Discover, Play and Share: How One Brand Is Hitting the Mark on the Right Cues in Food Culture — the Hartbeat CEO Interview
Food and beverage is now a cultural product to discover, share, make and trade. The Hartman Group’s Culture of Food report details how consumers are trading out traditional eating and drinking routines (and products) for new ones that reflect the desires and challenges of expanded variety in a complex food landscape. As the report discusses, interest in new experiences and products isn’t a mere Millennial trait but a reflection of evolving food culture.
In today’s evolving culture of food, new brands inspire consumers to participate in new food and beverage experiences that are often higher quality. One such emerging brand tapping into consumers’ desire for new and interesting products that engage consumers in culinary, wellness and fresh experiences is Mamma Chia. Hartbeat recently sat down with Janie Hoffman, Mamma Chia founder and CEO, to chat about the company’s roots and consumer reactions to its unique offerings.
Chia seeds are a relatively new ingredient in the marketplace, especially when it comes to mainstream foods and beverages. Can you describe some of your motivations behind establishing a brand built around an emerging ingredient?
Mamma Chia has been a truly authentic journey that began with a tiny seed and a big vision. After being challenged for almost 20 years with a variety of debilitating autoimmune disorders, it was the amazing chia seed, coupled with other lifestyle changes, that finally eradicated my immune disorders and restored my overall health. It was then that I realized my purpose was to share the magic of chia with the world and create a brand that would uplift and honor the soul of humanity and the soul of the planet.
Mamma Chia products are already available in large-scale "mass market" retailers: How do shoppers react when they experience your products for the first time?
Shoppers everywhere love our products because they are so nutritious as well as fun and delicious. By engaging the hearts and minds of our community, we will further our mission to honor and help heal the planet. We believe it is our responsibility to help educate souls wherever they shop on the importance of organics. Therefore, our products need to be broadly available in many types of retailers and attract a wide range of shoppers in order to have the greatest positive impact on humanity and the planet. Many shoppers have never seen anything like our beverages and are often drawn to them through the allure of the chia seeds suspended in vibrant, gem-colored organic juices. While this piques their initial interest, it is the fact that our products taste delicious and fulfill their nutritional promise that makes people become repeat buyers and enthusiastic about sharing Mamma Chia with their friends and families.
We saw Mamma Chia beverages described on your website as somewhere "between a food and a beverage" — with the suspension of seeds in a beverage format, do you find that consumers who are trying your products have to be "taught" how to appreciate them, or do they seem to be doing that on their own? Related, how would you compare the experience of "core" health and wellness consumers of Mamma Chia products to those consumers less focused on health and wellness lifestyles?
While chia has become a very popular and mainstream ingredient over the past few years, we still invest a great deal of time establishing authentic connections with our community and furthering their education on the nutritional powerhouse that is the chia seed. We have also found that having people experience the magic of chia for themselves by trying samples of our products is a powerful method of introducing them to the benefits of chia and the vitality that it provides. That said, the nutritional properties of chia — heart and brain benefits from omega-3s, protein, fiber and others — are universal in their appeal. They are desirable to souls of all ages and lifestyles. Our environmental message is equally important to our nutritional message. We continue to reinforce our commitment to being a conscious and sustainable company through our memberships with 1% for the Planet and Slow Money as well as being a Certified B Corporation.
Are there specific health benefits consumers seem to be seeking by buying Mamma Chia products?
Chia seeds are the number-one source of plant-based omega-3s. And we’ve watched omega-3s rise from obscurity to a must-have supplement for people everywhere. Omega-3s offer benefits to our hearts, our brains and our skin, and all of our chia beverages contain an entire day’s worth of omega-3s in one bottle. There are definitely customers that choose our products because of these health benefits, but we also ensure that every product is delicious and fulfilling. At the end of the day, we need to offer delicious products that are also healthy and nutritious to fulfill our mission.
Are there specific eating occasions (for example, snacking vs. breakfast) when you think Mamma Chia products are most commonly consumed?
We intentionally created the Mamma Chia lineup of products to accommodate a variety of different eating occasions throughout the day. We offer three lines of beverages that can be enjoyed at any time during the day or night as a delicious vitality booster. The Chia Squeeze is a portable, anytime snack in a convenient pouch. Our Chia Granola Clusters are perfectly suited for breakfast or as a flavor- and protein-packed snack and our Chia Vitality Bars are a great complement to any meal or as a stand-alone snack in between.
What have been some of the biggest hurdles you've had to overcome in terms of launching your products into the mainstream?
Simplifying our environmental and societal message has not been an easy task. And when one stops to think about how damaging the conventional food system is to our planet, it can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. While I chose to create an organic food company, there are plenty of other ways people can contribute to healing our planet, and one of them is through supporting organic products and practices. Our collective choices have a tremendous impact on the world. We communicate this to our community and encourage them to support businesses who do right by the planet so that together we can effect change.
How important do you think the books you've published are in terms of communicating your brand and chia seeds as ingredients?
My writing the books stemmed from a true desire to share my story and hope that others might benefit from my experience. I also knew that the books provided a vehicle to help educate others about the impact of organics on our lives and our planet and to help guide individuals towards a path of environmental consciousness. We truly believe that Mamma Chia’s role goes way beyond simply creating products or making money; we view ourselves as leaders in a movement to rethink our existing food system and protect the earth for generations to come.
What role do online, social media and digital communications play in terms of growing the business for Mamma Chia?
Social media has been an important community-building tool for Mamma Chia from the very beginning. Establishing a genuine, authentic dialog with our community engenders brand loyalty and creates a coalition of “ambassadors” who willingly share their love for our product with the world. And with such limited space on our packaging, it gives us the opportunity to tell the Mamma Chia story and communicate our brand values in much greater detail.
Learn more about The Hartman Group’s Culture of Food 2015 report. Click here