#5 David Paul Miller: Chief Sales Officer at The New Primal
David Paul Miller Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Natural Farms podcast. We’re so excited you’re here. We look forward to sharing all about this beautiful industry of better-for-you food, meat, protein. We call the podcast the Pederson Natural Farms Podcast Powered by Protein because we’re going to talk all things bacon, sausage, ham, consumers, customers, vendors that support our business, employees that make us what we are, and peers, people that are in the industry competing for your attention and your dollar. And we think that’s healthy and we’re proud of them, so we want to share about them as well. Thank you so much for joining us. Be sure you tune in, don’t tune out, and remember, grab life by the bacon.
Okay, so cool, let’s get started with this rerecord. Hey everybody. If you’re joining the Pederson’s podcast for the first time, thank you for coming. We’re glad you’re here. I’ve got a great guest. His name is David Paul Miller, more famously known as DPM, let’s say. And we’ll talk about that a little bit and how that evolved, how it came around. I think it’s important for everybody to think about. In full transparency, we’re rerecording. So DPM, thank you so much for taking a second time out to do this, have this conversation with us, thanks to my inability to get the audio done well the first time around. And I want to give a shout out to Johnny, the guy that helps us produce the audio – you need this in life, people that just shoot you straight. He’s like Neil, you have to try and do that again because the audio is just not good, it’s cliquey, it’s buzzy. I was trying to do it through my laptop. Anyways, no real good excuse outside of the reality is I’m really excited we get to do this again because I think I’ll do a better job of interviewing you. I think you have a lot of great insight, perspective for everybody listening. Oh, by the way, hi to the YouTube world. We’re going to be putting this out on YouTube as well. I was just giving David a hard time – see and here I go just talking. We really need to get David talking, but I got to keep telling this story. I was just giving him a hard time for being good looking because the team, the marketing team, the girls on the team, they were like, hey, when do we get to talk about the New Primal guy? I’m like, you mean DPM? Yeah, I mean, they don’t even know your name. They just know, man, he looks good in that picture. That’s valuable. Let’s explore that a little bit. It lends itself to personal brand. We’ll talk about the New Primal brand. Let’s talk about some of your items and how you guys are winning. I was thinking about that on my drive today, it was like, man, what do I really want to talk to David about? And it is, I think the value is how do you win? How are you beating the competition? Do you think about the competition? All those things. So that’s a quick rundown for everybody. Now then specifically, talk about personal branding first. Let’s just explore that and how DPM came into the world.
David Paul Miller: Yeah. So, if you see my LinkedIn or if you happen to follow me on LinkedIn, I go by DPM. My name is David Paul Miller, as you mentioned. Nothing wrong with the name, proud of the name. But it’s a little bit forgettable, especially David Miller. So, at one point, I added the Paul. David Paul Miller adds a little bit of more memorable nature to it. And then over the course of time in CPG, I had multiple, most of them at Whole Foods, buyers started referring to me as DPM. And I thought, you know what? That’s kind of fun. It’s memorable. And so, I started, I changed my email signature first to just DPM. It says David Paul Miller at the bottom, but it says DPM in the actual signature part at the top. And eventually, just basically everyone in the industry, even our team for the most part, calls me DPM so it just became a thing. And I changed my LinkedIn to DPM. And I just, I think that we talked about how important branding is for brands, but I don’t think that there’s really much difference in terms of personal branding. You’ve got the hat that makes you more memorable, right? It’s just, it’s one of those things. It’s a visual cue of I remember that guy. I had a great time talking about that guy, or I really liked that guy’s post, or I really like his content. I think it’s just, it’s something that’s an added value piece. It probably won’t make you or break you, but I don’t think it can hurt. Just like you mentioned if someone’s attractive, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I mean, you can’t necessarily brag about that. For the most part, we don’t have a whole lot of say in how we look, but I do think there are certain things you can do – eating right, exercising, those can add to those things. And they can all be a piece of the holistic who are you both in business and in your personal life. I think they’re all things that matter.
Neil Dudley: And to avoid this shaming thing, if you deal with feeling like you don’t look good enough, I mean, I think that’s kind of ridiculous too because beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder. So, there is no, I don’t think- I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t go try to look like David Paul Miller, try and look like the best version of yourself, the happiest version of yourself, whoever that is. That’s the key. I think that’s the key for a CPG brand as well, look like the happiest, best version of your brand. So, and okay, just to close the first piece out, I would say or I kind of want to highlight for people, even in my position as a leader of a team, you lead a team, I encourage, or I’m asking myself the question, do I encourage my team to build their own personal brand? I think I need to explore that for myself a little bit because it’s important they do that and feel the freedom to do that. They make our brand more robust if they feel that way. So hey, I’ve learned something from you just now. It’s a thought going into my head that I’m like, man, I got to think about that because I don’t know if they feel that free to do that. And some of them won’t want to, and that’s okay too. All right, so tell us about the New Primal. Man, this conversation, I’m just feeling like I want to go so fast because I don’t want to keep you on here too long and so much. What’s the right question to ask? How does the New Primal keep killing it? What’s the answer to that? Do you think you are killing it?
David Paul Miller: That’s a tough question to answer. I’m one of those people that I don’t think there’s really a true mountain top. I think you climb it. I think you have to set realistic goals, both for yourself and for the brand. But I think that if you’ve ever reach a mountain top, you probably weren’t reaching quite far enough. And so, are we killing it? That’s a very relative question I think. I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done, especially with a very small team. We just hit 20 on our team recently. But that’s been about 10 to 12 people in the past year. So, a lot of the hires are relatively new. So, we had a very scrappy team as we’re going. So that’s kind of one of the things I always think of. When somebody asks a question like that, I think about what we’ve done with what we’ve had, and we have been pretty scrappy all the way around from equity raises to personnel, bandwidth. It’s kind of been until more recently, everybody’s wearing every hat. I mean, in 2013/2014 when we kind of got this thing going, my job looked like sending basically sending cold sales emails to independent grocery store owners in the morning and literally weighing and packing jerky in the afternoon. So, if I answer it from there, yeah, we’re killing it. I’m not doing that anymore. We don’t have to go back to that. So being such a relative question, I think that we have a ton of room to grow. I think we’ve got a lot of green grass ahead of us. A little grass fed play on words there I figured you’d appreciate.
