#29: Ben Warren – Pederson’s Director of Retail Marketing
Ben Warren Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms podcast. We are so excited you’re here. We appreciate you joining us. And we look forward to sharing these conversations with thought leaders from our industry. They’re going to paint a picture from every perspective – consumer, customer, vendor, employee, and peer – that I think is going to be super valuable, and we’re really excited to share. So, thanks for tuning in. Remember don’t tune out, and grab life by the bacon.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is another episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. We are talking to an employee of Pederson’s today. This guy, you’ve heard his voice before. It’s not the first time you’re going to hear from Mr. Ben Warren. Ben, thanks for coming on, being willing to share your story with our listeners and give people insight into the team at Pederson’s, what you’re all about, what makes you human, what makes our brand human, what makes our company human. So, let’s explore some of that.
Ben Warren: Sounds good.
Neil Dudley: Where I’d like to start is just give everybody a baseline about kind of where your career- I almost want to say tell us where you come from, but that’s really probably too far back. What has your work life been like? How did your career kind of take off or get started? Paint that picture for everybody.
Ben Warren: I kind of finished up my college degree in 2008 at the pit of the recession, and jobs were kind of tough to come by. So, I got a job at a couple of retail stores and finally got a job at Whole Foods in the meat department and worked my way up from a part-time employee to running the departments. Then I moved around to a couple other departments. That life was not working great for me after a while. It had been a great company for me. They treated me real well. I’d moved up. It had been a great career builder. But I wanted something a little different and I left Whole Foods, and I worked for a company here in Denver, a meat company here in Denver as the general manager for their butcher shop. And that started out a little rough. I kind of left there too. Fortunately, I had worked with a guy on the sales team at Whole Foods and I kind of talked to him at that point. He had said we’re looking for a demo person in Colorado and timing worked out great for that. That was a great gig for about a month and a half.
Neil Dudley: You’ve had the most dynamic career as possible. Well, listen, we haven’t even- well, but we haven’t even got to the real crazy stuff yet. Anyways, you keep finishing your story.
Ben Warren: I mean, I have a very vivid memory of I think it was like March 17th or maybe that weekend before, I was demoing at a Whole Foods here in Colorado, and you could just tell the world was going crazy. The shelves at that particular Whole Foods were just being emptied as fast as the people in that department could refill them, and they were just running out of product and I’m sitting here dealing with like bacon and sausage and just watching all of this, just this craziness. And then by the time I had left that store at the end of the demo, I had got an email from Pederson’s saying Whole Foods shut it down. Everybody else is shutting it down. And like that was it. And it was kind of a weird moment because it’s like, oh man, what does that mean? But a funny thing is, I mean, my current job is retail marketing manager, and my degree is in marketing, but an extremely [inaudible 3:51] route to that.
Neil Dudley: Well, you went around the block to come back to where you started. But marketing is such a dynamic, beautiful piece of our business that I think that trip around the block turned out to be only just great experience for understanding marketing in our industry.
Ben Warren: I mean, I think it gave me a really valuable view into kind of a lot of different facets of the meat industry and both from a consumer perspective and the retailer perspective. And then of course the producer, the manufacturer perspective, and I mean, I don’t see how that couldn’t help in the job.
Neil Dudley: So, what I think is really cool about your journey, and so almost every conversation from this point forward could have an aspect of the pandemic, right? The COVID and all that. Like it’s one of those life-changing things. I can remember telling my wife this’ll be over, kids won’t even remember it. She looked at me square in the eyes and said, “They will not forget this.” I think she was right. So, I like the idea of telling this piece of Ben’s story that he might not tell so well because I want everybody else to know this guy is a gamer. I mean, he’s willing to do what it takes in the company within the team to help, to be successful. That is so cool. So, picture demoing bacon, sausage, ham coming out of the meat business, this is what Ben did to now going on Whole30 diets, filming Instagram lives, just totally flip that script into, oh, now I’m doing this all digitally. Like I’ve done it with people live and in their face. Now it’s a camera. Which we’ve all went through that a little bit. Just these Zoom calls is a piece that’s kind of similar. Tell everybody a little bit about what that feels like to just really go from kind of, I don’t think you would even mind this, you’re more of an introvert, shy kind of guy to having the pressure of being in a job role now that requires more in front of the camera, in front of people truth.
