How Your Super’s Approach to Product Development Helped it Grow a Healthy Following

May 14, 2021
We’re talking with Your Super Co-Founder Kristel de Groot about how the plant-based wellness brand’s customer-centric approach has helped it put down roots with its followers.

In this episode of the Food For Thought podcast, we talk to Kristel de Groot about Your Super’s consumer-centric approach to product development. From the company’s very personal beginning to its current status as certified B-Corp wellness brand, Your Super’s Co-Founder Kristel walks us through how the company finds its inspiration for launching new products. We also talk about funding, COVID, and what advise Kristel has for up-and-coming brands wanting to make a name for themselves.

Enjoy the episode


Erin: Let’s dig in and let's get to know you a little bit more. Tell me about yourself and the company you co-founded, Your Super.

Kristel: I'm Kristel, one of the co-founders from Your Super. We started the company about seven years ago for very personal reasons. Michael, my partner, had cancer when he was 24 and he’d gone through chemo and surgery and he came out of it “healed,” but he wasn't really healthy. After that process I put him on a detox.

I was always a little bit of this health nut. Food was for me a really big thing. My mom and aunt were nutritionists. I had eczema when I grew up so like that's kind of where my passion actually came from. I learned from a really young age that it really mattered what I ate. From there, really, I put him on a detox and I started buying all this superfood for him and he thought it was pretty complicated. He's like, "I don't wanna buy these new things. It's complicated. It's expensive." I had a jar for all these different superfoods for him to get, they're very similar to one of our mixes nowadays, Super Green, and I said, "Okay. Whatever you do, just take this every single day."

That was the aha moment of what superfoods which are; nutrient dense and naturally dried whole foods, that help you to improve your health, your energy levels and everything else, but also this aha moment of like, "Hey, there are a lot more Michaels in this world," right? There are...9 out of 10 people in the U.S. don't eat enough fruit and vegetables every single day. So, from there, we started developing this line of originally seven different superfood mixes, each mix has five, six different ingredients, but each have their own function. Everything is organic and plant-based and they're really easy to use. You can add them to water, oatmeal, in a smoothie. There's no Stevia or anything in there so you can even add them to savory things. We're really on this mission to just get more plants into people. I think our mix is already this great starting point but then also like, you know, just teaching people again on how to make some of these healthy meals for themselves.

Erin: I've read in several places that you and Michael were once rivals on the tennis court. How did that rivalry turn into a partnership and then a business partnership?

Kristel: We were both on the tennis team and that's where we met. And we definitely played some tennis matches against each other which was fun. There was just a lot of energy between us. We're together now at this point like 12, 13 years, have been working together for 7 years and we get this question so often of like, "Hey. How can you be together and work together? I could never do that." I hear it so often.

What I found is we know each other at such a deep level that there's this really open communication even in the way we work together that I really, really enjoy. And then at the same time we're very mission driven, we're very passionate about what we do and we work a lot, a lot of hours, but we do this together. And he's someone I really care about so I want to spend time with him, and I feel the business really enables us to actually do that. I think that we have different relationships together. We have a business relationship but we also have a a loving relationship as well.

Erin: Your Super has been described as a next gen industry leader in plant-based living. When you first started down this entrepreneurial road, did you ever see yourself or this brand becoming as big as it has?

Kristel: Actually, no. The first year we were mixing everything still together by ourselves. We had a little certified organic room in Holland. We started in Europe, the business, and from there, we had our first production running here later and it really just started. I was giving it to so many friends, going to farmers' markets, selling a little bit online. We were in Europe for a while and then we saw actually that more and more orders were coming from the U.S. and we were just like, "Why? They have to pay in euros, they have to wait four weeks for shipping. It's a European website. Why would they order?" When we called our customers also in the U.S., we were like, "Hey. Why did you order?" And they're like, "Yeah. I really like the way you source."

We have a transparent supply chain where we have direct partnerships with all the co-ops we work with and source our ingredients from and really look for the best quality. We have a giving back program where we donate a lot from our proceeds. We have a really big partnership with Action Against Hunger.

So there was just some of these things that just felt so different to them, and that we felt like, "Hey, let's also go to the U.S." We launched in the U.S. in January 2018 and from there also had just step by step been growing and I think you just always adjust. You don't necessarily know from the beginning, "Oh, this is how big it's going be," but you just always expand your horizon a little further and always get excited about the next opportunities.

Erin: Speaking of opportunities, I'm curious, how do you and your partner develop new products for Your Super? What does product development look like?