Neil Dudley: In case people don’t know, just tell them what you do. Tell us about your number one first product. You just mentioned jerky.
David Paul Miller: Yeah. So, initially, we got started, we were the first grass fed, grass finished, no sugar added jerky in the US. We launched in 2012, I’d call it. We really started to get into distribution later in 2013 and 2014, but we’ve come a long way since there. In fact, we recently self-discontinued our jerky. And so that was a tough decision when it’s your original flagship line. But we’re going on 40 products now, most of which are available nationally at Whole Foods. And so, our take has always kind of been don’t let [inaudible 8:40] be just to be. We want to add value both to customers and to our retail partners and our distribution partners. And so today, we’ve got a whole line of different meat snacks. We’ve got beef thins, we’ve got a kid’s line called Snack Mates that continues to grow and has become one of the top sellers in Kroger nationwide and it’s one of the top meat snack items at Whole Foods because it just represents something completely different. It’s a chance for mom and dad to get some healthy protein in their kid’s diet that some of the kids will actually eat that’s not string cheese and it’s not more, just more granola or sugar like a lot of the kids’ snacks. We’ve got meat sticks. So, like the better for you, healthier version of a Slim Jim that are $1.99. That item came around because we were selling at the time, early on when we had no buying power, we were selling $8 jerky. And it was two ounces when everybody else is three and everybody else was S4.99. So, when we weren’t successful in selling that or we couldn’t get the consumer to trade up for that, we recognized that’s really just a cost prohibited issue. So, what makes the most sense? Well, Slim Jim’s made a pretty good business out of what they do, but I don’t want that. I don’t want mechanically separated and God knows what else is in there. So, we started making the healthier, better for you version of a beef stick. And now we have a turkey stick as well. They tend to retail for a $1.99. And I don’t think that’s as big of a trade-up for people who do want to eat healthier but feel like that’s a stretch for me to go up to the $6, $7, $8 beef jerky. And then beyond that, in 2017, we were having a team cookout and we were looking for a healthy marinade for our cookout so we can grill up some meat. And all we could find was canola oil and sugar-laden things, and just eight syllable words in the marinades. And we got to thinking, in manufacturing this jerky, we make these big drums of marinade. It’s keto. It’s Whole30. It is paleo. It’s all the things that our company is because it goes into our jerky. So, we called up Whole Foods and we said, hey, if we made a bottled marinade, is that something you guys would be into? And they said send us samples. And so, we sent them off and they came back and said, man, we love these, we’re going to launch these nationally. At the time, we were only in, I think, five regions of Whole Foods with our meat snacks. So ironically, we started as a meat snack brand, but our first national distribution rollout was actually in condiments for our marinades. And in typical startup fashion, they said two is great, we feel like a brand block of three would be better. As we got together over the weekend, and we said, well, what do you guys think? We came up with our citrus herb marinade. And I’m sure you guys know, that’s sometimes how it goes in the startup world, got to move on the fly, and where we lack the infinite pockets of the legacy brands, we can move quick, and we can turn on a dime. And that’s I think how we have the value prop, we can’t fight them on money or promotional stand and trade stand and Superbowl commercials and things like that, but we can move quick, and we can be, we’re kind of like that running back that’s small but elusive and can move side to side and forward really quickly. And so, I think that’s a lot of value. But anyway, long story short, those marinades took off. We became the top selling marinade brand nationally within four months. After the launch, the Whole Foods came back to us and said what else do you guys have? And so, kind of the same process-
Neil Dudley: Your brain initially says nothing. Oh, we’ll come up with something in the next day though. I mean, it’s so cool, the story you’re telling. I lived a very similar one early on at Pederson’s, just finding that way, being nimble and adding value. That’s such a key. Finding those things that your team wants and putting that out because other people turn out wanting it. You mentioned legacy brands, you said a Slim Jim. I’m thinking of some of those guys that I feel like, from an outsider, kind of play in your same space. And you can correct me if I’m wrong, Chomps is one that comes to my mind. Duke’s is one. Now they don’t necessarily have the grass-fed claim, but is that who you’re bumping heads with out there?
David Paul Miller: Yeah, I mean, so it’s, you can get to know these people as time goes on and I don’t know all of them. Duke’s is kind of growing right now. Chomps is independent. Pete Maldonado, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to talk to him from Chomps, he’s a great guy.
Neil Dudley: I know the name, but I don’t know him.
David Paul Miller: He’s a great guy. My take on the whole thing is I don’t believe in mudslinging at all, but I mean, even if I did, there’s not much bad you can say about Chomps. I think they make a great product. I think they’re doing things the right way. They look at regenerative agriculture the same way that we do. And at the end of the day, it’s a little bit overused probably but a rising tide raises all ships I think is a very valuable comment. I’m not going to look at a guy who’s doing things right and I’ve had a chance to talk to a little bit, and I know he’s a good guy, he’s not the enemy. You start in-fighting with other brands-
Neil Dudley: That’s a scarcity mindset. Like having an abundance mindset, he can win, you can win, we can all win. That’s one reason we want to highlight the peers in the industry in this podcast because you guys are doing great things for consumers. I learned from you. I watch you. We’re not actually selling on the same spot in the shelves, but who says someday we might not be. So, there’s a- I’m not scared for you to come sell bacon if you’re doing the thing the consumer wants, and hey, that’s a better deal for the consumer. The competition is the better deal for the consumer. And I think that’s healthy.