Ben Warren: Yeah. And I would say it’s been a learning experience, but I like that. I really enjoy that part of it. I like learning how to do new things, and I mean, the getting out of your comfort zone thing, like filming Instagram things, is the best way to learn something fast. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to do it the best possible way, but then somebody’s going to give you a piece of feedback that says check out this angle from your phone or something like you did early on with the thing. And those kinds of things are super helpful. And then you learn how to do it. And then additionally, it teaches you some empathy, some understanding for the people that you work with who do that kind of thing all the time and like understanding how challenging that can be. And it gives you the ability to like- look, an example would be label design, like I didn’t know the first thing about label design before I can into this. And we’re working on a couple of them, and I’ve really come to understand the challenges of the graphic designer and like the things that you don’t know they need until they tell you. And that whole thing, it’s been a great growing, learning experience. And while I do consider myself an introvert, I like teams of people. I like working with teams of people. I like being around other people who have different perspectives than I do too because I think it makes things more interesting. Like I think two heads are better than one, especially if they don’t think the same way. I think there’s a lot of- and I think one of the things that this company values is that different perspective and like the different view on things. And I’m sure, like you just said, I took on a lot of different challenges, but I would say lots of people in our company have done that through the thing. And I know you’ve talked to Robin already and Robin’s another person that got kind of thrust into a role that she was not necessarily familiar with, but man, she’s taken that bull by the horns and done such an amazing job with it.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. I mean, I’m proud of that. Like personally, as a leader in the organization, I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of the people. I’m proud of the personalities. I’m proud of the grit within our team. I mean, the facts are you don’t survive within our team if you don’t have those things because it won’t feel good to you, it’s not going to go away. Yeah, I mean, we’re very imperfect and we need to be getting better on all fronts in a lot of ways, but there’s some kind of just core truths about being on the Pederson’s team, and some of those are them. All right, so tell everybody a little bit about Whole30. Like our products lend themselves toward a Whole30 community, toward a better-for-you community, somebody interested in a better-for-you kind of diet, really that is not the right word, it is lifestyle. You did one where we’ve kind of documented it as a resource for our community. So now on the podcast, tell everybody what that was like for you. And are you still eating that way? Now we’re, let’s see, a week or so past the January Whole30. I’m interested, like, how’s it going? What are you up to?
Ben Warren: Yeah, it was definitely a learning experience. And I got to say, when I joined this company, that was nowhere near my mind on how to do- like that was not- I wasn’t interested. But kind of as we got closer to January, and after interviewing with Melissa, I was definitely more interested in giving it a go and seeing not only because I wanted to learn more about my health, but I like a good challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it. So, kind of like you and the 75 Hard. So, I would say the biggest things I learned were what I couldn’t live without, like what were the things I really missed when it was over, and then what were the things that I was like I’m okay if I don’t eat much of this. Now, to be honest, the Superbowl kind of threw me off. It’s kind of hard to go through a Super Bowl Sunday without eating a bunch of stuff you shouldn’t eat.
Neil Dudley: By the way, how did you like the game?
Ben Warren: It was a good game. I mean, I didn’t necessarily have a dog in the fight. There were a bunch of people on the Rams I wanted to see win a Super Bowl, but I didn’t really have a dog in the fight. It’s just I’m in for a good game, and it was a good game I thought. I mean, it was a mix of good offense and defense, which is always good. Sometimes you get those high scoring everybody’s scoring every time or like those ones with like the Ravens’ defenses where nobody’s scoring, and they are really boring.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. Now, okay so you kind of said what is the one thing you learned, like, let’s say the number one thing you learned you can’t live without.
Ben Warren: Yeah. I just can’t get past noodles, man. I just, I love them. But pasta, Asian noodles, anything really. The thing I really didn’t miss much was the sugar, like the sweets. I didn’t miss them. And I mean, I’ve certainly had a couple of desserts since and stuff, but I’m not- I’m still eating dried fruit. I’m still having tea after dinner to kind of squash that sweet tooth. And I really- it’s not like a- I don’t miss it. It’s not a big deal. And I think that is what it’s learned to me is like I can if I need to, I have the ability to be- to cut those things out of my diet if I need to do, if it’s a health reason or something. I also think one thing I got was like I got better at cooking and knowing flavor combinations and things that are good. Like to have these egg bakes, I would bake on a Saturday morning, and they would last me the week. Those things really helped. And like not having a crutch of sugar or legumes or noodles, like I can cook without those things and still have a pretty varied diet that has got lots of good stuff in it.
