cash burn, it's a different kind of P&L setup, you have to be willing to burn a ton of equity to get there. And more often, they don't want, again, unless you're super unique, they don't want you to own the equipment. So realistically, your people that you work with that are coming out of the, coming out of the farmers market, getting into small skim and and maybe taking on a region. That's exactly the kind of conversation they need to be having with themselves and with somebody like you like, what sense does it make for me to try and build and sell this or just create the lifestyle business? Again, nothing wrong with that, that is a perfectly acceptable outcome. And you should be okay with that.
I like that, I like that take on it. Because I would say 80% of people I work with, they want a lifestyle business, that's what they're in for. They're not, you know, most the people I work with aren't like, I'm in this to, you know, sell creative $10 million exit or anything like that. So yeah, it is more for the passion and just being an entrepreneur and all of that. And I've been working with some clients where we're kind of doing a hybrid of like, they're gonna produce certain parts of it, and then take it to somebody to be finished, which I think is a good, interesting model. So they can control the quality up to a certain point that needs to be controlled. So I think there's different ways to piece the puzzle together. But it's also just like, you're always going to have problems in your business, that's what you do is solve people's problems. And so you can decide, do you want to deal with staffing and your own equipment and your own facility? But own it more, right? You're gonna have problems, headaches that way? Or do you want to deal with the problems and headaches that come with manufacturing? So.
Brandon Hernandez 23:37
I think that's probably the rub in that scenario, which is, the problems don't get, the problems aren't less because you decided to take the problem on yourself, right? Like labor issue is a labor issue. I don't care who owns the process at that point. Labor's labor and people either want to come to work or they don't. What I will say is that based on what I, the people I interact with, on the other end of the scale, both here and in other parts of the country is that it is getting better. Again I think that's the, that is the shift of the pandemic moving to an endemic, and people realizing that the time to completely eliminate or beat it is over. Now it's time to learn to move on with life and to live with it. And that's you just didn't have to be in it. And realistically, the nice thing for the economy in general is that it's kind of pushed that pay window a little up so you can actually get some talent through the door that is more inclined to stay because I know yours it like four or five years ago, was probably longer than that when I was doing manufacturing. You know, it was $13 an hour and you know, you were constantly even back then you were just churning through people. And now it's kind of pivoting to the point where you can actually retain some talent. That actually, that helps a lot, especially when it comes to like hand inputs and all that because the more talented an individual gets to that specific duty or whatever it is that they're doing, the faster they get, again they become the machine, the repeatability of experience, because now they, unlike a computer or AI, they have texture and feel associated with it. And they add some flavor to the mix, that's for sure, to be able to recognize that and have tangible results against it that a computer or an automated piece of equipment wouldn't otherwise have for you.
Yeah, that's true. I like that. All right. So the other piece of that, of course, is supply chain. What are you seeing, as far as any tips, any ways that we can, that you're seeing people sort of mitigate some of the supply chain issues or things that you can offer here for small manufacturing?
Brandon Hernandez 26:13
I mean, the tougher part right now is getting the suppliers attention now, you know, us dumping $2 billion into infrastructure at the dock doesn't necessarily fix the problem today but it will help alleviate some of the issues tomorrow. I think the bigger issue and I talked about this last week, with somebody else's, that the bigger issue right now is just, one, we didn't open up the docs 24/7 until I think it was right before Thanksgiving. So they were still running on just a single, essentially a single shift in mentality. So yeah, you had boats in that were that were backing up 20, 30 boats at a time in every port because yeah, you're only renting a single shift. I think it helped elucidate for a lot of people that, you know, we have a 19th century technology that it's like manufacturing, well, we just did it that way all the time. Just don't mess with it, it'll be fine. Then a pandemic hits and you're like, oh, shit, it wasn't meant to stop on a dime. And they can't start on a dime. So I think the supply chain side, the commodity side, and for raw materials and packaging, especially because I know, packaging was getting.
Plastic, all of them.