David Paul Miller: Yeah, and I think you’re seeing shifts in where dollars are being spent. As the older generation continues to get older and now you’ve got millennials with more buying power than any generation prior. Gen Z is looking like it’s going to follow that same lead of we want to invest in our health. And I think there’s a lot that goes into that. We could probably talk about that for hours. But the healthcare system in the United States is not the best. So maybe you make better decisions. You make those little, small incremental changes that will pay dividends, and that’s very forward thinking. I wasn’t thinking that way at 21, 22. But I think that there’s, with the information that’s available today, whether it’s podcasts, you’ve got books, you’ve got Spotify, all sorts of different things that are providing a lot of info, it’s just stuff that I think you and I didn’t necessarily have until later on. And so, unless you grew up that way, you were probably following the same eating patterns, the same lifestyle that you kind of grew up with. I was a three-sport athlete. So, growing up, playing football, basketball, and baseball, I didn’t really have to care about- Or I should have, but I didn’t. I didn’t physically or in my feeling feel like I needed to eat clean. Now I could have been even better and made myself better by eating clean, sure. But it wasn’t until my twenties and getting out of college, I was like, hey, I gained a little bit of weight and I’m not feeling like myself. I don’t feel like I have the energy that a 23-year-old should have. And that’s when it kind of all changed for me. I found paleo and CrossFit. And that’s kind of how I got involved in this whole thing from the very beginning. It all started for me in 2007.
Neil Dudley: Oh man. There is a whole podcast, there’s a long conversation about all those things, and we may just have to come back and pick one of them and stay on it. But I think if you’re listening, if you’re younger, we’re trying to give you knowledge. So, I hope you listen. I wouldn’t have listened as a kid. I mean, I just didn’t listen. People were telling me great, giving me great advice. I just knew it all, wouldn’t listen. So maybe there’s one person out there that’s not the know-it-all like me and is listening. Your diet has so much to do with how you feel and how you perform. So, consider that.
Ben: So, we touched on this a bit with some of your original jerky and some of your marinades, but I think the way you guys determine how you’re going to bring a new product to market is different than other people. And I’d like to go a little deeper on that. I feel like you guys kind of, you’re looking for where the hole is and not necessarily trying to compete with other brands but try to find the new thing that nobody else is doing. Talk a little more about that.
David Paul Miller: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s, you have to find your strengths and what you’re good at. And we’ve tried to do our best not to be a [inaudible 17:29] brand. I think, you see it all the time. People get some [inaudible 17:31] data or IRI data or something like that. And they start just going after that, and that’s fine. For us, we try to represent something to both the retailer – we got to sell to the retailer first – but something that’s going to be important for the end consumer. Then we’ll do it internally, we will have a whiteboard session internally, and we’ll say, hey Kelsey, the last time you went grocery shopping, what was frustrating? Or what do you buy but it doesn’t really satisfy what you really want? Because luckily we have a team that for the most part, we are workout people, whether it’s CrossFit or we do something else, but we all try to eat pretty clean. And for the most part, everyone is kind of in alignment with the way we think. And we’ll say what do you buy but it doesn’t taste quite as good? Or it tastes fine, but it’s not quite as clean? That’s kind of what we’ll look at. And then we’ll think, okay, is that in alignment with where we’ve gone or is it too far away? Like we’re probably not going to go make potato chips. Could we do it? Probably, but I don’t think it would necessarily make sense. And I know what the [inaudible 18:31] on potato chips look like. It could be really attractive to try to go into that space. But I just, I don’t think it would be alignment. It wouldn’t really make sense. So, we tried to have a cohesive story as a platform brand. Now I think a lot of people are like, wait, they’re meat stacks, and they’re marinades. But if you know that story about how we started with the marinades, that actually does make sense even if it doesn’t obviously connect the dots from the outside. And so, everything that we’ve done has been in attempt to provide the consumer with an option that makes eating clean delicious and simple and convenient and helps them reconnect around the table with their family, their friends, with something that can be almost a conversation. Like wait, what is this? Like a medium buffalo sauce, how did you make this? Like oh, it’s New Primal medium buffalo sauce, and it’s super clean. It’s keto, it’s paleo, Whole 30, but you don’t have to sacrifice any flavor. I’d actually argue you’re getting better flavor out of it because it’s just real actual food.
Neil Dudley: I think I mentioned this the first recording, but I haven’t now – these first five episodes, the launch of the podcast, is all themed Whole 30. And I was talking to Melissa, she was the first interview we released. And we just talked about how once you get sugar and stuff out, you just said it so perfectly, the flavors are great. Food has great flavor when we get all the junk out of it and just let the food be the food.
David Paul Miller: Oh, without question. We talked last time about Whole30 means to us and to our customer base, and I think you can go on and on forever about the benefits of doing a Whole30, especially if you’ve never done one before and you don’t know what to expect. But to me, that’s one of the biggest ones is, one, you cut the sugar out, you feel a lot better, you sleep better. I think that there’s a brain fog that lifts, and you’ve got to go through a little pain to get there. It’s not necessarily that much fun.
Neil Dudley: There’s a withdrawal period.
David Paul Miller: A little bit of a sugar detox. But the benefits between sleep and just cognitive ability and you just feel like a better version of yourself. And then even further than that, you kind of rediscover your taste buds because you get used to that sugar and you just want that sugar hit and you think, your brain almost gets tricked into thinking, oh, if its sugar, it tastes good. And then once you kind of get past that sugar detox, that withdrawal period, you kind of rediscover food again. And to me, that’s one of the coolest things about Whole 30. And almost, the first one I ever did, it was probably five years ago, four or five years ago, and I was blown away, because I’ve never been like a big sugar person, at least not in my head. And I was like, man, I’m liking things that I never even liked before. Like healthy things that I thought that I didn’t actually like. And so, to me, that’s a powerful thing. And like I almost get chills thinking about like what a special thing that Melissa has created with Whole30 and just the way it’s changed lives and we’ve been lucky enough, and you guys have as well, to be a small part of that. That’s just a really cool thing. It’s a really cool thing when people come up to you, whether it’s at trade shows or you’re doing a Q&A somewhere or something like that and say, hey, I just want to let you know, I did my first Whole30 earlier this year and you guys were part of it and it changed my life and it changed my family’s life. It’s a cool thing to be a small part of that.
