Today we meet Avery Henderson, Co-Founder and the CMO at Marco Sweets & Spices. Marco is all about culinary-inspired ice cream with flavors from all over the world, as the company seeks to broaden our horizons beyond the same old chocolate, strawberry and vanilla favorites. The small team has already broken into the grocery retail market in several states, after beginning life as a DTC brand. How have they done it? What challenges did they face? (Apart from the obvious difficulties of shipping ice cream!) Let’s find out!
Hi, this is Avery Henderson. I’m a Co-Founder and the CMO at Marco Sweets & Spices. I am responsible for all things marketing and brand development at Marco. But, as you can imagine, it’s a start-up so everyone pretty much does everything. Prior to Marco, I worked in the branding/advertising agency world for about 8 years. Most recently, I worked at Interact Boulder, a brand agency specifically focused on building and rebranding brands in the food and beverage industry. A few weeks ago, I joined my Co-Founder, Luke Christianson (who initially founded the business) full time.
At Marco Sweets & Spices we make ice cream that’s as interesting as the rest of the food we eat. We create culinary-inspired flavors that echoes a love for travel and honors a diversity of ingredients from around the world. We take global flavor profiles and convert them into ice cream – transporting dishes from plate to pint. The inspiration for the business came about when my Co-Founder, Luke, moved to NYC. He reveled in the fact that he could enjoy flavors from every part of the world within a 5 block radius of his office. But, when he went to the ice cream aisle, the big brands holding most of the market share still centered on the same core flavors they always had. In essence, the ice cream aisle hadn’t kept up with the burgeoning foodie revolution in the US – the Anthony Bourdain-ization of the American consumer as we like to call it. We wanted to bring the ice cream aisle into 2020 (when we launched), so we built Marco.
The team currently consists of Luke and myself, full time. And then we have a product development specialist, Julian Plyter who is the chef owner of Melt Bakery in NYC, and Spencer Joynt, the head of Alright Studios, a branding agency also in NYC.
Initially, we launched the brand as a DTC, which was never the plan. But, we launched in late July of 2020, in the heat of the pandemic when grocers weren’t taking on new brands. Our thesis was that if we launched DTC and could ship to 35 states (now shipping nationally), we would be much more buzz/press worthy. We could then use this press endorsement to drive trial on line – in lieu of sampling. As of late 2020, we’ve launched in grocery retail and are now sold in over 45 stores in the NYC region, as well as Texas and Utah (with SoCal on the way). We are now focused on driving/growing sales in retail to grow within our sales regions. As well as growing DTC of course.
In tandem, we are also constantly working on improving each of our seven flavors as well as innovating around launching new ones in a consistent cadence. Our goals for this year are to drive trial and build brand evangelists in the regions we’re in so we can take that model to new markets.
As the adage goes, we’re building the plane as we fly it, while getting our pilots license. I can’t really list a main challenge as we’re constantly learning from a myriad of different challenges and opportunities. Our biggest initial challenge was really about how we could launch an ice cream brand DTC, a product that is tremendously difficult to ship. And on top of that, how we could drive trial to a brand so new with a consumer that may not even realize they can order ice cream online.
All of that said, we’re excited about each challenge and each opportunity. Luke and I have always wanted to run our own business and although it’s hard, each experience is tremendously motivating and exciting.
We have been fortunate enough to get a lot of great press for the business and we can use those press endorsements to show validation of the product in our marketing and advertising. Utilizing a trusted voice endorsing the brand has proved extremely helpful in our marketing. Additionally, as we’re starting to build out UGC marketing content, we’ve learned that real voices, in conjunction with more press-worthy trusted ones, work very well to show a more down to earth endorsement.
On a community level, we’re just starting to explore how we can make the brand more of a physical experience through partnerships, etc. But more on that to come soon!
Nothing terribly exciting here, Slack, G-Drive, the usual social channels, etc
You have to start somewhere. Not everything will be perfect at launch, and that’s fine. If you let perfect be the enemy of good, you’ll never start. Get going, learn from everything you can, and iterate as you go. If you’re able to be personable and tell a human story throughout, you’ll do fine.
More than learning materials, just connect with everyone you can in the industry. Your connections will get you further than any book can, in my opinion.
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