How Does An Innovation ‘Haven’ Scale? By Focusing On The Fundamentals.

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Ten years ago, Alison Cayne opened a cooking school in New York City called Haven’s Kitchen. The goal was simple: help local residents learn how to make better food at home and enjoy doing it. Although the pandemic forced the school to shut its doors in 2020, the mission of Haven’s Kitchen lives on in the form of an eponymous consumer brand of refrigerated sauces.

Available in eight globally-inspired flavors, including Golden Turmeric Tahini, Edamame Green Goddess and Herby Chimichurri, the sauces are packaged in transparent, squeezable eco-friendly pouches. The products debuted in 2018 and are now available in over 2,000 locations, including at Whole Foods, Target, Sprouts, Giant and Foxtrot. Much of the retail growth has come over the past two years and reflects the brand’s surging sales: a 500% year-over-year increase in 2020 and +80% in 2021.

In an interview featured in this episode, Cayne spoke about the origins of Haven’s Kitchen, the impact of the brand’s innovative packaging and striking label design on trial, why emphasizing use case and occasion is critical for consumer adoption and repurchase and how effective merchandising of the products has enabled it to become “the ultimate basket builder.” She also explained how to use anecdotal data effectively when pitching to retail buyers, navigating the challenge of uneven retail pricing and how she found a co-packer that would invest in the brand's future.

Show notes:

0:42: Interview: Alison Cayne, Founder & CEO, Haven’s Kitchen – Taste Radio editor Ray Latif met with Cayne at Haven’s Kitchen’s test kitchen and office in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan where they chatted about nostalgic snacks, her team’s desire to return to an IRL work setting and Whole Foods’ influence on the launch of Haven’s Kitchen sauces. She also explained the reason behind the brand name, how the company successfully broke traditional rules of branding and package design, educating mainstream consumers about esoteric flavors and why Chobani’s head of innovation told her to stop innovating. Later, she spoke about how an argument with her partner led to an emphasis on gross margin, why she’s bullish on Target, despite the chain’s pricing strategy, and why her podcast has been beneficial to her education about the food industry.

Brands in this episode: Haven’s Kitchen, SOMOS Foods, Kind Snacks, Cholula, Chobani, A Dozen Cousins, Sabra, Perfect Snacks, Lucky Charms, Snickers, Ithaca Hummus, Spudsy, Sir Kensington’s, Momofuku

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