Neil Dudley: Absolutely. I totally agree. I echo that. So, if you’re listening, and you’ve never tried a Whole30, you have no clue what Whole30 is, go check it out. I mean, make your own decisions. I can’t tell you- I’d encourage you, I think it’s well worth the effort. Here we go on some of those rabbit chases. I want to get back to Ben’s question because I think there was some real good value there. Paint the picture or tell us what it’s like launching a product. I mean, is it just like, okay, well, we’re just, we think we might want to put it out there, we start doing it and about three months it’s out there?
David Paul Miller: Yeah. I mean, it’s all the emotions. It’s all the emotions. It’s exciting. It’s hectic. It can be absolutely nerve wracking. It’s expensive. That’s one thing people [inaudible 22:45] a lot, producing depending on how many you’re launching. One story that comes to mind, late 2019, I went to a condiments review at Whole Foods, and it was a half hour meeting and it turned into a two hour meeting and I left and I was on my way to the airport and I called Jason, our CEO. And I said do you want the good news or the bad news? And he said I don’t do bad news, which if you know, Jason, that’s the answer. He’s of course kidding. But he says I don’t do bad news, give me the good news is we’ve got 12 products that we’re adding to Whole Foods nationwide next year; the bad news is we’ve got 12 products that we need to go make. Because we don’t necessarily- we’ve been lucky enough, fortunate enough to have a very collaborative relationship with Whole Foods where we try to identify with them the areas in which we think we can make a positive impact on the category, provide something that is unique in nature or different or has cleaner ingredient deck or something like that really adds a value prop to why we launched it. it’s not just, as we were saying, not just going after dollars, it’s trying to fill a need within a subcategory or in a category. So back to your question, something like that, it’s great. You’re adding 12 products to Whole Foods. There was a time when we just hoped they’d answer an email or that we could actually have a conversation with them. So, it’s just, it’s all the emotions. As time goes on, for me, I come out of that meeting and I’m like I got the job done right. And then, you have to go back and tell your ops team we need to get to work on 12 products for R&D. One of them is launching off cycle in January so we have even less time for that one. And so, the effort that goes in on the operational side I don’t think is talked about enough. The sales and marketing folks tend to get kind of all the glory within this space. But the amount of effort and just sheer will of getting a project like that done, I can’t say enough. And I’ll name drop Jessica Osterberg, our Head of Operations. And she’s got just a can-do attitude that you don’t always find within that space, I’ve talked to a lot of brands about we are trying to grow, and we are getting push back from our team. And having someone who’s just like, all right, what are we doing? And how are we going to do it? Let’s get the work. Pull boots on and get the work. So, I think having a family team vibe helps you get through a lot of stress. We all like each other a lot. And I think that that, it’s not necessary I guess, but I think if you’re going through difficult or stressful periods, you’re going to get through them and get out on the other side a lot stronger if you just really like each other a lot, if there’s a lot of trust and it’s got kind of a family vibe to it.
Neil Dudley: Absolutely. I find myself in these interviews, particularly this first set of five interviews, saying the word absolutely a lot. I’m listening back to these episodes and I’m like, man, I say absolutely- I’m so thankful for the guests. You just told a story that is absolutely insightful for anybody that says, ooh, I want to launch my own jerky brand, I’m thinking about launching my own marinade, I want to sell to Whole Foods. Listen, there could be a buyer listening to this, and I think there’s value in what you said about being a collaborative partner with the retailer and them being reciprocal in that. Like that was one of the things I think set Whole Foods ahead of the game years ago, still does, that willingness. I mean, they funded startups, little startup businesses in the early years to the tunes of millions of dollars helping brands like you and me get off the ground. So, big hat tip to Whole Foods for that and all– there’s a lot of retailers that partner with you like that. We just happen to be kind of aligned with Whole Foods in that way, and you’ve got others and I’ve got others. So, if you’re a buyer listening, we really value that as a vendor, that collaborative piece of the relationship. I mean, we all need to make some money at the end of the day. We all need to make things that consumers want. So, we’re actually, it’s almost imperative for we’re aligned, although sometimes it feels like this battle.
David Paul Miller: Yeah, it shouldn’t though. It’s a partnership. As long as you go into it, thinking of it as a partnership. I think that is a fatal flaw that a lot of brands or salespeople make is, and I think we talked about this last time that I’ve talked to so many buyers who I have kind of like a personal relationship and will say how often a brand comes in and just takes this deep breath and then machine guns out a million words about why they’re so much better than everybody else. And that I get it from a human mindset. You feel like you’ve got this one shot, you just need to prove that you’re better. But in reality, you’re so much better off thinking, okay, if I’m across the table or I’m on the other side of the screen now, since it’s all virtual now, what is it that I would need to hear to do business with this guy or this gal? What do I need to hear? Don’t tell me you’re better than everybody because everybody thinks their ideas are better than everything else. So that doesn’t set you apart in any way. But what might set you apart is you tell me how do you fill a void that I might have in the category? What have you identified whether you did it just from walking in a store and looking at a set, or you’ve got data that you’ve identified something in the data where there might be a really great opportunity? How do you help me win basically, because I might like your brand-
Neil Dudley: Pause. This is some sales training you can give us. How quickly do you go in with that information right there? I have a thought about it, but I’m curious, how do you present that reality that you’ve found a hole in a person’s category?