Brandon Hernandez 27:34
Yup. There are assets going into Mexico. Some were built pre-pandemic and they're ramping them up to do larger scale. So you should start to see some sort of alleviation, I would assume within the next six months, as they start to fire those assets up. Then there's, you know, when it comes to small brands, and the manufacturing side, the only thing that, the only real thing that you might be able to do right now is to, if you're processing somewhere that you have, like ingredients, but you're like in a tolling scenario, or, you know, the one thing that brands don't do enough when they get to a manufacturer is start to, is to start to interface with the other clientele there. And so I'm always, I always, especially this scenario, why don't you interface with some of your peers that are operating there? If you have common ingredients and the manufacturer is not aggregating them, why don't you all aggregate them, you're more enticing to somebody, you may get in that aggregation, you may get some economies of scale but you'll also get attention. I can't get somebody's attention for 5000 pounds but if I can aggregate 40,000, 50,000 pounds, somebody is going to pay attention to me and somebody is going to give me something that is valuable for my time and ultimately alleviate some of the strain that I feel. But you know, from the rest of it, it's gotta it's the wrinkles have to work themselves back out. Everybody wants to apply a 21st century solution to a 19th century technology. And that's the part that I think is difficult is that we, again, all we did was build bigger boats. That's really all we did for 100 years. All we did was build bigger boats, that's, you know, that's great, but it doesn't change the system. So you know, you have plenty of people that are, you know, you look at container loads and they're, you know, they were three to five grand, they're up to upwards of 25 to 30. Well, okay, are you comparing that then to airfreight? Are you comparing that to, you know, if you break that down in the cost per pound, does that make a local supplier more feasible because now maybe they're 50 cents cheaper than who you're trying to get it from? Those are all evaluations that everybody should be doing because ultimately, supply chain oftentimes is like, everybody takes an eye towards a hope towards a set it and forget it mentality. And nobody pivots back to it enough. In a case in point, you know, this was right before the pandemic hit, or the lockdown hit but we were doing an evaluation for a very, very large, very well backed fruit juice company. And the first meeting we had with them was like, well, we haven't looked at our supply chain in 15 years, like, literally, their supply chain team was just ordering whatever contracts were sitting there. And nobody realized that 15 years ago, whoever was running, the department just signed evergreen contracts, essentially accepting whatever pass throughs were coming through. So everybody was just sitting there doing mechanics of ordering things.
Not looking at it, yeah.
Brandon Hernandez 30:56
We go through and then it's like, you do realize that you've dumped, we can save you almost 5 million a year if you go through and just these five ingredients, you went and actually renegotiated your contracts for him. Because right now, you're sitting on evergreen contracts, and they're just passing through every dollar, they can't see you. And oh, by the way, if you pull an RFQ from that same company, I can get it for 30 cents cheaper per pound than what they're giving it to you for and you're pulling more volume than what I'm telling them over. That's the stuff where you gotta like, people pivot to your supply chain and constantly be looking at it when you're sitting at Expo West. Yes, I've spent X amount of dollars on the booth and getting my team here and all that. Do not ignore the raw material suppliers altogether even if you just take a card and follow up after, one of them might have something really good to say. And that's, and don't dismiss it. Because you may be dismissing savings.
Yeah, that's a really good point.
Brandon Hernandez 32:02
We were going to talk about Expo a little bit, or I'd love to hear about Winter Fancy but, you know, it's not just your job to sell. You can also use those to save money. They're not people. I don't think not, not enough people leverage it for that.
Right.Well before we start talking about that, I guess a couple of things I heard from that, or keep looking at your supply chain, don't just set it and forget it. Definitely, you know, try to find multiple sources, like keep doing that. Because not only from a cost savings perspective but also, I mean, people were at, you know, I'm working on a bar project and it's like, that bean protein that we need is now out of stock at this place. And so we need to have a couple of options already on the books, ideally, right? And not just like oh, crap, they're out of stock again. And so having a couple of different suppliers, same thing with your packaging, that's a big one, especially if you're doing glass and special things. I mean, we've had issues with that, too, where now they're out of stock again, and now we have to find a new bottle somewhere else. But also, can you be flexible, right? Can you, you know, switch sizes of containers and things to some extent. So being flexible, and yeah.
Brandon Hernandez 33:28
To that end where you say, here's the thing, if I'm a good salesperson, then I can tell within 30 minutes, 15 to 30 minutes of talking to you, if you're desperate, right? If you call me desperate. I need 50,000 pounds of X ingredient. Well, okay, that seems odd. When do you need a buck? Can you get it to me next week? But that it, it's a completely different conversation when I know I have your over the barrel as a sales person than when you call me and we just build a relationship. And that's part of what you want to work towards is build that relationship because, one, they're more likely to do you to do the favor but then, two, it's harder for them to negotiate with you and the price because they know you're not desperate. They know you're not in a position where they might be able to take advantage of you. You got to use that sort of that timescale to your advantage.