Kristel: We’re very consumer focused. We sell online and I think one of the benefits of selling online is that we have direct contact with our customers. We have big online groups where we actually talk to them. Michael will go live on Facebook and Instagram and interact with them and we always send surveys. One of the things we do now is just we ask them, like, "Hey, what is another problem that we need to solve for you? What do you need?" We listen and we try to, you know, find patterns. And based on that, we said like, "Okay. This is a problem we wanna solve first."

For example, last year it was for Moon Balance we heard over and over again, hormonal imbalance, hormonal imbalance. Okay, we need to think of something natural that can actually support women with hormone imbalance. From there we look at, "Okay. What's out in nature? What are some of the ingredients that can help balance hormones again?" We worked with different nutritionists, we looked at different studies and developed our products that way where we combined the five, six ingredients and that mix has been—whether it's for Moon Balance, whether it's for PMS, whether it's for menopause—it's a mix that is helping lots and lots of different women, which is really, really exciting and to then also afterwards see the effect on the consumers again, right, because they're always giving us the feedback. You listen to your consumer and solve their problems because that's why you actually are in business.

Erin: A topic on the Food For Thought Podcast a lot this season has been about funding and especially funding for startups or newer businesses. I'm curious, how has funding been for Your Super? Have you run into any issues or problems so far?

Kristel: I think a lot of startups started with problems. We went through our fair share of challenges, I like to call them. I like to be challenged, and if I look back over the years. Last year we did a Series B with Power Plant as one of our main investors. But especially if I look at the early days, it was a super struggle especially in Europe. We were an e-comm brand, we were selling superfoods where that was no one was super excited about that. We were, but no one else. We were a little bit too early actually in Europe in that sense.

And it is a struggle. I heard this from someone else and I just always keep it with me that “you're going to get a hundred no’s before you get a yes,” right? And it's so often if you're fund raising you need just this one yes. If you have your first lead investor in, like the rest suddenly all follows.

I know they're all saying, “Oh, yeah. We're investing. We’re taking risks," but a lot of them don't actually take that much risk. They take the risk if someone else is taking the risk. I think that's an important piece. And that was not really a challenge for us but it's just also another piece. Be picky with who you work with, because you're not just taking money, like they're becoming part of your business. For us, Power Plant is really a partner that is all about plant-based eating. Our recipes are plant-based and it's a huge part of our brands as well. So, it's really finding these people that have similar values where you...who you want to have on board.

Erin: I'm curious because, you know, we've all endured Covid and the pandemic, and I would be remiss if I did not ask, from a business standpoint, did the pandemic help or hurt your business?

Kristel: We were very lucky. We were already selling online and a lot of what we were doing we could keep doing. I mean, there were some challenges, for example, with sourcing and sometimes a warehouse had to be closed. But overall on that sense, most of our regular business could keep running, besides we all to go remote. We have an LA and a Berlin office, so a lot of that was already there; we had the structure in place to actually go all remote. From that standpoint, we were good and we really still grew last year. I don't think it was just because of the pandemic. It was not like, oh, the pandemic hit and then overnight our business doubled. Absolutely not.

What for us really happened, more on the mission level that we feel what we are doing, is supporting people to improve their health, is even more important than it ever was before. And a lot of people feel and felt stuck at home. And it's not always easy even in those moments to just, you know, like take care of yourself. And you see it and, like, I think it can really go both ways. Some people became really more health conscious, other people not. And we really just tried to just be there for people. One of the things we did the first three months from the pandemic, we almost went every day live within our Facebook and Instagram communities, and cooked different recipes just to really be there for people, connect with them, teach like on like how to cook more at home because that was something new, how to integrate some of the mixes, how they actually like support your immunity, so a lot of those kind of things.

Erin: As we finish up the episode, I want to talk a bit about takeaways or advice. What advice would you give to someone just starting out with an idea for a food or beverage product that wasn't sure of the next steps to take?

Kristel: So many tips. I think the biggest thing is, one, make sure you're really passionate about it. I think that's super important. And then know that there is always a solution. You often don't need to know the how yet, as long as you're clear on your what and your why. Like, what is it that you want, why do you want it? And then the solutions, you will find them. I always joke that in the beginning, Google has been my biggest friend. You can find a lot of answers on Google and obviously reaching out to people. I think that's always a good piece but I think if it's something you're just so excited about and you know, like, it's something that the world really needs and it really speaks also to your why, it's like, "Hey, this is why it's also needed and other people need it," go for it. Right? Start small, think big, and just go for it.

Erin: Thank you so much. That was great. A lot of useful information there. And I wanted to say thank you Kristel. Thank you so much for being on the Food for Thought Podcast with me today.

Kristel: Thank you, Erin. It was great being here. I hope everyone enjoyed it. And if anyone has more questions afterwards they can always reach out to me on...probably on Instagram or wherever else, LinkedIn, wherever you find me.

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