David Paul Miller: Yeah. So, I mean, that’s honestly, it’s evolved over time. Because when we came in, and I’m sure this will for brands that have started and grown, we didn’t have any data really to back up what we were saying; we had an idea. And one of the things that we talked a lot about early on was we were these really early paleo people. If you said I’m paleo in 2007 or 2009, when Jason got into it, he got blank stares. For the most part like nobody knew what you were talking about. And so, by the time we were talking to retailers in 2012 and 2013, it was still really early, but it had grown exponentially. And so, there was at least a story that we could tell of, hey, we’ve been kind of, just as consumers in this space and it’s hard to find anything. I remember I couldn’t find grass fed beef, just ground grass fed beef, I couldn’t find it. I would have to source it from a local farmer, which I actually think is better anyway. If you can do it great, that’s wonderful. But not everybody’s going to go do that. A lot of people just like the grocery store. And there’s just like what I was saying about our competitors and things like that, you’re going to fill a hole or use occasion for people. But by the time we were going and talking to retailers, it was just, we’ve seen this thing grow by leaps and bounds, and our theory is that it is going to continue now that CrossFit is getting so much bigger and by that time, people kind of knew what CrossFit was at least a little bit. And we were right, it did continue to grow a lot and then it kind of evolved. Paleo had these like off chutes a little bit where people were going Whole 30 once Melissa started that, or they were going Keto as that became more of a household name, now that’s kind of eclipsed everything. I feel like Keto and CPG just kind of like blew up and monetized very early.
Neil Dudley: Let me slow you down. I’m sorry to the listeners, if this is hard for you guys, but there’s so much here, anybody like me is going to want to hear this stuff. So, if you’re sitting in the same seat as me, you want to hear this. I think there’ll be people that sit in the same seat as me listening to this. What about AIP? Is that on your radar? I feel like that one may be bigger than everything.
David Paul Miller: I agree. I think it is huge. I think that it is currently a little bit under the radar. I think it’s one of those things if you walk out on the street and ask a hundred people what do you know about AIP? Which for those who don’t know it’s auto-immune protocol, I think maybe you’d get five answers, five correct answers, and that’s just a guess. But on the reverse side of that, the amount of people who are following an AIP diet, it just doesn’t get talked about as much. It’s like less marketing around it. So yes, it’s very much on our radar. We actually have a product at Whole Foods and it’s actually in distribution a little bit elsewhere, but particularly at Whole Foods it is available nationwide, which is a carrot ketchup. And that was a collaborative idea. And so, for those who don’t know, it’s made of nitrates with are not part of an AIP diet, and so a carrot ketchup solved a problem, having a carrot- or excuse me, a tomato ketchup texture, consistency, but it provided something where you could dip fries in it. You can dip snap peas in it. That’s actually one of Urban’s favorite items that we make. She does snap peas in our carrot ketchup and the flavor profile works really well for it. So, we actually developed a product. So the answer is yes, we developed a product in collaboration with Whole Foods. It was an exclusive launch there, which adheres to or is compliant with an AIP diet. And so I think that, again, I think we talked about this last time, I’m a believer that inflammation is kind of the root of everything. And I think that whether you feel the need, like an acute need because just your inflammation response is really, really heavy and quick, or you don’t really feel it but say you do a Whole30 and all of a sudden, you’re like huh, I feel a lot better. Well why? For one, you’re eating less junk. But what does that mean? If you’re not eating that junk or things that you don’t even know that you have some low-level inflammation response to or inflammatory response to, if you can quell that, how much better do you think you’ll feel? You’ll to sleep better, you’re going to be more energetic. You’re going to be a better partner to your spouse or your significant other, a better parent to your kids. It’s all so intertwined that I think, to your point, I think AIP will continue to be a bigger deal. I think right now it’s mostly only being talked about from people who have these more severe acute reactions. And I think as time goes on, more and more people will look at that as something that like- I might not be- I’m one of those people who’s, I don’t know if it’s lucky or not lucky, there’s not much that I immediately feel terrible after eating. Almost nothing. I always go back and forth and like I guess I’m lucky, but at the same time, it can allow me to stray off if I’m not being careful because I don’t feel it, but I know it’s there. Even when you don’t feel it necessarily, you know what they say [I don’t feel it as sharp as I feel it is 34:15]. And so, yeah, I think the AIP is going to continue to be a massive thing. I think brands and folks just need to be having conversations around it and what it means. It’s just education. It’s no different than paleo at the beginning. It’s education and people talking about it. And eventually that’ll pick up, and the way social media is going right now, all it would take is a few social media posts to go viral and a celebrity to talk about it and before you know it, AIP is huge. And I think we’ll probably see that.
Neil Dudley: I think if you’re listening, pay attention to that. This is a couple of guys that have been in the industry and the business and around this segment of the market for a long time, and we both feel like AIP is going to solve a problem for people. Hashimoto’s is one of those things that’s really hard to put a finger on, but I think the AIP helps a lot with those symptoms and I think a lot of people battle that, they just don’t know they’re battling that. And this is just echoing really the same things DPM’s already said. So, as you guys build the brand, as you’re thinking about where you’re going next, where is that? I’m little bit curious. Or is it build what we’ve got, just keep looking? I know at Pederson’s, we’re looking around a little bit wondering where the next place to go is. We’re watching a lot of things, nothing has really a big blinking light, hey, come here. What about you? Can you help me find that spot?
David Paul Miller: I was talking about it, whether it’s personal or part of the brand story, because it’s both for me, roles are evolving including mine. We’re adding people to the team. One of the things that I kind of thought, I thought, man, I’ll have so much bandwidth once we add people. But then as you’re also trying to scale at a new level, the bandwidth really feels exactly the same. It doesn’t feel a lot different because now the goals and the expectations are so much greater than ever before. So that was kind of a learning thing for me. I was like, man, we are still basically all hands on deck all the time. And honestly, I wouldn’t want it different. Sometimes it can feel a little bit overwhelming, but I think if you’re in this space and you’ve been in this space or any type of startup space, you’re fueled by that. Like you pretty much have to eat, breathe, and live it. There is a balance to it. You need to have a family life and you need to have some social friends and things like that. But there is a different level I think that you have to have of commitment if you want to be successful in a startup space or with CPG. It’s not 9 to 5. It’s essentially 24/7. And I think that it has to be, but you have to love what you’re doing so much that that doesn’t feel like a bad thing. I’ve never felt like being on call, whether I’m working with somebody on the West Coast and it’s 8:00 PM over here on the East Coast or what have you. It’s never felt like a drain to me. And I think if I ever feel like or anybody on our team feels like it’s a drain, it’s probably time to move on to something else.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, sure, it might just not be the right fit anymore.
