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Launching a Brand in the Age of COVID-19

The world is upside down right now, and we’re all completely confused.

Launching a Brand in the Age of COVID-19

We reached out to "The Sauce Boss", aka Andrew Suzuka of Otamot Foods, to share his thoughts on managing business, and life, during this crisis. If you'd like to share your story with Foodboro, we'd love to hear it. Send an email to us at makers@foodboro.com.

The world is upside down right now, and we’re all completely confused. Should I go to the office? Is it OK to send a mass email to my clients? What will people think if I post this? COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus, is not just consuming every facet of media, but also the minds and everyday business decisions for startups in the food space such as mine. As the founder of Otamot Foods, a healthy tomato sauce brand that launched in 2019 and will be going national with Whole Foods this June, it’s an interesting time to say the least.

I was invited back to QVC, the 5th time since January, just this past weekend. The host, David Venable, is legendary. If you ask anyone who watches QVC (most likely your mom or grandma), 9 times out of 10, they’ll not only know David, but he’ll be their favorite host. You don’t just get put on his show, you earn it. I didn’t realize that until I started telling people “Hey, I'm going on QVC!” and they would ask “Are you going on with David? You NEED to be on David’s show. Ask them to put you on with David!”, only to learn that being invited to his show is a big deal, and if you are, you better be ready to sell. And we did. 20,000 jars in 8-minutes.

Now our success on QVC was somewhat crutched by the fact that we had an incredible host, and the mass panic happening the world related to COVID-19.

Our tomato sauces are the healthiest on the market. Besides being filled with 10 organic veggies each, they are Certified USDA organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Vegan, Gluten-Free, High in Fiber, with no added sugar, and no preservatives. It’s an accidental business, which happens to be growing during a very, very fucked up time for our world. The fact that I made this for my daughter to help her eat more vegetables probably mattered the least during this airing, and instead the fact that we’re "shelf stable with a 2-year shelf life from production date" meant the world to my friend’s grandma watching (who at least didn’t have to walk to the grocery). Customers bought and they bought more.

Not only do we have a backorder with QVC, but we can walk into any retailer and sell them sauce COD. This past weekend, my local grocery manager said “Andrew, can you bring me some sauce, I need it ASAP”. Two hours later he had 40 cases (240 jars). Two days later, it was gone. It’s crazy.

It’s hard to really discuss the positive impacts COVID-19 is having on brands within our space because COVID-19 itself is a really, really bad things for humans. Just tonight I had to give my 70 year old dad a really hard time for going shopping for things that he didn’t really need, while my family and I self-quarantine ourselves at home (my wife has been an incredible squirrel). I don’t want this new reality for myself, my family, or anyone out there.

However, as the owner of a growing startup in the foods space with other families to feed, other lives depending on me, I also have a business to run, and one that needs to not just survive, but thrive through good times and bad. We will never be bad humans, but we will leverage our opportunity to gain a larger share of voice while other brands recede. We will do our part and give back, which started last week by donating 175 gallons of Otamot Essential Sauce to City Harvest. We will also continue to celebrate our wins on social media, such as landing Fresh Thyme Market today, and this month’s launch with Rouses down south. Our national launch with Whole Foods is something we always dreamed of, and we sure as hell are going to celebrate it - respectfully (and perhaps 6’ apart).

Launching a brand in the age of COVID-19 takes a tough stomach, a kind heart, nerves of steel, and a touch of levity. Just this week, I had one investor forward me a newsletter put out by Sequoia with a note "Not trying to be a downer or an alarmist but think the following is worth a read….”. The article (link below) said “Get ready, cut expenses, and preserve cash”. I virtually burned that article from my memory and wondered if that investor walked down ANY grocery aisle in the past week, watched ANY news, or perhaps got me confused with someone looking to start a new airline company.

Shelf space is a coveted thing in our industry, and its never been more accessible. Consumers have never been more focused on finding better-for-you products. The mentality of healthier eating and living is here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger, and Otamot Foods is focused on being in the driver’s seat. If not us, who, Heinz or another big conglomerate again? No thanks, we’ve got this.

I feel really blessed to know that thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed our sauce, and it’s a mind trip to think that while writing this, there’s probably a number of families enjoying our Essential Sauce, our Carrot Bolognese Sauce, or our 3 Pepper Spicy Sauce. I want COVID-19 to go away forever. I miss my normal life. My kids deserve to have dad play zombie at the playground. I need a date-night with my wife at Della’s in Brooklyn. But until then, COVID-19 isn’t putting us down or out. Instead, it’s just going to make us stronger.

Andrew Suzuka

CEO, Otamot Foods

#sauceboss

Want to share your experience of how your brand is navigating the ups and downs of COVID-19? Send us an email at makers@foodboro.com!

