Taste Radio Ep. 69: Jon Sebastiani Is Kraving The Next Big Thing

This week’s episode of Taste Radio features a wide-ranging conversation with Krave Jerky and Sonoma Brands founder Jon Sebastiani. Recorded at the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show, Sebastiani delved into his background in the food and beverage industry as an heir to a legacy wine family and talked about what spurred him to strike out on his own with Krave. He reflected on the meteoric growth of the meat snack brand, which launched in 2009 and was acquired by The Hershey Co. in 2015 for $240 million, and how he used the proceeds to create Sonoma Brands, a CPG incubator and venture fund that develops and partners with innovative food and beverage brands.

Also included in the episode: an interview with veteran marketing executive Greg Fleishman, who is the CEO and co-founder of boutique marketing firm Purely Righteous Brands. Having worked with a range of innovative brands in his 20-year career, including Fuze, Bear Naked, Kashi and Suja, Fleishman opined on why successful entrepreneurs always have a “hunger and humility to learn.” He also discussed why consumers are becoming more attuned to sustainable farming practices and “food justice” and shared his perspective on the potential for cannabis-based CPG products. And in the latest edition of Elevator Talk, we speak with Julie Ndjee, co-founder/EVP of Neilly’s Foods, an upstart maker and distributor of healthy and natural cuisine featuring flavors of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Show Notes:

0:44: Intro to the episode and hosts Ray Latif, John Craven, Jon Landis and Mike Schneider, who chat about which drinks and snacks in the office attract the most interest and why and which ones get the cold shoulder. Mike talks about the appeal of trying new brands and line extensions while Jon offers his take on the elements of effective packaging and branding. John explains why approachability and easily understood beverages often win in the office and Ray discusses the advantage of nutritious, low-calorie and low-sugar formulations.

8:36: Interview — Ray and John sit down with Jon Sebastiani, the founder of Krave Jerky and founder and CEO of CPG incubator and venture fund of Sonoma Brands. Sebastiani talks about working as part of his family’s wine business and decision to launch Krave; the emergence of premium meat snacks and what’s next for the category; how Sonoma’s team of former operators offers a competitive edge and advantage to other venture capital funds.

37:42: Interview — John speaks with Greg Fleishman, a 20-year marketing executive who is currently the co-founder and CEO of Purely Righteous Brands LLC, which is a boutique consultancy dedicated to fostering the growth of “green space” health food & beverage companies.

1:01:35: Elevator Talk — Meet Julie Ndjee, the co-founder and EVP of Neilly’s, a maker and distributor of healthy and natural cuisine from around the world.

Brands in this episode: Krave Jerky, Zupa Noma, Dang Foods, SmashMallow, Fuze, Bear Naked, Kashi, Temple Turmeric, Suja, Foodstirs, Sambazon, Neilly’s

For sponsorship opportunities, feedback and suggestions contact podcast@bevnet.com.