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G’day mate, yoghurt never tasted better

As Chief Growth Officer of noosa, Darcey Macken has come full circle with her passion for start-ups.

What’s your professional journey been like?
I have not taken a traditional CPG career path. My background is in marketing, and after college I worked at start-ups in New York City, chasing the "funny money" around Y2K. It was in this world that I developed an interest in understanding consumer needs and finding solutions to meet those needs. From there, I pivoted to a traditional sales role at Newell-Rubbermaid. It was quite a jump, from Manhattan to calling on Walmart stores in Atlanta setting up displays. A mentor then tapped my shoulder for a role that excited me—a combination of entrepreneurship and retail which complemented my history to-date. We created an exclusive professional cleaning line at Walmart. This led me to a similar role in food, where I joined Kellogg’s to grow the cookie and cracker business and eventually spent the next 10 years in multiple roles.

Over my career, I’ve learned it’s important to find a strong marriage between the right culture and the right business.

From NYC to Atlanta and now yoghurt …what attracted you to noosa?
They literally had me at the farm. I really wasn’t looking but when I got there, the air took me back to my passion for start-ups! noosa is made onsite at family-owned dairy farm in Bellvue, CO. All of the milk comes from cows raised on family-owned farms in the Northern Colorado area. Of course the product is unique and simply amazing, but it was the farm that kept my attention. The co-founders are inspiring and passionate, noosa has a strong and supportive P/E firm, and an unbelievably talented team. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s just delicious yoghurt.

Sounds like quite a place, what’s it like, moving from a big CPG company to a small company like noosa?
Coming from a structured and very traditional CPG environment, noosa provides autonomy and flexibility in decision-making. A sense of accountability comes with all of this. We’re all-hands-on-deck every day, making quick and nimble decisions as we go.

Sure you’re trading-off security, resources at a big company for this hands-on environment where you’re exposed to everything…and you do everything. It’s not for everyone. It’s either fearful or energizing and different for different people. For me, it’s thrilling. I am willing to make a decision and be accountable for it.

What’s your take on shifting marketing dollars from TV to Digital?
The industry continues to move this way, and it’s important that we are doing this strategically and creatively. At noosa, we spend every dollar as if it’s our own. We’re a small company, so increasing consumer trial is critical to our success. Our marketing and trade practices are focused on driving trial and building loyalty with strategic communication programs. We’re throwing ourselves out there and learning as much as we can, pivoting where we need to, creating a strong commercial plan driven by digital. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have clarity.

You mentioned earlier your passion for consumer needs. What are you seeing with consumer trends impacting the food industry?
noosa is well-positioned with millennials who rank trust, value and transparency high on their list. We have a genuine, authentic story with happy cows on a family farm. We are poised to do well with this consumer by the nature of our history.

Power continues to shift rapidly to the consumer. The level of detail our consumers want to know about our farm and our food is amazing. It’s a great time for us in the industry to talk back to our consumers and be transparent.

What’s the retailer relationship for a small brand like noosa?
With so much competition, retailers must be savvy marketers to continue to survive and evolve. They each have a different go-to-market strategy and they’re looking at noosa’s ability to grow the pie with a unique product from an incremental occasion to an everyday purchase.

noosa is a $100M company in a $17.5B category and we’re fighting against giants for shelf-space and airtime. And we’re battling against traditional ways retailers have done things, vs. making a big splash with consumer insights, providing solutions against a sea of competition. noosa can help the shopper with simple solutions and a great product in a unique space and this is our preferred approach.

What’s a disruptive force you’re seeing in the food industry?
We’re all getting hit with so much information that it’s overwhelming! We see studies on everything from obesity, sugar, the paleo diet and the recent one on processed meat. How can we help consumers make food decisions based on facts, without confusing them?

At noosa we’re unapologetic and very transparent about our yoghurt—it’s made with all-natural whole milk, fresh fruit purees, and infused with a touch of clover alfalfa honey. We’re seeing a larger trend where consumers are looking for full-fat products, including whole milk yoghurts that are creamier, sweeter and, ultimately, more satisfying than what was previously available. noosa yoghurt can be a great part of a balanced diet.

Any advice for others looking to move into a start-up?
Find your passion. Take what you’ve learned from other bigger companies, and apply that knowledge in an environment without the red tape. Find a place where you’re accountable with quick decision making. Bring the infrastructure and methodologies from experience and apply it while building a culture to win.

For me, it was a passion I was looking for to add value and contribute each and every day.

Find your passion in a company you can add value and contribute each and every day - Darcey Macken, Noosa