KIND People: 5 Questions With KIND Snacks CEO Daniel Lubetzky

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KIND Snacks founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky

KIND Snacks already has accomplished a lot by helping establish and define the notion of a purpose-built brand and turning the US snacks business upside-down in the process. Still, the brand’s founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, felt something was missing, a formalized effort that speaks to its name and mission.

The New York-based startup still owns as much as 90 percent of the whole-fruits-and-nuts snack-bar segment that it invented, even though snack titans such as Hershey, with its Brookside brand, and Mars, with GoodnessKnows bars, have been trying to muscle into the market. And KIND retains an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the $4- to $6-billion overall better-for-you bar market.

Yet it’s not just looking at revenue and the bottom line to determine if it’s a successful brand, KIND Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky told brandchannel. “We wanted to have an additional set of tools that would allow us to focus on advancing the civic objectives that are important to us,” he said.

To that end, KIND has just announced the creation of a separate charitable organization, the KIND Foundation. Its mission: “to foster communities that are healthier, more empathetic and embrace our shared humanity,” as noted in a launch press release. “Through the Foundation, we will strive to improve the way we live, eat and relate to one another. We will continue to place a particular emphasis on celebrating and inspiring kindness.”

“We’re hopeful that, through the KIND Foundation, we’ll be able to scale our impact and ultimately make kindness more top of mind,” Lubetzky said.

The KIND Foundation (a Delaware non-profit corporation; The KIND Foundation will seek status as a 501(c)(3) organization this year) is currently accepting nominations for its launch program, called KIND People, which was announced on The Ellen Show (on the host’s birthday, no less).

The goal is to celebrate and support individuals who “embody kindness” and are transforming their communities, especially those who aren’t looking for credit for doing so. The foundation and a panel will select six nominees “who already have made a tangible impact and express intent to continue their good work.” Five of them will receive $100,000, and one will receive a half-million dollars.

Following on from our recent conversation with EVP Lisa Mann, brandchannel spoke with Lubetzky about the new KIND Foundation and the progress of the KIND brand in achieving the goals he set out for it back in 2004.

bc: You’ve already accomplished so much with the KIND brand in getting companies to think about their broader purpose and in getting consumers to embrace that. Why do you need to do more?

Daniel Lubetzky: Our aspiration is to defy a lot of the conventional wisdom of what a company can be, and yet at the same time we have to deal with the legal structure of being a company. A company has restrictions on what it can do, even a socially conscious company. Now we can still do work through the brand but also focus on philanthropic efforts that are synergistic with our mission yet separate and focused.

bc: Specifically, what do you want to accomplish with the foundation?

Lubetzky: We have a company program called KIND Causes that every month supports a charity or cause or something we care a lot about because we’re able to have communities vote to pledge acts of kindness. But we thought that we needed an opportunity to identify unsung heroes that will never apply for such things or be heard from, and inspirational stories that we want to tell so we can make kindness more front of mind and look at life differently so their work can be advanced.

bc: Are there limits to how much KIND or any other brand can accomplish by wearing a higher purpose on your sleeve, so to speak?

Lubetzky: We think about that all the time. I honestly don’t think anybody buys our products because we support philanthropy. It might build brand loyalty and help us tell our story, and even elevate their lives and feel more connected to our brand. But the reason we do it is it gives us meaning and we really enjoy it. If we want to accomplish more sales, we need to focus on product features. The overwhelming amount of our marketing funds goes toward getting people to try our products, and their features and quality.

bc: So that inspiration led to setting up a foundation?

Lubetzky: We want to be able to stretch or push the boundaries of what a company can do for the social good without having to obsess or worry about whether it’s going to help us sell more or not sell more.

bc: Are you managing to hold your position despite the proliferation of competitors in fruit and nut bars and even in bars generally?

Lubetzky: We respect all of our competitors, and we expect to win sales on our merits. We’re watching it. Since we founded KIND, there have been about 120 companies—including every single one of the largest brands—that have tried to enter this category, many with very respectable efforts. And we’re very fortunate that so far we continue basically to have the lead far and away.


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