Of all the industries to break into, the beverage space is among the most difficult. The hyper-competitive market and domination from big brands make it incredibly challenging for entrepreneurs to get their products on shelves. But Jordan Schenck has experience and grit on her side.
As the former Head of Global Consumer Marketing at Impossible Foods, Schenck knows how to build a plant-based food brand. She spent nearly four years traveling the world and talking to people about their relationship with plants and played a huge role in the growth of the plant-based trend. She used that experience to co-found Sunwink, a wellness company focused on plant-based drinks.
Schenck says the beverage section is the only area of the grocery store consumers use multiple times daily. It’s a space with hyper-consumption that’s also super high-touch. But Schenck says there’s not much on the shelf that is actually good–it’s dominated by soda and products with ingredients that may claim to be good but actually aren’t that healthy. Schenck and her co-founder started Sunwink because they were excited to be in a high-velocity space and also have the opportunity to make statements and do creative work.
Building such an innovative brand in a competitive industry starts with knowing customers. The Sunwink founders spent a year sampling its many variations in grocery stores. They had to understand what works with flavors, which audiences organically opted in and who would be their easy-win customers. It took grit and determination to show up at grocery stores and convince them to demo the drinks and maybe sell one product on the shelf.
That work paid off. When Sunwink launched, Schenck said it was amazing the amount of nascent demand for a product that is not only beautiful on the outside but also beautiful on the inside.
As the company started to scale online, they did a lot of surveying and constantly asked customers what they wanted to see and what was and wasn’t working. Although Sunwink initially launched primarily in grocery retail, it split soon after the pandemic started and grew in the DTC space. It’s rare to find a DTC beverage company, especially because of the high shipping costs, but Sunwink saw 14x growth on the channel and found creative solutions to lower shipping costs. E-commerce quickly became the primary revenue driver during the pandemic and created a huge community through email and social media.
As Sunwink grows, Schenck aims to spread the plant-based message and show a wider view of wellness. She defines wellness as having your cake and eating plants too. Sunwink is vocal about the fact that wellness isn’t about perfection and how incredible your yoga backbend is—it’s about your journey as an individual to find wholeness. Yes, you can have the cocktail and the donut and drink plants. Schenck says it’s about the little moments of taking care of yourself.
Schenck hopes to continue Sunwink’s success and build a brand around plant-powered wellness. Her goal is to create a brand that has cultural resonance about caring for your body and caring for your planet. She’s breaking down barriers as a female entrepreneur and showing the power of plants for total wellness.
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Blake Morgan is the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. Sign up for her new course here.