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Dec 21, 2017

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to break into the food and beverage business… but it doesn’t hurt. Just ask Kurt Seidensticker. A former NASA aerospace engineer, Seidensticker is the founder and CEO of Vital Proteins, a fast-growing brand immersed in a hot trend: ingestible collagen. An avid runner who was drawn to the recovery benefits of collagen, his path from space shuttles to grocery store aisles was two decades in the making, bisected by a successful career as a digital strategy consultant. Seidensticker joined us for an interview included in this episode of Taste Radio and explained how lessons from his experience at NASA provided a critical conduit to his work building e-commerce platforms for Fortune 500 companies and investment banks. His expertise in e-commerce in turn laid the groundwork for the launch of Vital Proteins, which began as a direct-to-consumer brand. “I recognized early on… that e-commerce was a really viable solution to build a brand around before you went into retail stores,” he said. “If you build a brand ahead of time, you go into retail stores, people know who you are [and] it’s much easier to expand the brand nationally.” As part of the wide-ranging conversation, Seidensticker also discussed how he assessed the market potential for an ingestible collagen brand and Vital Proteins’ attempt to position itself as “an overall wellness company for beauty and fitness.” Collagen has been promoted as key component of another trendy ingredient: bone broth. In recent years, we’ve seen a few beverage plays in the nascent space, including BRU Broth, a brand of bone broth and cold-pressed juice blends. Included in this episode is an interview with company’s co-founder and CEO Soo-Ah Landa, who spoke about the launch and development of the company. And in the latest edition of Elevator Talk, we ask if basil seed an ingredient to watch in 2018. Shakira Niazi thinks so. She’s the founder of Basil Seed Works, the maker of ZenBasil, a brand of basil seed-infused beverages. Niazi shared her vision for the brand and discussed some of the functional benefits of the basil seed. Show notes: 1:08: Is It a Food? Is It a Beverage? Does it Matter? -- Five years ago this month, PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi said that “a way to grow the beverage business is to take foods and drinkify them.” The concept was rooted in her belief that a confluence of demand for convenience and nutrition would drive consumption trends over the next decade. Amid rising interest for protein-heavy smoothies, drinkable soups and bottled yogurts, it turns out that she was onto something. Yet a question persists: how do these brand best market themselves as snacks and vice versa? The hosts discuss. 11:11: Interview: Kurt Seidensticker, Founder/CEO, Vital Proteins -- It’s been a breakout year for ingestible collagen and one of the leading brands in the space, Vital Proteins. A maker of collagen-based foods and supplements, Vital picked up national placement at Whole Foods and Vitamin Shoppe and added $19 million in new funding from venture capital firm CAVU. Founder and CEO Kurt Seidensticker joined us for a conversation about the company and how Vital has positioned itself as a leader in the nascent collagen space. 37:08: Interview: Soo-Ah Landa, Co-Founder/CEO, BRU Broth -- We spoke with Landa about her decision to leave behind a comfortable corporate career and make the leap into the rough-and-tumble beverage business. She also discussed why merchandising innovative products like BRU is “a past problem, a present problem and likely a future problem” and her concern that “it’s still hard to find women investors and advisors, specifically in this space.” 55:22: Elevator Talk: Shakira Niazi, Founder, ZenBasil -- ZenBasil is an upstart brand of basil seed-infused beverages. We spoke with Niazi at BevNET Live Winter 2017, where she participated in New Beverage Showdown 14 and made it to the final round of the competition.