“I started MetaBrand last year. We found a niche that was not being served by the market,” founder and CEO Eric Schnell told NutraIngredients-USA last week at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA.
“There is no other company that I am aware of that can offer startup brands as much collective industry expertise.”
The niche, Schnell said, is to be a truly one-stop shop for natural products entrepreneurs who are seeking a streamlined launching platform for their products. Between himself and his partners, Schnell said the group has had experience launching several hundred products, so they know every step of the road. They have assembled a team of more than 35 advisors, Schnell said.
“We can help them get ahead a lot faster and not make mistakes,” Schnell said.
MetaBrand has made a fast start. In its short existence is has helped grow more than a dozen natural product brands in one capacity or another, Schnell said.
Schnell himself is an industry veteran, having founded Steaz Tea in 2002, a company that now bills itself as the best selling brand of organic green tea based beverages and energy drinks in North America. Schnell has also consulted with beverage and supplement companies, and brings relationships formed in his 15 years in the industry to MetaBrand.
Schnell said the brand was founded on four pillars.
First, the company has assembled a cadre of formulation and manufacturing experts who can help and entrepreneur “take an ideal and make it real,” in Schnell’s words. The company has invested to provide a 4,000 square-foot lab and concept formulation facility to hone initial formulations. MetaBrand then has close relationships with trusted contract manufacturers to take brands to commercial scale,
The second pillar, Schnell said, is that MetaBrand functions as an ingredient supplier. MetaBrand can offer entrepreneurs access to a supply chain of more than 2,500 ingredients. “There is almost nothing that we can’t source or produce,” Schnell said.
Third, the company offers a full-capability marketing department, including graphic designers and social media experts. The company can help startups hone their message from initial concept, to logo and packaging development through to traditional and viral marketing campaigns.
The fourth pillar of the company, Schnell said, is the extensive advisory services that the group offers. The consultancy has assembled of team of 35 advisors it can call upon for company growth strategies. The service includes market reports that rest on the foundation of data from
market research firms SPINS, Nielsen and Symphony IRI, Schnell said.
Finally, MetaBrand offers its clients help in getting their financial house in order, including developing detailed profit and loss statements. Many entrepreneurs are financially unsophisticated, Schnell said, and MetaBrand can offer a road map with milestones brands should be meeting to achieve their goals.
Help with capital
After helping companies grow their brands to a few million in sales, MetaBrand has investors with whom it has relationships and who are interested in early stage growth companies to provide the capital to take the brand into the eight-figure range.
The four-pillar strategy means the consultancy came provide services that are not only broad but can extend long into a startup company’s future, much in the way the tender of an orchard would stake a tree for a period of time past its sapling stage.
MetaBrand's broad array of capabilities affords flexibility, Schnell said. Two brands the company is working with reflect this, he said. Runa Tea a brand of organic ready-to-drink (RTD) Guayusa teas, uses MetaBrand’s formulation, extraction, and packaging technologies. and FitPro Real Milk Protein, a brand of all-natural RTD protein shakes, has MetaBrand's help with branding, marketing, and sales/distribution strategy.
“You came to us to take your dream to mainstream,” Schnell said, “But you don’t have to leave us.” Metabrand, Schnell said, means what it says; the consultancy is around, above and beyond the brands that lie within the fold.
Schnell said the company will remain focused exclusively on natural brands. “That’s our belief system, our ethos. It’s in our DNA,” he said.
In the end, Schnell said, it’s his personal experience that he can draw upon that helps make the services MetaBrand offers effective.
“I’m no different from my clients. I’m just 15 years further along,” Schnell said.