Yeah. Just such a great pivot or segue. And I mean, I love, you've really taught me a lot about building relationships in this industry. And I think trade shows are a great opportunity to do that. But I guess for anybody listening, I just want to really harp it home that like relationships, relationships, relationships. Like I know that's how you built your business. That's how I built my business. And I'm able to continue to, we do similar things just different scales but basically we're connectors, right? We're like, oh, I know exactly who you need to talk to, this person can solve your problem. Oh, I got this person. Hey, that's like, our networks. So yeah, any thoughts on like that relationship piece, I think people ignore that a lot.
Brandon Hernandez 35:18
It's the biggest small industry in the world, right? Like, there, it's a huge, like Expo West is gonna have between 60,000 and 70,000 people attending. That huge, except for the fact that everybody, you can basically walk in aisle and you're gonna know a handful of people walking down the aisle, it just happens that way in this industry, and it's a great industry to be a part of, because if you're in trouble, or if something goes on, there's always to your point. There's you, there's me, there's tons of us, there's Elliot, there's hundred people out there that. Call that person, they're going to be able to tell you where to go, or they've been through that, ask them how to do it. So there is a lot of that, that goes on. And it's important to maintain those relationships because the other issue you run into, I don't have any other way to put it. But, you know, if you're, if you're a jerk, if you're an asshole, you'll be allowed to make money in the business, but they won't. But the business has a natural way of insulating your ability to kind of push out. I don't know exactly how to describe it other than that you become isolated. Like, yes, you exist. Yes, you're allowed to make money but nobody, nobody's gonna want to deal with you.
Nobody's making it easier for you.
Brandon Hernandez 36:42
No, nobody's gonna make your life easier. Hey, I'm sorry, you're going through that. I'll see you at the next trade show. Like they don't offer up the advice, they just retain it. And so if you berate people, if you're just outwardly consistently just a jerk to everybody, you'll make money but you won't, your ability to proliferate is going to be hampered.
Yeah, I love that. So yeah, we took I took a group of clients, there was 12 of us total. And it was every all but one of them was their very first food show. And they were all people that I was like, you guys all should probably consider doing a trade show in the next one or two years. So, you know, for anybody listening, if you haven't ever done a trade show, I definitely, don't just jump into doing it like being a vendor. Like go walk a show or two or more. So I love fancy food. I know you and I were there in 2020 before everything went down. And then this was the first year that I was back. And I just think Fancy Food Show is very approachable when you're a early stage brand. It's a little smaller. It's not quite as intense, so we say. It was definitely smaller than San Francisco when we were there in 2020. But still large, you know, didn't feel tiny, but definitely smaller.
Brandon Hernandez 38:19
Well, I always say Expo West has never been, never anybody. If you want to trial by fire, go to Expo West first. Like that's, I mean, it's a great show. It is a great show. It's like "The Show". But yeah, if it's, I just want, I'm gonna jump in and I'm gonna end up, you know, six feet under, just under the water because it's going to be a lot to digest. Expo West is the place to do it. Now, the Fancy Food shows, they're large in their own right. But yeah, it's much easier to get through those shows and get a general understanding of what it is, and the mechanics, and just the way to get the best bang for your buck by going through to watch.
Yeah, pretty inexpensive. It was in Las Vegas, very approachable. You could do it on a budget. Sure. So they also had like a makers series. So for brand new folks, I thought I had a couple clients take advantage of that and go to those classes so it's definitely very approachable. I warned everybody ahead of time like not to walk in there and like be careful of the Compare and Despair, right? Like, oh my gosh, there's so many people just like me, and similar products, and they're so far along, and I'm not that far along, and how am I ever gonna compete, you know? It's like so, if you want to really go crazy with that, Expo West should be the place to really get lost in that.