Neil Dudley: Man, you enlightened me, seriously. As we were kind of going through this January of 2022, my 75 Hard journey, Becca’s PCOS, your Whole30, and we would get together and talk about it. And it would just blow my mind that you cared so much about other people, your family specifically, enjoying the food. You want it to be variety. You want it to be interesting and fun. I think I learned that from you. I learned that’s more important than I make it in my life. So, I think that’s part of the value of these conversations. Like I think folks, if you’re just- I think you should think about that truth, that people will eat food and they want it to be an experience, where some of us, me for example, says, the switch is tripped, just feed me broccoli every meal. That’s what I will eat.
Ben Warren: Yeah, I find it so amazing you can do that. I mean, I totally admire it because it’s not something I can do. And I also feel like it’s that discipline to be able to go it is sustenance now, that’s what I’m doing it for. And that is a switch I can’t flip. And I mean, I admire people who have the discipline to be able to just go I’m doing this and then they do it.
Neil Dudley: And see, I admire you for the other. That’s what’s so great about being on a team, having different humans in your life because you find admiration in those things that you’re not great at.
Ben Warren: My wife and my kids and I, we talk a bit about like how people show love to each other, and my wife and my kids, they know that the way I show love is feeding people, and that’s a big part of it for me. And that was a driving factor. And a part of it that was a driving factor, it was just like, I’m a big guy and I don’t have any real like heart problems or any real issues, but like it’s only a matter of time to where a fella as big as me is going to have those problems, joint problems, whatever. And the idea behind all this is I want to be around to see my kids grow up. I want to be around to be a grandparent. I can’t do that if I don’t take control of how I deal with food.
Neil Dudley: Do you think those 30 days have moved you in the right direction?
Ben Warren: Absolutely. Because I think I know- I mean, one thing I learned was I lost 13 pounds, but I generally think my metabolism is just crazy slow. So, what I need to do to make it move forward is it’s got to be a balance of exercise and food. Some people, my wife, can do it solely with food. If she just changes the way she eats, portion control, things like that, she can lose that weight, and it’s not a big deal for her. She doesn’t need to work out. And I really have to add in the exercise on top because, I mean, I eat a clean diet for 30 days, super clean, and I lost weight, but not like- I mean, I know people who’ve lost like 30 pounds in that 30 days and it’s like-
Neil Dudley: It’s such a battle too. It’s like, hey man, 13 is a win. It’s still an awesome win. But your brain will mess with you and say, yeah, but somebody else did 30. What’s wrong? It’s like we’ve got to battle that. I’m the same way about some other thing, like people aren’t listening to this podcast, I must suck. That’s not true. The podcast is awesome. The audience has not found it yet or whatever. It’s like I’m comparing it to- comparison is just a bad idea.
Ben Warren: I mean, anybody who tells you they don’t have those thoughts in their head is fooling you or they’re pretty narcissistic.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. Let’s say you’re Ben Warren before you ever knew about Pederson’s and you wanted to just tell him a thing about our company, our brand, that would be valuable to him. I mean, here’s a surprise question. I’m like come up with this off the top of your head. What would you tell him? Is there anything?
Ben Warren: Yeah, I mean, I think that one of the big differences is because, I mean, there are other companies that do some things like we do, they do no sugar products or they do clean meat and stuff like that. But I think a big difference is a lot of our competitors or other companies that do what we do are really big companies. And we’ve got a group of people that are just- to me, it’s the people is the difference of our company and how they treat other people, how they treat each other. I mean, I know you’ve had Cody on here. He’s such like a thoughtful guy, Cody. And I think, I just really think like he’s clearly, just being in meetings with him, he thinks about things before he says them and he like takes other people’s perspectives. And you do too. I’ve always admired that about you and Stacey too. I think the company, like we have all these people that we just talked about who do- they just are willing to take on work and they’re willing to learn something new. And I mean, all of these people we work with are eventually going to either stay with the company and continue to make this company a great company or they’re going to move on, and this company will have given them tools to be great somewhere else.