Be the first to know all the hottest trends in Food & Beverage when you sign up for our weekly newsletter!

We reached out to "The Sauce Boss", aka Andrew Suzuka of Otamot Foods, to share his thoughts on managing business, and life, during this crisis. If you'd like to share your story with Foodboro, we'd love to hear it. Send an email to us at makers@foodboro.com.

The world is upside down right now, and we’re all completely confused. Should I go to the office? Is it OK to send a mass email to my clients? What will people think if I post this? COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus, is not just consuming every facet of media, but also the minds and everyday business decisions for startups in the food space such as mine. As the founder of Otamot Foods, a healthy tomato sauce brand that launched in 2019 and will be going national with Whole Foods this June, it’s an interesting time to say the least.

I was invited back to QVC, the 5th time since January, just this past weekend. The host, David Venable, is legendary. If you ask anyone who watches QVC (most likely your mom or grandma), 9 times out of 10, they’ll not only know David, but he’ll be their favorite host. You don’t just get put on his show, you earn it. I didn’t realize that until I started telling people “Hey, I'm going on QVC!” and they would ask “Are you going on with David? You NEED to be on David’s show. Ask them to put you on with David!”, only to learn that being invited to his show is a big deal, and if you are, you better be ready to sell. And we did. 20,000 jars in 8-minutes.

Now our success on QVC was somewhat crutched by the fact that we had an incredible host, and the mass panic happening the world related to COVID-19.

Our tomato sauces are the healthiest on the market. Besides being filled with 10 organic veggies each, they are Certified USDA organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Vegan, Gluten-Free, High in Fiber, with no added sugar, and no preservatives. It’s an accidental business, which happens to be growing during a very, very fucked up time for our world. The fact that I made this for my daughter to help her eat more vegetables probably mattered the least during this airing, and instead the fact that we’re "shelf stable with a 2-year shelf life from production date" meant the world to my friend’s grandma watching (who at least didn’t have to walk to the grocery). Customers bought and they bought more.

Not only do we have a backorder with QVC, but we can walk into any retailer and sell them sauce COD. This past weekend, my local grocery manager said “Andrew, can you bring me some sauce, I need it ASAP”. Two hours later he had 40 cases (240 jars). Two days later, it was gone. It’s crazy.

It’s hard to really discuss the positive impacts COVID-19 is having on brands within our space because COVID-19 itself is a really, really bad things for humans. Just tonight I had to give my 70 year old dad a really hard time for going shopping for things that he didn’t really need, while my family and I self-quarantine ourselves at home (my wife has been an incredible squirrel). I don’t want this new reality for myself, my family, or anyone out there.

However, as the owner of a growing startup in the foods space with other families to feed, other lives depending on me, I also have a business to run, and one that needs to not just survive, but thrive through good times and bad. We will never be bad humans, but we will leverage our opportunity to gain a larger share of voice while other brands recede. We will do our part and give back, which started last week by donating 175 gallons of Otamot Essential Sauce to City Harvest. We will also continue to celebrate our wins on social media, such as landing Fresh Thyme Market today, and this month’s launch with Rouses down south. Our national launch with Whole Foods is something we always dreamed of, and we sure as hell are going to celebrate it - respectfully (and perhaps 6’ apart).

Launching a brand in the age of COVID-19 takes a tough stomach, a kind heart, nerves of steel, and a touch of levity. Just this week, I had one investor forward me a newsletter put out by Sequoia with a note "Not trying to be a downer or an alarmist but think the following is worth a read….”. The article (link below) said “Get ready, cut expenses, and preserve cash”. I virtually burned that article from my memory and wondered if that investor walked down ANY grocery aisle in the past week, watched ANY news, or perhaps got me confused with someone looking to start a new airline company.

Shelf space is a coveted thing in our industry, and its never been more accessible. Consumers have never been more focused on finding better-for-you products. The mentality of healthier eating and living is here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger, and Otamot Foods is focused on being in the driver’s seat. If not us, who, Heinz or another big conglomerate again? No thanks, we’ve got this.

I feel really blessed to know that thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed our sauce, and it’s a mind trip to think that while writing this, there’s probably a number of families enjoying our Essential Sauce, our Carrot Bolognese Sauce, or our 3 Pepper Spicy Sauce. I want COVID-19 to go away forever. I miss my normal life. My kids deserve to have dad play zombie at the playground. I need a date-night with my wife at Della’s in Brooklyn. But until then, COVID-19 isn’t putting us down or out. Instead, it’s just going to make us stronger.

Andrew Suzuka

CEO, Otamot Foods

#sauceboss

Want to share your experience of how your brand is navigating the ups and downs of COVID-19? Send us an email at makers@foodboro.com!

