Today I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Grimmer, the Co-Founder and CEO of The Nest Collective: “the next generation consumer packaged goods company.” Neil spoke at the GSB this afternoon and I was also lucky enough to spend 30 minutes one-on-one with him. Both interactions left me incredibly excited about Nest itself and inspired about innovation opportunities in food.
On The Nest Collective
Let’s start with Nest. From their website, “the Nest Collective is a company of mission-driven consumer products brands focused on nourishing babies, toddlers, and kids with healthy, organic foods from the highchair to the lunchbox.” Over the past five years they’ve built two brands: Plum Organics and Revolution Foods. Going forward, they’ll be rolling all their products under the Plum brand.
Besides their impressive integrity around ingredients (organic, non-GMO, minimally processed…), what stands out to me about Nest is their focus on and track record in innovation. Five years ago, they looked at baby food, saw a commoditized and stagnant category, and used human-centered design to create a meaningful, inspirational and fun customer experience that is 1) healthy for consumers (babies and kids) and 2) good for the environment. They pioneered the spouted pouch that has single-handedly revolutionized baby food packaging with an improved user experience and a strikingly smaller ecological footprint (compared with glass jars, their pouches use 1/9 the fossil fuels and have less than 1/14 the landfill impact), throwing a “retirement party for the glass jar.” Their focus on human-centered design (i.e., design based on the needs and experiences of the user) permeates the company. Their products and marketing are fresh and fun and meet the needs of “modern parents.” I love this campaign, called “Babies for Yum.”
Nest has experienced amazing growth, proving that this trend (i.e., parent demand for healthy baby/kid food) will continue. They’ve served over 30M organic baby meals to date, and they’ve experienced a CAGR of ~400% in revenue from 2008 to 2011, with ~$38M in revenue in 2011. Their growth and the competitive pressures they’re placing on their baby food peers have the potential to create huge impact on the health of the next generation. In an earlier post I described how influencing tastes and metabolism at an early age through healthy baby food can create lasting impact on a child’s health. To me, the Nest Collective exemplifies the innovative, impactful, responsible and mission-driven company ideal.
Plus I love their unpretentious, un-“granola” approach to marketing organics (see below). No need to confine a product this awesome to the Whole Foods elite.
On Innovation in CPG
Neil also provided some really interesting advice to me and my classmates about how to think about disrupting the packaged food world. There are over 30,000 products in the infamous middle aisles of a given grocery store (those aisles that are packed with packaged foods, i.e., not the produce, dairy, meat or seafood sections). He advised us to ask, for each of those products, are the incumbents providing solutions that are healthy, sustainable, and enjoyable? Probably not. There is tremendous opportunity to do to another category what Nest has done to baby/kid food.
In terms of prioritizing among these 30,000 categories, he recommended we as entrepreneurs look for points of consumer reflection. When in a person’s life is he or she taking a moment to reflect on lifestyle choices? At the birth of a baby is a natural answer. So is after an illness. And there are other important moments when consumers reflect on their eating. Think about the products these consumers are buying at pivotal moments and innovate there. As Neil said, when talking about addressing the glass jar baby food status quo, “we believe there is always a better way.”
Thanks Neil for an inspiring morning!