David Paul Miller: Knock on wood, it’s never felt like that.
Neil Dudley: You said something I want to circle back to – startup. Do you still feel like a startup?
David Paul Miller: We just had that conversation the other day internally. I say at what point are you no longer a startup anymore? Because I don’t know that- And maybe there is an answer out there. I didn’t bother to google it. I don’t know if it is an opinion thing or if there is a set- I think if you’re acquired you can officially say that you’re no longer a startup. So, I don’t know. Is it a private equity deal? Is it a revenue number? Is that a run rate that you’re at? I don’t know what the answer that is. I would say I feel like a mature startup would probably be the best way to put it. It’s almost kind of like being a tweener, kind of where we are. We’re still independent. We do have a private equity partner. But yeah, I would say it’s like an in-between. And honestly, I kind of like that. I love the scrappy nature of the startup, but there’s a good feeling about being established. And my wife and I both work in the business, on the business, and so having a family that is all in on a startup can be a little stressful. The first few years are a little stressful, not to say that there’s not stress now. But there’s a comfort level I think that comes with being a little bit more established and having a book of business that you’re still, you’re trying to grow aggressively but it’s no longer the, man, I hope people are feeling what we’re doing. I hope they’re hearing us. And I hope that they respond to us in the way that we think that they will. But that doesn’t happen for most people. The numbers, if you just look at the statistics, it’s not a- It’s a bit of a long shot game to do this. And so, I think that, like I said, I think you have to be really passionate about what you’re doing, and you have to be all in. It’s a burn the boats, burn the bridges type business.
Neil Dudley: Absolutely. There I go. Absolutely again, I’m sorry everybody listening. I can’t get off that word. But you’re so right. It’s a challenge moving from startup to, let’s say, established startup to then- it’s a lifecycle thing. The leadership piece of it takes a different mindset, I think, or I’ve experienced. Like as we were digging it out of the dirt, it was whatever we wanted we just did. Then you kind of start- as you add to the team, which what you’re doing is scaling the business, which is either people or technology. I mean, that’s how you scale. You put more people- or you somehow have to add fuel to the business, which typically comes in people or technology. So, I’m interested, I’m excited for your take on this 10 years from now, like, oh, wow, what was that like? What was that actually like? Because your bandwidth doesn’t get bigger. You have to start getting way more comfortable with things that you might not have been comfortable with; this at least was my experience. And I guess I’m kind of taking the position that Pederson’s isn’t a startup. I’m not sure I ever was involved in a true startup. I came into the business, it was already generating revenue and had a brand built, and we’ve taken it to other levels. But you’re right, it kind of feels like business is consistent, it’s established, we have consumers that are coming back and picking our product up every week. And so now then you start having to battle with, okay, where’s the next step? It’s not just taking punches every day and driving as fast as you can. Now you got to put a little more strategy to it.
David Paul Miller: Yeah. I mean, and that’s, I mentioned my role evolving a lot with the hire of some salespeople that are fantastic, that are new. They’ve been here about a month now. And I’m less in the business and trying to get up here and staying in a 30,000-foot view of what’s the strategy that will get us to go where we’re going. I’m not actually- it was a big thing for me. You mentioned getting comfortable with things you might not normally be comfortable with. Jason Burke, our founder and CEO, and myself, we are both not natural delegators. We’re just not wired to be really great natural delegators. And I think that we’ve both gotten better over the years, but you’re just wired a certain way or you’re not. And so, it’s still something that I have to fight against a little bit because I recognize I can’t hold on to everything. If I hold on to everything, we won’t grow in the way that we need to. And I think he’s seen the same thing as well as he’s kind of let some things go. Every time we do that, good things happen. We got to hire great people that we trust, put them- you got to get the right people in the right seats on the bus, and then there’s a lot of trust and there’s still, it’s like, hold on loosely but don’t let go a little bit. Where you just have to trust your people to do the right things and let them make some mistakes. You hope they don’t make any fatal flaws. But I think that if you’re- I try to be big in pattern recognition and recognizing, okay, well this happened, so this is likely to happen, this reminds me of when this happened. And if you’re looking at patterns, every time that we have just let go and let people do their thing, then I can concentrate on the things that I need to concentrate on instead of giving everything a hundred percent of my attention, that’s probably not going to get us where we need to go and you’re talking to these major national accounts. I recognize it now, and previously, it was just, it was what it had to be. It was a pure just scarcity of time and people. Like until two years ago, I was the only salesperson at the New Primal, then I had one until recently, and now I have three. But it’s just, those accounts require so much love and care and data analysis and strategy and planning, that now I can get up here and think just more about applying strategy and planning and what we might do to help grow the relationship and grow the categories instead of just thinking there are voids here or there are [inaudible 43:40] here that I have to fill. It doesn’t really help us grow. It’s just putting Band-Aids or plugging holes here and there, but it’s not getting up here and thinking about, okay, we got from here to here, how are we going to get to the next position? I think for me personally, that’s the biggest thing. And I think that you look around the office and our remote folks, and everybody’s role is evolving in some way to become kind of throughout the maturation process, the New Primal, what the next iteration of their role and who they are at the New Primal looks like.
Neil Dudley: This is part of the conversation I think this podcast excites me- I get so excited about the podcast because of this dynamic reality. As peers in the industry, we are helping each other along the way. As employees of Pederson’s- So as the vendors, the consumers, the customers, all of these people that we’re going to highlight and talk about on this podcast just brings so much value to what ultimately becomes a brand and a company. And I’m just super excited, super gracious, or grateful to you for coming on.
Ben: I know last time on the call, we talked a bit about products that you were launching on that day. I wanted to give you a chance to maybe talk about those if you wanted to.
Neil Dudley: Absolutely. We want the people to hear about them.