Be the first to know all the hottest trends in Food & Beverage when you sign up for our weekly newsletter!

We reached out to "The Sauce Boss", aka Andrew Suzuka of Otamot Foods, to share his thoughts on managing business, and life, during this crisis. If you'd like to share your story with Foodboro, we'd love to hear it. Send an email to us at makers@foodboro.com.

The world is upside down right now, and we’re all completely confused. Should I go to the office? Is it OK to send a mass email to my clients? What will people think if I post this? COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus, is not just consuming every facet of media, but also the minds and everyday business decisions for startups in the food space such as mine. As the founder of Otamot Foods, a healthy tomato sauce brand that launched in 2019 and will be going national with Whole Foods this June, it’s an interesting time to say the least.

I was invited back to QVC, the 5th time since January, just this past weekend. The host, David Venable, is legendary. If you ask anyone who watches QVC (most likely your mom or grandma), 9 times out of 10, they’ll not only know David, but he’ll be their favorite host. You don’t just get put on his show, you earn it. I didn’t realize that until I started telling people “Hey, I'm going on QVC!” and they would ask “Are you going on with David? You NEED to be on David’s show. Ask them to put you on with David!”, only to learn that being invited to his show is a big deal, and if you are, you better be ready to sell. And we did. 20,000 jars in 8-minutes.

Now our success on QVC was somewhat crutched by the fact that we had an incredible host, and the mass panic happening the world related to COVID-19.

Our tomato sauces are the healthiest on the market. Besides being filled with 10 organic veggies each, they are Certified USDA organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Vegan, Gluten-Free, High in Fiber, with no added sugar, and no preservatives. It’s an accidental business, which happens to be growing during a very, very fucked up time for our world. The fact that I made this for my daughter to help her eat more vegetables probably mattered the least during this airing, and instead the fact that we’re "shelf stable with a 2-year shelf life from production date" meant the world to my friend’s grandma watching (who at least didn’t have to walk to the grocery). Customers bought and they bought more.

Not only do we have a backorder with QVC, but we can walk into any retailer and sell them sauce COD. This past weekend, my local grocery manager said “Andrew, can you bring me some sauce, I need it ASAP”. Two hours later he had 40 cases (240 jars). Two days later, it was gone. It’s crazy.

It’s hard to really discuss the positive impacts COVID-19 is having on brands within our space because COVID-19 itself is a really, really bad things for humans. Just tonight I had to give my 70 year old dad a really hard time for going shopping for things that he didn’t really need, while my family and I self-quarantine ourselves at home (my wife has been an incredible squirrel). I don’t want this new reality for myself, my family, or anyone out there.

However, as the owner of a growing startup in the foods space with other families to feed, other lives depending on me, I also have a business to run, and one that needs to not just survive, but thrive through good times and bad. We will never be bad humans, but we will leverage our opportunity to gain a larger share of voice while other brands recede. We will do our part and give back, which started last week by donating 175 gallons of Otamot Essential Sauce to City Harvest. We will also continue to celebrate our wins on social media, such as landing Fresh Thyme Market today, and this month’s launch with Rouses down south. Our national launch with Whole Foods is something we always dreamed of, and we sure as hell are going to celebrate it - respectfully (and perhaps 6’ apart).

Launching a brand in the age of COVID-19 takes a tough stomach, a kind heart, nerves of steel, and a touch of levity. Just this week, I had one investor forward me a newsletter put out by Sequoia with a note "Not trying to be a downer or an alarmist but think the following is worth a read….”. The article (link below) said “Get ready, cut expenses, and preserve cash”. I virtually burned that article from my memory and wondered if that investor walked down ANY grocery aisle in the past week, watched ANY news, or perhaps got me confused with someone looking to start a new airline company.

Shelf space is a coveted thing in our industry, and its never been more accessible. Consumers have never been more focused on finding better-for-you products. The mentality of healthier eating and living is here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger, and Otamot Foods is focused on being in the driver’s seat. If not us, who, Heinz or another big conglomerate again? No thanks, we’ve got this.

I feel really blessed to know that thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed our sauce, and it’s a mind trip to think that while writing this, there’s probably a number of families enjoying our Essential Sauce, our Carrot Bolognese Sauce, or our 3 Pepper Spicy Sauce. I want COVID-19 to go away forever. I miss my normal life. My kids deserve to have dad play zombie at the playground. I need a date-night with my wife at Della’s in Brooklyn. But until then, COVID-19 isn’t putting us down or out. Instead, it’s just going to make us stronger.

Andrew Suzuka

CEO, Otamot Foods

#sauceboss

Want to share your experience of how your brand is navigating the ups and downs of COVID-19? Send us an email at makers@foodboro.com!

Be the first to know all the hottest trends in Food & Beverage when you sign up for our weekly newsletter!

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