Brandon Hernandez 40:01
Well, I think also too, is that expectation that people, that the general consumer doesn't differentiate. You know, it's like, no, no, but you're gonna have your niche market, you're gonna have the people that live and die on that product and I don't care if it's exactly the same thing as what sits next to it. Just case in point, I used to run tortilla chips for a living. I literally put the same tortilla chip in 10 different bags and each one of them would have their different velocities and different places they went. And so you know, again, the exact same chip, it's not like didn't change anything materially. It's the same corn, the same salt, the same line, everything. So from that perspective, it's like, look, don't get hung up on the fact that there's 10 of you. Just focus on running your own race.
Yeah. And what you do well, your unique proposition, your customer, all that stuff. Yeah. Hundred percent.
Brandon Hernandez 40:58
I love what you said, though, about, I just want to be sure we kind of highlight that when you'd said, you know, if you do have a booth there, or even if you're just walking it, but I know when you have a booth there, you get really focused on, you just want to talk to buyers, right? That's why you're there, talk to buyers. And I caution my group to like, you know, be careful, like don't try to talk a vendor's ear off, like they're not there to help you with your, you know, your little business. They're there to talk to buyers. But you know, if there's space there, and you can have a conversation, great, but just be mindful of that. But I know vendors are getting taught, you know, you hear that all the time, right? Vendors are like, ah, you know, there was, at least 50% of the people weren't buyers. So.
Brandon Hernandez 41:47
Well, the other thing too is that, trade shows offer you that opportunity to go and see brands that, it's one thing to go like, you know, I drove to Boulder and I pulled a survey from the hole through I walked the aisle and the whole foods to see what's next to me. This is your opportunity to walk in. See what else is out there? Who's in the northeast, who's out west, like what are they doing? Like what innovations are they bringing to bear? So you know, from that perspective, it's your opportunity. Nobody like to your point. If you don't take the headspace and the opportunity, you paid the money. Again, sales are important but serving your competition, actually using it as a brand building opportunity with your people. You know, too many brands, I see that, well, the booths done and everybody just goes 1000 different directions and it's like well, wait a minute, have dinner with your team that is not work oriented, like use it as a brand building opportunity.
Team building. Yeah, hundred percent.
Brandon Hernandez 42:50
Because that's how you build people that are run through walls for you. And that's ultimately what you need and what you want. So, you know, again, the service providers and the ingredients suppliers, they will all be there. You don't have to carve a huge niche out for him. But you know, you never know what less than 15 minutes after the show closes at the Hilton Bar or wherever everybody's congregating. I can meet me there for 15 minutes but I got a boom, boom, boom and be kind of moving along. You never know where it comes from the 15 minute conversation, could mean the difference between brand death and brand life, you never know.
Yeah, I think just as a rule of thumb in general in life, like just be open to people and be kind to people and you just you never know like, who knows who, who knows whom or who, yeah, can connect you with what you need. And so, if you're there vending don't just be like, oh, you're not a buyer, I'm going to be an as*hole. That's probably not a good step.
Brandon Hernandez 43:54
No, not a good prescription for longevity, that's for sure.
Right. I mean, people ask me that, like, do you go to those shows to like, get clients? I'm like, no, those aren't my clients, they're, they're farther along usually. Or nobody wants to talk to me about being a coach when they're in the middle of trying to sell. But what I did do is I gave my cards to my clients and people who were there and I said, hang on to these because when people ask you how you're growing your business, like hand them a card. You guys are my best self.
Brandon Hernandez 44:29
That's right.You got to utilize the tools at hand. And you know, people asked to do well, and I go and walk the shows to realistically to what we talked about earlier. I think we spend 90, I mean, this time it'll be 100%, but we probably spend 90% just networking.
Yeah. You're just meeting with current clients. You're saying hi, you're showing your face, you're not trying to get more clients.
Brandon Hernandez 44:57
It's not like I always tell everybody, like, even some of the brands that we have, they'll be like, how come you didn't stop by the booth? I was like, guys, you got enough shit going on, you don't need me coming to bug you. Like, if I can make it there, great. And I'll do everything I can to come and see you. But, you know, I also don't want to be an interruption because that's realistically all I am, I will just be an interruption to what it is you're trying to do. So accomplish your goals, we can catch up either after the show, or post-show, you know, that week later at some other point, but don't you know, I genuinely try not to bother anybody. Again, do clients want to meet with you there? Of course, they do, but it's not a stated goal to run out and do it. So, you know.