David Paul Miller: Yeah. So, it has been a little while since we launched, they launched on our website that day. So, we’ve got five new seasonings. We launched four seasonings last year, and it was one of those things where we had consumers reaching out. And that’s one of the things we try to do is let consumers help inform our decisions. If it’s something we’re hearing a lot from really passionate consumers, there’s no guarantee that we’ll do it, but we might give it at least a good discussion. And so, we recognize that a lot of people, they liked the bottle of marinades. They liked the bottled buffalo sauce and barbecue sauce, but some people prefer a season. Sometimes when the mood strikes, you want a dry rub instead. And so last year we decided to take our top performing condiments and turn them into dry rubs. And through the R&D process, we came up with some great blends that became the dry seasoning version of our bottled sauces. And when we launched those in the market, we launched them with Whole Foods and launched them online, they surprised us. I thought they’d be successful, I had no idea that they would perform the way that they did. And so, when the time came back background where the category review’s coming up for spices again, we brought some ideas to Whole Foods, and they liked them. And so, we actually have to be a five that we’ll launch, four going into Whole Foods. They are actually being cut in this month. So, by the end of the month, into October, they should be nationwide with Whole Foods. We’ve got a classic steak seasoning. It’s our take on basically a Montreal steak seasoning with no artificial anti [inaudible 46:29] agents, no sugar, no junk. It’s just clean herbs and spices. Then we’ve got a classic chili mix, same idea there. We have an everything bagel, which honestly, that’s probably my favorite one. I’ve been literally putting it on everything. I’ve put it on chicken, I’ve put it on eggs. I’ve used it on basically anything I could possibly make. And it’s just it’s a phenomenal blend that we were able to put together with that. And then we have a nutritional yeast. For those who aren’t familiar with that, it’s basically a cheese replacement, it’s got kind of a nutty cheese flavor. It’s basically nothing but protein, a small amount of protein, very low caloric value but adds a lot of flavor to the dish. It’s great on salads and soups and things like that. And then the one that is not going into Whole Foods, but we launched online, it’s a classic poultry seasoning. So, I’m really excited about those. Like I said, we never, I don’t think we ever thought, hey, we’re going to become a seasonings company. That became part of this-
Neil Dudley: It’s awesome. I hope people listening that are coming into the space or have been in the space a long time are echoing the same thing, or even just consider sometimes allow the business to evolve naturally, without- We’ve had to avoid the pretty shiny thing over there, which was the meat snack category. We lived and grew up in bacon, sausage, ham, refrigerated items. It looks attractive to think, oh, cool, shelf to table, holy moly, wouldn’t that be cool. We wouldn’t have to worry about shelf life or shrink or any of those things, but actually all that’s still there. I mean, it’s just kind of a different thing. And I personally thought, man, that thing is so crowded with already good players. What’s the value add and why just go take on such a competitive space? I didn’t see any niche for us to go do something special. Anyways, that’s kind of a side. What I would like to hear, I think your sales mentality and perspective is super valuable to me. It’s probably going to be valuable to a lot of the listeners. When you think about your partner, the buyer across the table from you in these situations, what is their pain point these days? And I have a couple of thoughts, but I’m just so curious, what do you- when you’re looking at them, what do you sympathize or empathize or wish you could take away from them that they’re having to deal with?
David Paul Miller: Yeah, I’d like to think I’m uniquely positioned to answer that because I have such personal relationships with the buyers. I can go on and on with what I empathize or sympathize with for them. I think that, looking at Publix, Publix is now doing three-month category reviews. Think about how many brands those people are meeting with to justify a three-month category review. I mean, it’s almost mind melting to think about how many brands are coming to them and they’re always new brands coming into the space. And they’re all talking about why they’re so much better. I think one is just sheer volume of meetings and brands that are trying to earn that space and trying to find that real estate on the shelf. And then I think that there’s the constant Rubik’s cube kind of battle between margins, promotional planning, trying to grow the category at the same time and how much are you trying to get from promotional [inaudible 50:05] then versus top line or bottom line rather growing of the category. And then you accidentally let the brands get into a race at the bottom. Because you’ve seen that, you mentioned the competitive nature of meat snacks, and it’s sort of thinned a little bit over the past year, year and a half. 2020 was not a great year for meat snacks for most brands. People weren’t in the car, they weren’t going to the gym, they weren’t going on road trips. That is a huge use indication for meat snacks. We made it up in condiments because everyone was cooking at home. So, for us, it ended up being fine, it was a big growth year. But if you’re just meat snacks in 2020, it’s a really tough year because the use occasion for- and it didn’t matter if you were in naturally positioned brand or legacy brand, it didn’t really matter. And so, I think looking at, we saw it a lot in 2017 and 2018, which I think was kind of the height of it felt like everybody had a meat snack brand. You go to trade shows, like every other booth was a meat sack brand. And being one of the brands that was kind of early into this new kind of renaissance that was created, that was epic, it was us at the New Primal. It was crazy to see how many new players came in a relatively short amount of time. It was like four years and it was just stacked. And so, the volume of meetings started to grow, particularly meat snacks, but then also brands that didn’t differentiate in a huge way, well, how do you win? And luckily for us, we were grass fed before everyone else was, so you put grass fed on there, and you got the paleo call-out, you got a Keto call-out when those became a thing. But if you don’t differentiate in any other way, what is it? It can only be branding or pricing. And so, what we saw is brands started just throwing money at a problem. And we would only ever run usually a dollar off because we didn’t want to devalue the brand in a way. We see our brand as a certain level of integrity and we think that, I mean, one, grass-fed beef is pretty expensive so to produce the product is pretty pricey. For people who are using feedlot cattle or concentrated animal farming operations, it’s a little bit different game. But they started going $2 off, $3 off, and then they’re running BOGOs regularly. And we were just looking at that. And then we were having to battle conversations on year-over-year numbers because you just got brands throwing and throwing and throwing. And it was like riding a storm out. And we had to endure some tough conversations about year over year numbers when people are just throwing money. But what happens, and this is where I empathize is the balance if you’re a category manager and you’re looking at promotional cadence and brands are just trying to throw money at your category, where do you draw the line because you’re not thinking shortsighted, you’re thinking longer term around what are my year over year numbers going to look like if I let these brands just fight each other in a race to the bottom? And I think that was a key piece that we saw as meat snacks grew and then we kind of hit a bubbling point. And I think that bubble did burst. I think that was a piece of it was there were too many brands that weren’t different. They weren’t really providing a difference; they were just another meat snack brand. So, trying to figure that balance, if you’re a category manager, and I’ve got all the appreciation and respect in the world for that, because it’s a lot. And I know most of them, it’s rare that they have one category. Most of them have multiple categories. So, you’re not just doing that for one group, you’re doing it for multiple. So, it is a big role.
