Emerging Brand CEOs Discuss: Why Better-For-You Concepts Are Finding Success with Millennials & Gen Z



On this star-studded panel, we’re talking to emerging brand CEO’s about the keys to growing business in today’s environment. Nicole Marquis, CEO of HipCityVeg, Andy Duddleston of The Little Beet, and Jeff Drake of Protein Bar & Kitchen open the panel discussing gaps they’ve seen in the industry and their motivations to fill them.

These panelists all have something in common, their mission to offer better food.

Nicole Marquis went to college to study Shakespeare and used her restaurant job to pay her way through school. In the process, she worked her way up the ranks working every position in the restaurant up to manager. But everything changed when she became a vegan.

Duddleston’s story is a little different in that his passion wasn’t so much food as it was people, and creating great teams of people. As a member of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, his missions continued to be people-centered.

Jeff Drake had been at the head of a number of concepts before Protein Bar & Kitchen and now Protein Bar is really pushing the “better-for-you” space. Drake talks about adding “& Kitchen” to their name to give more clarity to their witty name and how that has spread to re-working their menu and restaurants to better convey their mission as a dining space.

One major topic these panelists discuss is the Millennial consumer segment and their dining habits. According to Foodable Labs, Millennials are showing a decrease in the number of times they dine out per month. However, dining occasions among the same segment are up for Healthy Halo concepts. These top brands agree that they are performing well because their brands align with the values of their guests.

Marquis says, “I don’t know if I would consider myself a Millennial but you know, when... I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, you know I really want to have choosing power on who I look at, on what I can relate to, and sort of relating to a brand that inspires me and that I can sort of feel like, oh yeah, I know them, I know HipCity. ”

The role of technology like smartphones, social media, and apps has really proliferated in the restaurant space. It has created incredible access to information, creating an informed consumer who is looking for better food not only in taste and health but in sourcing, sustainability and more. And as Duddleston points out, eating for millennials is much more than just fueling the body.

“It allows them to in a way to like almost create their identity and enhance their identity because for millennials they’re, you know, we’re always evolving as individuals,” he says ”We're always evolving who we are as people and as they decide on where they want to eat, that speaks to their evolution and the ideals that they have as a human and a part of this community”

Drake adds that Millennials have a much lower tolerance for friction. They want to be able to come into a concept in any given day and be able to interact in a way that is best for them. This is why face to face still exists but also why app order pick-up has grown so much recently.

“It’s gotta be thoughtful, the packaging has to be thoughtful, the setup has to be thoughtful. All of those things… You don’t put the food in the bag, you have the bag available because you know plastic bags or paper bags and all of that is important to the consumer so let them make that decision if that’s how they want to use your brand for that experience,” Drake urges.

Later, Paul brings up the issues with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and how that might cause some pushback in the tech space. Marquis reiterates that it’s all about transparency while Drake jumps in to say that as long as you’re using customer information to make a better experience for the consumer, rather than sharing that information with other parties, consumers will be happy that their needs are being anticipated. Technology is an integral part of succeeding in this space which can be difficult for smaller restaurants but as Marquis says, “We can’t compete without it.”

These CEOs talk specialty foods, vertical and rooftop farming, innovations in plant-based and more in this eye-opening episode. Check out all that in more in this episode from Foodable.io on Foodable+.