Are you finding that a lot of your clients who used to do shows are coming back to Expo West this year? Or kind of a mix of people like it's not worth the, you know, it's not worth the money.
Brandon Hernandez 45:58
No. Yeah, I think there's gonna be people that pivot back to it, I think there's that, you know, if you read some of the the psychology behind going back to office and the struggle to go back to office and all that, I think, again, as we wind into an endemic, and I think the bigger turnoff for people was just simply that the first couple of trade shows that attempted to execute, the buyers pulled out, right. So then I literally spent the money to go and sit there and have service provider after service provider and raw material supplier and all that. And that's all I did for few days. So I paid to be advertised to. That really wasn't. But I think now especially like you saw that you saw that fancy, you know, a bunch of the buyers did show up. And I think as those things start to, again, those mechanics start to get back in motion. I think the trade shows really start to bounce back in the next year especially because it's just, it's just one of those it's a, it's not a necessary evil. That's not the good way to put it. It's one of those things that, it's going to become those focal points that people need. Because you're not, you're not going to get that on the day to day. Buyers are still buyers outside of those events. And so yeah, you wait in line, yeah, you have to wait for, you know, I have a meeting with Kroger in three months from now. You know, because the buyer can't free up time between now and then. You know, I think it becomes that necessary mechanic for the industry than sooner than later, for sure.
Yeah. You know, I hear a lot of people saying, well, it's just too expensive but we're not gonna do it this year, we're just gonna walk in. It's like, well, at some point, we can just have everybody walking.
Brandon Hernandez 47:47
It's hard to get attention when you're walking. It is truly hard to get attention when you're walking a show. I mean, that's great that you walked it, but how would they know, you're going to stop them. So the strategy there is what. They're in between booth one and booth two, and you're going to stop them in the middle. Start throwing product at them and tell them about it. Like, that's not going to work. They're there. Because those buyers are sent there with an agenda. This is what they're tasked with doing. This is what they have to come back home office with. If they don't produce that, they get to hear about it. So you walking the show makes it tough to get their attention.
Tell me more about that. What do you see from the buyers side? Like what is their, when they're walking into a show, are they tasked with, like we need to go find more salty snacks, or like whatever it is?
Brandon Hernandez 48:40
Oh, yeah, like frozen category, or we're expanding refrigerated category this quarter to include XYZ style of products. You know, you're gonna need to go find some. They all go to shows with KPIs, I think that there's, you know, it's not a boondoggle for them where they get to go and just, you know, there are metrics that they're set with, like you need to meet with these kinds of this, many of this kind of brand, this many of this kind of brand, because we're altering the category or the planograms gonna change or this brand, these three brands made us aware that they're leaving so we need and that, or that they are filing bankruptcy. We need to be able to replace them with a similar product, go find it. Like so that it's definitely one of those where the buyers do have KPIs that they will be held to by home office. And you know, the most senior buyers are the ones that probably don't have those kinds of metrics, but the vast majority of them do have those metrics like you need to go find the next Justin's. You need to go find the next perfect snacks like.
You're on a mission.
Brandon Hernandez 49:00
They are agendized so they know what the assignment is.
Good. All right, that's helpful. Yeah, it's good to know what buyers are walking in there with and not just like, oh, I'm gonna try some samples and see what hits.
Brandon Hernandez 50:07
I just want to try every popcorn here. That's all I have. Are you here to buy popcorn? No, I just came to try it. My boss said, let's see how that works out.
So we just have a few minutes left, what else? What are you? What do you want to talk about? What's, what's kind of been a some you're seeing on the horizon or something that you've been talking a lot about? I know you do a lot of webinars and presentations for networking groups. So tell us what you've been talking about.
Brandon Hernandez 50:38
Honestly, we just ran through. I mean, its supply chain. I mean, I will say I sent the note yesterday, but that there is the, now that FISMA is in full enforcement and FDA is getting back to auditing more regularly that I think QA QC is going to be, food safety is going to become a bigger issue. Not an issue, but it's going to be kind of pushed back up the ladder a little bit.
Yeah, floating to the top.