Neil Dudley: Absolutely. And they’re taking on more work because people are working less. I mean, all of a sudden nobody’s working, COVID got a lot of people, so companies are trying to figure out- and labor’s more expensive. How do we take labor costs out of the business? Oh, they just fight such a tough battle. I mean, they’re not the only people fighting tough battles. All of those retailers, all of these e-commerce brands, all of these brands like you and me, we’re all fighting tough battles, trying to figure out how to make a little profit, stay alive, just the thing you were exactly explaining. I do want to kind of just shout out to the buyers, category managers, stay in the fight. We are here to be a partner with you and help you. I think a lot of them don’t even have time to think about much other than supply chain issues, just empty shelves. What are we going to do about that? So, they’re battling a lot of things. I would say to the brands out there that feel looked over or passed up on or underappreciated, I don’t think anybody means that. I think it’s a factor of finite resources. Hang in there, stay in there, keep doing, keep fighting the fight, keep doing the thing you do. When the consumers are there, the buyers will get there.
David Paul Miller: And I do think that we’re in a little bit of an odd time right now. I mean, things- I don’t know that anything will return to pre-COVID exactly what it was. But I do think that we’re still kind of in the midst of you mentioned supply chain issues and things like that that are creating additional issues. So, if you are a brand trying to get- trying to be heard by a retailer, just bear with them because there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.
Neil Dudley: It’s easy for us to say because we are kind of past the startup stage. Like some startups, they need a sale or they’ve got to go out of business. I can empathize with that position as well. That’s why you get that meeting, and you just boom, explode it. Like you’ve got to find- like listen to some books, listen to the podcasts of people that have been out there and can teach you sales because you can’t go into a meeting needing the business. It just rarely works out where you have that pining attitude towards I have to have this and just it’s hard to close a deal in that kind of mindset.
David Paul Miller: Yeah. And then the sales cycles, too, it might be a year until you hit shelves depending on who it is, from the time that you meet with them to the time that you find out that you were awarded the business and when you actually reset, some of them are working a year out.
Neil Dudley: And then be ready, all the costs are going to change by the time you hit that year out, so you got to make sure you know your numbers good and build in some preparation for the change in things. And that’s where that partnership has to be there between you and the buyer. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times our customers have had to take a price increase in the most inopportune time for anybody, but we had the relationship to say we can’t survive this. And they appreciated us enough and trusted us enough to say, okay, well then what do we got to do? Then I think we have to, when the time comes-
David Paul Miller: And that’s pure relationship right there.
Neil Dudley: DPM, I think there’s so much value there for anybody listening. I think we’ve shouted appreciation for buyers, employees of our company, vendors of our company, our brands, Melissa Urban. I mean, I could go on and on. Ultimately, I hope people find value in this conversation. I certainly did. I think your insight, your experience is just really refreshing and fun to hear about.
David Paul Miller: I appreciate you having me on. Great chatting with you again. Hopefully we can do it again soon. I think these conversations are great for everybody. I think it’s great for listeners. But man, any conversation if I can get in the room or get on a Zoom with someone who’s a respected person in our community, it’s just a great conversation. I think it sparks ideas, too, that I think are just really valuable. So, I appreciate you doing the podcast. I think it’s going to be really cool. When I saw the list of who you had coming up. I was like that’s a hell of a group right there.
Neil Dudley: Well, I think it’s one of those things I always say, just stay in business. Like if you just stay in business long enough and bother saying hi to people and asking them- Look, ask me if you want to talk to me, I’d be glad to talk to you. All I did was reach out to DPM and say, hey, would you be willing to talk to us? And we don’t have a long-term relationship or anything. I’ve watched you guys, your brand from afar, just saying, wow, they’re onto things. We’ve I think maybe even partnered on an influencer giveaway thing or two along the way. But reach out; I would love for people to feel comfortable reaching out to me. I think you probably feel the same way.
David Paul Miller: Yeah, likewise.
Neil Dudley: Because I learned as much from you as there any chance of you learning from me so it’s almost selfish in my particular case because I know I’m going to learn something. DPM, thank you for your time.
David Paul Miller: Thank you. I appreciate it, man.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, man. Have a good one.
Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this episode of the Pederson Natural Farms podcast. If you don’t mind, go hit that subscribe button and check us out at Pedersonsfarms.com. Thanks for listening.
A Peer in our industry – DPM (David Paul Miller)
The Chief Sales Officer at The New Primal, a brand with Whole30 compliant products and a kindred spirit! As you might expect as the CSO he has a broad understanding of the industry, buyers, consumers, and how his brand brings value!
Fun fact: He once commandeered a button-down shirt from the hotel he was staying in because his luggage didn’t make the trip across the country with him in time for his meeting. So, he wore a shirt that said “Inn By The Sea La Jolla CA” to a meeting 😂
(3:10) – The story of “DPM” and thoughts on Personal Branding
(6:15) – Behind the scenes of The New Primal
(12:30) – Who’s your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate?
(16:56) – How TNP brings new products to market & The Whole30 Theme
(26:23) – The importance of being collaborative partners with retailers & How DPM pitches retailers
(31:15) – AIP: Auto-immune Protocol
(35:19) – Growth plans for The New Primal
(37:36) – Do you still feel like a startup?
(44:50) – The New Primal’s newest products
(48:35) – What are your buyers’ biggest pain points?
(57:18) – Wrap Up
The Pederson’s Natural Farms Podcast is produced by Straight Up Podcasts & Root and Roam.