Plantbased Business Hour

The Importance of Good Prototypes. Barb Stuckey of Mattson

Barb Stuckey, Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer at Mattson, details the whitespaces in the plant-based sector, how to communicate to the new plant-based consumer and the marketing lessons that start-ups need to learn on this episode of The Plantbased Hour with Elysabeth Alfano. 

Specifically, they discuss:

  1. What are the whitespaces that Barb sees in the plant-based sector?
  2. Is it a good time to launch a plant-based brand?
  3. Is it the entrepreneur’s job to provide healthy options?
  4. What marketing lessons do startups need to learn?
  5. How do you propose plant-based brands communicate with consumers in these cantankerous times?

Below is a short clip and transcript from their conversation. Podcast here.

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Elysabeth: When you say innovation, can you explain to us, are you talking about taste? Are you talking about texture? Are you talking about just novel ingredients? What do you mean?

Barb Stuckey: Well, I would say all of the above. So, let’s talk about the biggest innovation that’s the lowest hanging fruit out there. We think it is just making the products that are already out there that taste better and making sure that the new ones that enter the marketspace are excellent and consumer-ready. Selfishly that’s what we do here at Mattson is we help our clients figure out exactly how to position their brand, how to identify unique spaces in the market, and then develop the product.  If our clients need us to, then we commercialize the product for them, usually at a contract manufacturer or their own facility.

So, you know I think there was a lot of movement and activity over the last five years or so with people feeling like we have to get into the marketplace. If we don’t get into the marketplace, we’re going to miss it.  I think that has happened and not all of the products were perhaps ready to launch as we would consider that from a product optimization perspective.

A young woman drinks green smoothies and eats a burger in a vegan fast food restaurant
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So, we think that there is a lot of opportunity to make them better, and the challenge with this is that there are a lot of people out there that are skeptical. There are a lot of people that are a little bit worried that their family maybe won’t like this plant-based alternative that they’ve bought. It’s really incumbent upon the industry to make sure that that first experience with plant-based is really excellent. So, that’s where you’re going to get people for life, right? 

We all hear about the MVP: the Minimally Viable Prototype. So just get something and get it into the marketplace, and I think that’s relevant for technology apps for example and for electric cars. And by the way I’m coming to you live from Silicon Valley, so these are our neighbors, but it’s a little bit different because when you buy a food, you’ve hired it to do a job for you, right? You’ve hired it to solve the convenient dinner solution problem that you have every weeknight.  When you have a product that doesn’t deliver on that, often times it goes in the garbage and it just doesn’t get eaten. So, it doesn’t do the job it was hired to do.

Now it’s a little bit different when you’ve got a technology app and you come up with an improvement to your product and you can just push that out on the app or if you’re Tesla, you can just push the upgrade out over the airwaves.  That’s not how the food industry works. You’ve got to make the food, you’ve got to get it into distribution, you’ve got to get it on the store shelves, you’ve got to get it to the consumers’ homes and when it’s there it’s got to do that job or it’s just not going to get hired again. So, it’s just not as easy as pushing the button.

So, I just want to make the plea for companies to really invest in the prototype. Invest in your product and there are so many new ingredient technologies out there. There are so many new processing technologies, so many new places to go where you don’t have to go down the trodden path.  So, we feel like there’s a lot of opportunity for that sort of first level in terms of raising the quality of what’s already available.


Elysabeth Alfano is the CEO of VegTech™ Invest, the advisor to the VegTech™ Plant-based Innovation & Climate ETF, EATV. She is also the founder of Plant Powered Consulting and the Host of the Plantbased Business Hour.  

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