Brandon Hernandez 51:07
Yeah. So I always just tell everybody, you know, look at your cool label compliance. Look at that bioengineered USDA compliance, because now the USDA has given the FDA his business and the declarations for that. But ultimately, you know, we've, right now manufacturing and supply chain is at the forefront of everybody's mind, and it will be for, like I said, for at least the next six months, maybe even a year, years pushing it. But you know, other than that, I think everybody just getting back into the swing of things. And ultimately, you know, getting to see everybody again, in person I think is the bigger, is going to be the bigger news story for everybody is just interacting in person and seeing each other in person, you know, all that stuff. Remembering what it was like to be in a room with somebody else, and actually interacting with them on a personal level. So I think that's all stuff that we're working through it. And, you know, the rest of that stuff gonna work itself out.
I always say you're gonna have 10 problems in your business at any time. And if we can just get good at solving problems instead of thinking we shouldn't have problems like that's really the key, right?
Brandon Hernandez 52:26
Anybody that has a mistake-free or problem-free business, please email me because I'll come work for you, a hundred percent.
Yeah. I think you and I are just getting good, we're very good at solving problems and not freaking out about it. Thinking that there shouldn't be problems.
Brandon Hernandez 52:44
That's the stick that we have, you know, what's oh shit for you is Tuesday for me. That's really like, you know, how many recalls I've had to deal with over the pandemic? And, you know, it's a very panicked phone call. And, you know, some of the feedback is always well, how come you're so calm about is like, well, there's nothing I can do about it. So my getting my blood pressure up, and not just fixing the problem doesn't fix the problem. Like that fixes the problem, but it gets it to where I'm not going to have a heart attack at 42 years old trying to solve this problem. Like, you know, you guys need to take a step back and realize this happens to everybody. And mistakes happen, they're going to be oh shits, no matter how big or small you are. Just take them one at a time and deal with them exactly to your point that you're gonna have problems. And if, if your response to every problem is a run around freaking out, you're not gonna be doing it long. Because either A, people will turn you off and not listen to you, or B, you're gonna, you're gonna give yourself a heart attack.
Or you're just gonna be like, this isn't worth it. This isn't fun. This is terrible. Instead of saying, well, this is part of the deal, and I'm just gonna move through it. And yeah, I mean, when I see clients have, you know, they have those moments. And it's like, just like the faster we can work through your breakdown, the better, right? Really, that's progress, like, did it take two weeks that one time, and now we're at a week, and now we're five days and then oh, okay, something bad happened that two years ago, you would have totally melted down for two weeks. Now we're dealing with it in a day. Like that's progress. So.
Brandon Hernandez 54:29
Exactly. Panicking doesn't help do anything. It doesn't, it doesn't. And so take the hits when they come and it'll resolve.
And when you really have no shit, then call Brandon and.
Brandon Hernandez 54:43
Call Brandon or Sari, that's the message.
All right. Well, I love it that we are going to get back together in person. Are you going to be coming down to Denver? I know you came down for the holiday party, but we're going to start doing more events for Colorado Food Works, getting back in person. So.
Brandon Hernandez 55:02
We have that. I'm going to start coming back down, I have started to, I'm seeing that people are warming up to the idea of meeting in person again, so probably starting to get back out of. I know for certain after Expo West. Expo West is kind of my stake in the ground that it's time to get the ball rolling again. So starting to do stuff in Boulder. In Boulder proper again, starting to do stuff in Denver. So yeah, definitely be back out hitting the trails, for sure.
Yeah, good. Well, you know, you can't really throw a rock without seeing your face on, especially Food Association on a webinar or anybody in the Naturally Network. So I would just encourage everybody to get into a network like join groups, start getting involved. If you're in Colorado, come join Colorado Food Works, go join Naturally Boulder. But there's organizations all over the US. And so it's really important to our point of our relationships. And as people start to gather in person again, like, find your tribes, find groups.
Brandon Hernandez 56:09
A hundred percent.
Yeah. Well, thanks Brandon, for being here. This is really fun. I look forward to this. Now we can mark our friendship in podcast years.
Brandon Hernandez 56:19
That's right. I'll figure out how the market is if it's a dog years, good if you're in service providing long enough, I think we age a lot quicker than the rest of the population. So we'll have to start marking that off.
All right, fair enough. All right. Thanks, Brandon.
Brandon Hernandez 56:35
Thank you. It's good to see you.
Thanks everyone for listening. Until next time, have an amazing week.
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