Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Startups, Investors, and Media Experts
Share COVID Strategies CPGS

Startup CPG gathered over Zoom on Friday to share challenges and lessons in the age of Coronavirus – and to get some sweet discount codes. Hi from the crew!

We chatted in big groups and breakout rooms, which gave a great opportunity to meet people we might not have ordinarily. We also took the opportunity to gather some data on CPG-specific reactions to COVID-19 through two participant polls.

Poll 1: What is the most pressing challenge for your startup right now? How worried are you for your business?

Most of our StartupCPG members cited “buyer attention for new items” as their number one concern, followed by “funding scarcity.”

Björn Öste, founder of Oatly and Good Idea, shared that his experience is no different. His businesses demonstrate two sides of the aisle for COVID-era commerce: situational success and challenge-based pivots. Öste said Oatly is “doing great” as consumers stock up on Oat Milk as an essential — but Good Idea (a smart beverage company aimed at lowering blood sugar) is small enough that it’s had to deploy new strategies, such as focusing on ecommerce, to keep customer attention.

To understand the funding scarcity so many of us are experiencing, we also chatted with CircleUp Investor Aditi Dash. Aditi described 2 investor strategies she sees in the COVID-19 funding landscape:

  •  Firms stopping investment altogether to focus on existing portfolios. This is especially prominent among those with high exposure to restaurants or real estate.
  • Firms that are active and investing, but only in businesses (like Oatly) that continue to show strong performance or growth. CircleUp is looking to grocery and household consumables rather than beauty or personal care.Aditi has some advice for funding strategy during the crisis, too:
  • For businesses doing well in the crisis:
    • Prepare a clear perspective on 2020 financials and demonstrate different scenarios related to COVID
    • Make sure to have a crisp page or two about how and why your brand is still succeeding
  • If your brand is not doing so well amidst the crisis:
    • Pause fundraising efforts and make some tough decisions about where you can cut spend – even if that means lay-offs.

Poll 2: How do you feel about food safety in grocery and takeout in the current environment? How often do you plan to order takeout compared to before Coronavirus?

As we deal with our own brand strategies, StartupCPG members remain consumers ourselves!

It’s a double-edged sword: we have deep industry knowledge, but still face everyday fears and want to protect our families however possible. For many, that means changing consumption behavior. Here’s what our survey found on patterns within our community:

What’s driving our takeout woes? The vast majority of members said food prep.

We thought it was especially interesting that even as “food insiders” we innately fear others handling what we consume. One attendee even noted a difference in perception between hot and cold food, and feels that hot food is safer to order because she convinces herself it ‘cooks off the germs,’ though she knows that’s not necessarily true.

We realized in our breakout rooms that this sort of psychology doesn’t have to be a detriment. In fact, there are lots of reasons for brands to grab hold of unique opportunities not present in everyday life.

Anna Starostineskaya of VegNews shared some tips to connect with customers during trying times. She explained that in addition to virus-related value, CPG stories should focus on the future. She’s found that because everyone’s steeped in uncertainty at the moment, many want to read about a future outside of current worries. Cool new product ideas, tech developments, and anything related to combating climate change have been winners for Anna. She’s also found that human interest stories win big by bringing people out of isolation and distracting them from their fears.

Above all, consumers are interested in returning to normalcy as soon as possible. They want media to inspire them that it will return.
At the end of the day, the very human desire for comfort and normalcy is what’s driving all of this. In connecting to this humanity, CPG brands can communicate virus-related value to build brand community as well as demonstrate maintained value to investors.

We don’t know what comes next either, but we’re so grateful to have you by our sides figuring it all out. Thank you to everyone who came and shared on Friday!

Whether your brand is skyrocketing or feeling sluggish as a result of COVID-19, we’re here to help. Keep in touch and stay healthy – we hope to see you soon!

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