Chia Seeds & Plant-Based Protein Powders Trends with Tom Merrow from Onset Worldwide

Elisa Louis and Donny Edson are talking with Tom Merrow, the owner of Onset Worldwide. His career in the food industry was kickstarted by an opportunistic meeting during his stint as a freight forwarder in Boston. Tom quickly evolved a curiosity for the import-export dynamics into a thriving business, Onset Worldwide.

Alongside his wife Sarah, Tom has managed to establish Onset as a recognizable name in the food industry in just a decade. Today, he focuses on enhancing the brand by pioneering innovative processes, producing premium quality, allergen-free seeds, grains, and flours and pushing the envelope with new products like plant-based proteins and cold milled oil seeds.

Donny’s introduction to the chia seeds was nothing short of serendipity. It was 2010, and Donny was occupied at a sunflower booth during a trade show in Paris. Out of the blue, a stranger approached him with a bag of chia seeds, asking to trade. Intrigued, Donny decided to take a closer look at this new contender in the market.

Over time, he discovered the incredible benefits of chia seeds, not just as a thickening agent but also as a key ingredient in granolas, energy bars, baby foods, pet treats, and even horse feeds. Smirk’s began to import chia seeds from Argentina, leading to an unexpected surge in sales. Today, chia seeds are one of the top selling items at Smirk’s, a testament to Donny’s innovative approach and keen eye for recognizing potential market trends.

Understanding how to pitch to brands effectively is crucial in any industry, especially when it comes to the food industry. A brand partnership can lead to expanded reach, increased credibility, and the potential for lucrative deals. However not all pitches are welcome. It’s not uncommon for larger brands to refuse ideas from external sources, choosing to innovate in-house instead.

This isn’t a death sentence for your idea though, shifting focus on adding value to the customers directly can create a more refined, targeted product that can compete with the big brands, winning over their customers instead.

Tom shares his experience pitching to established brands like Puma, but getting turned down as they don’t accept outside ideas. Instead of letting that stop him, he channeled his energy into creating products that add more value to their customers offering products at a competitive price without compromising on quality. Tom’s approach offers a masterclass on perseverance and how important it is to stay focused on the customer’s needs.

Like any other commodity, the price of chia seeds fluctuates due to numerous factors. Some of these key factors include changes in growing regions, crop conditions, market demand, and weather patterns.

By keeping a close eye on these aspects, businesses can anticipate and respond strategically to potential price changes to ensure efficiency and profitability.

Donny made a deep dive into factors impacting chia prices, explaining how they have experienced periods of extreme highs and lows. He emphasized the need to closely monitor crop conditions owing to their direct impact on market prices. He suggested a strategy of purchasing chia in two cycles: November-December and June-July to mitigate risks associated with frost damage.

Chia Seeds: History and Market

Garret McBride and Donny Edson talk all things chia seeds. Chia seeds are an increasingly popular health food famous for their impressive nutritional profile. Originally used by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, these seeds are packed with protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. The market for chia seeds has been on the rise for the past several years, thanks to their classification as a superfood and their widespread use in various health and wellness products. They can be consumed raw, cooked or added to various dishes for an easy health boost.

In the podcast, Garrett and Donny discussed the phenomenal growth witnessed in the chia market. They discussed the historical significance of chia seeds tracing its origin and use by ancient civilizations. They also extensively touched on the upsurge in chia seed consumption, attributing it to their nutritional benefits and the increasing wellness-conscious consumer base proving that chia seeds are more than a fad; they are a market with a lot of growth potential.

Smirk’s September 2023 Market Report

  • Prices in Peru are going  up due to weather conditions. This has affected both quinoa and cacao which is trading at multi-year highs
  • Organic mango show prices 20% higher than last year. The new crop harvests in a few months
  • Amaranth, especially organic amaranth is almost sold out from India and the prices from Peru are expected to be higher
  • Coconut prices are creeping up a bit in Sri Lanka and in the Philippines prices are stable
  • We can book contracts for coconut through June 2023 so locking in now is a good idea
  • Coconut sugar is still behind and shipments are booking for later this year. Get coverage as far out as you can to avoid shortage
  • Almond report shows lower shipments due to the late crop.
  • Pine nuts have fallen to a great value
  • Macadamia processors are slowly increasing prices, but they are still a great value
  • We’re watching harvests on oats, sunflowers and organic sunflower oil
  • We’re watching the pumpkin market especially with the consumption in China and Europe
  • Organic pumpkin seed pricing is firm so buying now will ensure availability

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