Insider Ep. 90: It Takes A Certain ‘Touch’ To Make Distributors Love You

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How do distributors evaluate emerging brands? And how can those brands best position themselves to succeed once they’re part of a distributor's route?

We explore both questions with Chuck Casano, the founder of Pitaya Foods, a brand of superfruit-based frozen smoothie packs, and HiTouch Distribution, a Southern California-based direct store distributor focused on healthy refrigerated brands.

In a conversation focused on how Casano has navigated the food industry on two fronts, first on the brand side and later as a distributor, he discussed how a social mission guided his foray into the food and beverage industry, the evolution of Pitaya Foods from dragon fruit-based beverages into a superfruit brand platform and how the failure of a key distribution partner propelled his decision to launch HiTouch. He also offered his take on disruptive concepts, the elements of successful brand relationships and what it’s like to be on the front lines of food distribution during the pandemic.

Show notes:

0:43: We Need A Moment To Savor These Wins; A “Top Chef” At #BNVL; We’re Ready To Drink Cocktails -- The hosts spoke about the winning brands of BevNET’s New Beverage Showdown 19 and NOSH’s Pitch Slam 8 and how the judges evaluated the presentations in both competitions, along with discussing some of the unique opportunities for brands and Tom Colicchio presenting at the upcoming BevNET and NOSH Virtually Live event. They also chatted about why BevNET is now reviewing RTD cocktail products and a few notable products sent to the office in recent weeks, including snack bars, ethnic foods and adaptogenic hard teas.

14:50: Interview: Chuck Casano, Founder/CEO, Pitaya Foods & HiTouch Distribution -- Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Casano about his experience first as a contestant in the BevNET’s inaugural New Beverage Showdown and, nine years later, as a judge in New Beverage Showdown 19. He also discussed how the 2008 recession altered his career path, how a visit to Nicaragua spurred the idea for Pitaya Foods, the discontinuation of the brand’s beverage line and the careful balance of direct-to-consumer and retail distribution. Later, he explained why investing in now-defunct DSD distributor Greenshoots Distribution was about hedging his bets, incorporating lessons learned from working with other distributors into HiTouch and what makes for successful brand relationships versus unsuccessful ones. Finally, Casano shared vivid experiences of working during Los Angeles’ initial quarantine orders, the impact of delivery services like Instacart and Amazon Prime on the future of in-store shopping and why he believes there is massive upside for frozen brands in the years to come.

Brands in this episode: Pitaya Foods, DRNXMYTH, Tip Top Cocktails, KEHO, MasQ, Yolélé, Oorja Nutrition Bars, Odwalla, Vive Organic, KOR Shots, Sun Noodle, GT’s Living Foods, Koia, REBBL

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