Agribusiness Matters
Agribusiness Matters
Organic Food Branding Master Class with Shashi Kumar (Akshayakalpa) and Ryan Siwinski (GoodSam Foods)

Organic Food Branding Master Class with Shashi Kumar (Akshayakalpa) and Ryan Siwinski (GoodSam Foods)

How do you navigate the tensions between being mission-driven and building a sustainable business in organic/regenerative food space?

Agribusiness Matters strives to do what Beaver does to agritech - ecosystem engineering to make sure that the ecosystem thrives without losing sight of the bigger questions.

In my last podcast with Ramanjaneyulu GV titled, “The Future of Regenerative Agriculture is Agroecology”, we talked about putting together an organic food branding playbook for regenerative/organic food players and I am kickstarting this series with Shashi Kumar and Ryan Siwinski.

Although Ryan and Shashi come from diverse worlds, there is a fascinating parallel in the work they are doing in the regenerative/organic food space. Whether it is GoodSam Foods or Akshayakalpa Organic, both are mission-driven, focusing more on direct-trade, local-supply chain models, and building deep relationships with farmers and farm partners.

Building an organic/regenerative food brand requires a different mindset when compared to any other CPG food brand.

Today, most organic food brands build on the narrative of how terrible the food that is produced by conventional agriculture and promise a better saner alternative. This narrative has gained a lot of currency, especially after COVID when people started making radical changes to their food and lifestyle.

How can organic food brands take this approach forward?

Organic food branding defies all our conventional ideas about branding and no wonder, consumers often tend to get cynical, as it plays with their deep existential fears about the safety of what they eat.

When it comes to organic food branding, less is more, and more is less.

We have seen enough farmers' smiling pics, QR Codes, and rusty packaging that the whole thing, when you are cynical, starts to feel like a charade.

When you are selling organic food, you are talking about a living biological entity that changes in response to seasons and weather conditions. In such a case, how do you carry a brand promise that focuses largely on repeatability for the trust to get built?

In this 60-minute conversation with Shashi and Ryan joined by other members and friends of Agribusiness Matters, we explored the following questions.

  • In Akshayaklapa calling itself Akshayakalpa -infinite possibilities- what does this organization attempt to do? Why has Akshayakalpa only worked with 1200 farmers over the last thirteen years of operation?

  • Is there a tension between building a mission-driven organization (GoodSAM got recently registered as a B-Corp) and building a larger brand that speaks to a bigger mainstream audience?

  • For Shashi, What are the things Akshayakalpa will do and will never do? For the direct-trade model GoodSam follows, what are the trade-offs Ryan deals with every day in his ops role?

  • How does Akshayakalpa approach certifications? How do you scale trust?

  • How do you help mainstream conventional farmers transition towards organic?

  • How to select the right farm partners for mission-driven businesses, especially when you have to scale your operations?

  • How to approach the question of social fairness for mission-driven businesses, whether they are operating in India or in Africa? What are the challenges in building mission-driven businesses that empower women farmers? Why is ecology more important than addressing social inequities?

  • How do you approach regeneration at the dimension of economy beyond producing regenerative food?

So, what do you think?

How happy are you with today’s edition? I would love to get your candid feedback. Your feedback will be anonymous. Two questions. 1 Minute. Thanks.🙏

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Agribusiness Matters
Agribusiness Matters
Conversations with food and agribusiness leaders bravely building the future of food and agriculture in an age of runaway Climate Change