Neil Dudley: I’m glad you said that because I was thinking that exact thing, I think it’s our calling almost to make people, help people- you can’t make anybody anything. They have to want it. But you can support them. You can help them. You can be honest. Like I don’t- I try not to beat around the bush about how I feel about reviews or anything. And I want the same thing from you guys. And I think you guys probably don’t feel as comfortable giving that kind of feedback to me as I would want you to, but sometimes it’s just truth as anybody. Like look, I’m probably not going to tell somebody higher up in the company exactly what I think when I might some somebody else. I don’t know. But it’s a thing to strive to.
Ben Warren: I don’t know. I think obviously some people are not going to do that, but I think, to me, what I’ve always felt like I’ve been able to do is give honest feedback in a polite manner, in a way that like, hey, these are my thoughts and why they might work, or you probably might have some good reasons why they might not work. And I think you engage people in a way that allows them to give you that feedback in a polite manner and like kind of understand, hey, the thing- And I always- I think that’s one thing that caught me early on with you when I first started to get into those meetings after I became a full-time employee. And that like you’re willing to hear people out, but I mean, even if you don’t agree, that’s okay, but you’re willing to hear people out and that’s a culture that’s been ingrained in the people that work for Pederson’s, and I think that’s really important.
Neil Dudley: Well, I hope listeners are hearing this. It is just a couple of guys that work together and want Peterson’s to be the best it can be and want the people of Pederson’s to be the best it can be talking about that. Like, what is the reality of it? It has turned out we’re trying to grow our team. We’re trying to find some people to fill some holes as we go to the next level. Those people we’ve interviewed have found so much value in listening to these conversations. It is one thing that makes me excited about the podcast. Maybe no consumer ever listens to it, but future employees may listen to it. And as you go, let’s say, for example, if you were to go somewhere else, well, you could say, hey, you want to know about my job, listen, me and Neil talked about it. You can totally learn about it. Go listen to it. And I would love for that to be there. But you’re right, we want to keep everybody as long as they are happy, growing, and in the place in life they want to be, and the second they want to be somewhere else, we want to help them get there. And now that’s scary. And that’s easy to say because there’s a lot of value in tenure, people that just have experience in your business for time because they understand the politics of it, the way things work.
Ben Warren: I think it can be- I mean, I had this when I worked at Whole Foods and stuff, like it’s hard to let people go sometimes, especially if they’re great people, but there’s like a fatherly pride of watching them go blossom in their career, become bigger. I mean, I had that- I had a lot of guys that were my assistant managers at Whole Foods that went on to become team leaders or even higher in the company at Whole Foods. And I’m so proud of them. And when they text me or email me to this day and tell me I got promoted past as a position that I had tried to get at the thing, I’m just like, there’s pride there. I feel no kind of ill will. It’s all like awesome.
Neil Dudley: That was good time spent in my life. You never get the time back. It’s just going by all the time. You never get to add more. And that feels like good time spent. I don’t know. What else? Have we not covered a topic that we need to talk about? Digital retail marketing, I mean, just touch on that.
Ben Warren: Yeah. It’s such an interesting world today because, I mean, I’ve talked about how I graduated in 2008, which is later than I should have graduated because I had a lot of fun in college, let’s say. But in 2008, like that world didn’t exist, and today, it’s just so different and I think things like Instacart or anybody else’s digital platforms on how they buy their groceries. And like you mentioned earlier, COVID had an impact on everything in there, well, obviously the biggest impact is on how people buy their food these days. And so, it’s not just grocery stores, it’s e-commerce sites, it’s Amazon, it’s Costco online, it’s all these places and we’re in a lot of these places, but it’s just changed the world. And then how you deal with those things that you put on those websites, too, and how you manage all those things and the pictures and the spec sheets and all the sizes and how big the pallets are, everything, all that information that needs to go to retailers or e-commerce sites and how you manage that data, it’s just such an ever changing world and it’s pretty fast paced and something’s changing all the time. And as a company, as we grow, we really are doing our best to wrap our brains around it and take advantage, leverage those things to successful opportunities for us.
