Unlocking the Recipe for Success:
Lessons from a Chef-Turned-CPG
James Barry, a former private celebrity chef, and creator of Pluck seasoning, an organ-based, all-purpose seasoning. James shares what he has learned from building a first-of-its-kind seasoning company.
Think Outside the Food Box
How do you launch a new food product during a pandemic when no stores are allowing samples served?
That was the challenge I faced when launching my first functional food product: Pluck – organ-based seasoning.
Pluck is shelf-stable like any other seasoning but where it differs is the taste and ingredients. Pluck Seasoning contains five freeze-dried powdered organ meats (liver, kidney, heart, spleen and pancreas) and organic spices and herbs. Transforming everything you season into a delicious superfood.
Here’s the thing. Launching any product at any time is challenging, but I had the triple challenge that my food product was the first of its kind, no one knew how it tasted and there were no comparable food products on the market to reference.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Organ meats (aka Offal) are already a tough sell for the general population. Whether people have tried them or not, organ meats have a stigma; people think they are going to taste “awful”.
That’s precisely why I created Pluck seasoning. Organ meats are mother natures multi-vitamin. They are hands down the most nutrient-dense food on the planet and most Americans are not eating them. I knew if I could make them easy and delicious, then maybe, just maybe people would try them.
I’ve been a professional chef for over 17 years, founded and ran a meal delivery service for 8 years and now this was my first food product. Yet, my mission is and always has been to support people with their health.
Know thy audience
I knew right away that the best way for me to launch a company pushing organ meats is to focus on consumers that are already educated around organ meats. I focused on Paleo, Keto, Carnivore and Ancestral eaters.
Pluck solves multiple hurdles people face with organ meats: It makes organ meats taste delicious, you don’t need to know how to cook them and you don’t need to source them; we’ve done it all for you.
To get around pandemic restrictions, I focused my entire marketing on organic outreach. I tapped into podcast groups that fit my demographics. Once booked for a podcast, I mailed the podcast host a Pluck sample with enough time for them to have used the product before the interview.
Once interviewed, I would ask the host, “How did you like Pluck? What did you use it on?” Jackpot! Now I had the podcast host sharing their positive experience with the product to their audience. Couple that with an affiliate program and now I had Pluck Ambassadors sharing about Pluck to their audience regularly.
Be flexible and pivot as needed
Having launched in January 2021, I would say we are still a new, young company. Fortunately, we have momentum. We have steadily grown monthly and continue to be alone in the organ-based seasoning field. That hasn’t stopped me from already fine tuning the product and website.
Pretty soon after launching, I noticed the product was doing well with the Carnivore diet audience and that they favored Redmond Real Salt. I also am a fan of this salt but had initially formulated Pluck using Pink Himalayan Salt since that was the salt the spice company I was purchasing from carried. I started looking for a new Spice supplier and found one that was willing to carry Redmond Real Salt. I made the change and Pluck sales increased. Our audience grew once we were aligned with their needs and wants. Aligning with another company also meant that they partnered with us on giveaways and showcased our product as using their salt.
Always be listening
I also was receiving weekly emails from potential customers asking for us to make a seasoning without black pepper, or without nightshades and seeds. That got me thinking about future products that could serve even more customers. I formulated our next sku using customer feedback. One experience with a major influencer completely informed me of the potential of what I had created. Upon handing him some Pluck seasoning, he proceeded to add it to his coffee. I never would have thought to do that. However, it gave me the idea to have one of our sku’s be just the organ meat, no spices, no salt and no herbs. What is now known as Pluck Pure, this product is no different than opening up organ meat capsules but unlike bottled organ meat capsules, it’s easier to use, has a lower price point and is completely versatile. Customers can now add it to smoothies, to sauces, to their own seasonings, to their coffee and, as long as they don’t use too much, it takes on the flavor of what they are adding it to.
Now I had a product that I could add to my line up that served anyone wanting flexibility and maximum nutrition. Bonus, it’s also a great pet food topping to ensure your pet eats their food.
Be with the people
Some of my biggest learnings come from working events. As the in-person conferences have come back, I’ve sponsored vending tables. Working the table and speaking to hundreds of people a day, I’ve been able to practice bottom-lining my sales pitch. We’ve learned so much talking to conference goers and listening to their questions. Every time I vendor at a conference, I gain new insight into the product and how to market it.
For example, we used to get this question a lot: “How much nutrition do I really get from a seasoning?” I used to answer, “well, considering most spices have zero nutrition, when you Pluck you’re getting something you previously were not.”
Now I answer, “Micro-dosing + frequent use = cumulative effect.” I drop a real life negative example of micro-dosing that everyone can identify with which then position’s Pluck as a positive micro-dosing health tool. Hearing myself talk over and over at these conferences is what helped to clarify Pluck’s marketing language.
Being a startup at any point in history has its challenges. What has helped me navigate the last few years is NOT pretending I know more than I do, asking lots of questions and most importantly, listening. I find most of us just want products we can believe in and companies that hear us.