Neil Dudley: I think if you’re listening and you own a business in the food sector, better-for-you sector – I don’t know why I’m saying sector – niche, you need a guy like Ben 24/7 paying attention to this ever-changing digital media. Like you’ll go into retailers these days and they don’t even want to talk about coupons or a lot of the old things we would do – I say old, they’re not even old. Like just the other day we used these tools to bring attention to our products. Well, now it’s a whole new set of tools and it’s all digital. It’s all- I’m trying to come up with there’s kind of a name for it. Maybe it is digital media. I don’t know.
Ben Warren: I mean, it’s marketing and you’ve talked about this a lot, but the idea that marketing and sales have to be joined at the hip. And I feel like when you go into these meetings with retailers, they’re telling you, yeah, we need the in-store promos and things like that, but we need coverage on our digital platforms too.
Neil Dudley: We have to say it, too. Like sometimes you’re in front of a buyer who doesn’t even know that they have a digital presence because they’ve maybe- I don’t know.
Ben Warren: That’s not where their expertise lies. And that’s okay. As an old meat guy, I have the same situation. Like it’s something I’ve had to wrap my brain around. And when you have to wrap your brain around a million other things at a store and you’re a buyer, the idea of also trying to figure out the digital platform, that’s a challenging thing. It can be difficult for them to even think about.
Neil Dudley: It can feel really foreign. Like what’s a banner ad? What is a banner ad? What does that mean?
Ben Warren: I’m incredibly sympathetic to those people because I was in that world and I understand that. I mean, I think if you’re not showing those things off, you’re [inaudible 25:22], you’re shortchanging yourself as a company. And I feel like we try to tell these companies, hey, we’re doing these things for you and with you to help you grow and us grow. And it’s a great partnership. And I think they value that certainly. And now it’s become just part of the deal.
Neil Dudley: It’s slowly, if not already, part of every conversation. Like we even talk about it like this: Ben, you have to go on every sales call. Because that sales and marketing piece of our business has to really be working in tandem, because consumers, 90%, I don’t know, that’s just a number I just pulled out of the air, but a large percentage of their buying decisions are made before they ever leave the house or take their eyes up from their phone.
Ben Warren: I mean, there’s so many perfect examples of that. Like, I mean, let’s use Tesla as an example. Like they don’t advertise, they don’t sell in a store. Like you have to order your car online from them. And so, you’ve made that- like the only way to make that decision is to do it online before you purchase and then wait for them to build it for you. I mean, that’s a good example of like you make a hundred percent of that decision before you go to get the car. And I mean, I think you can find that everywhere. It’s like when you go to buy a big ticket item these days or even a small ticket item, you’re doing research, figuring out the thing. You’re not talking to a salesperson at a Best Buy or King Supers or any kind of grocery store, HUV. You’re making a lot of those decisions before you even walk into the store. So, if you don’t have that presence, you are definitely behind.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. Folks, this is what it’s all about to me. I’m so glad if you’ve listened this far, you’ve got to hear just me and Ben talk and hear a little bit about his story and where he came from and how he plays a role at Pederson’s in making us what we are and who we are. Tell a friend if you enjoyed the episode. I know Ben knows I’m like a shameless promoter about this thing all the time. Hi, on YouTube. Thank you for watching if you’re watching. Ben, hug those kiddos, and thanks for coming on here.
Ben Warren: Thanks, Neil, I appreciate it.
Neil Dudley: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. It’s been a blast bringing this to you, and I sure hope you enjoyed it and found value. If you did, tell a friend, share it out on social media, hit that subscribe button, or go check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. We sure hope you do. And thanks for being here.
Fun fact: Ben recently completed his 1st Whole 30!
Visit us online at www.PedersonsFarms.com
(1:06) – Ben’s career arc
(5:08) – Ben’s commitment to Pederson’s beyond his job description
(9:06) – Ben’s experience w/ Whole30
(16:11) – What would you tell your pre-Pederson’s self about the company?
(19:50) – How the podcast is morphing
(21:49) – Digital Retail Marketing
(27:06) – Wrap up
The Pederson’s Farms Podcast is produced by Johnny Peterson & Root and Roam.