Partnership aims to uplift minority- and women-owned brands
CHICAGO, IL (February 21, 2023) Innovation drives the food retail industry, and minority-owned brands are at the forefront of that innovation. Yet, these brands have historically not received the same attention and opportunities to get products on store shelves. Research consistently shows that the amount of minority- and women-owned businesses do not reflect those groups’ percentage of the population, and both receive a disproportionately small amount of venture capital funding. SPINS and Navigator Lighthouse Foundation want to change that and are partnering together to identify and uplift women- and minority-owned CPG brands that offer unique and best-in-class products.
For more than 20 years, SPINS has helped emerging brands understand the market and take a data-based approach to innovation, strategic growth, and retailer relationships. Subriana Pierce and Allen Pierce, managing partners at Navigator Sales and Marketing, founded the Navigator Lighthouse Foundation to foster that innovation and growth for women- and minority-owned brands and help transform the grocery business through access to retailers and investors, ongoing education, and connecting brands with funding. Together, SPINS and Navigator Lighthouse Foundation have the resources to identify those often-overlooked brands and provide them with the tools they need to get funding and on store shelves.
“The world’s demographics and consumer values are evolving, and it’s time that the grocery industry catches up. Today’s shoppers are deliberate about how and where they spend their money,” says Jay Lovelace, President of SPINS. “Since its beginning, SPINS has taken pride in identifying the best-in-class innovators who understand what shoppers need and value, whether that means personal wellness or social change. Today, much of that innovation is happening in minority- and women-owned businesses and Navigator Lighthouse Foundation has built strong relationships with those entrepreneurs. Our partnership allows these brands to have access to the tools and data that put them put them on a level playing field and put the spotlight on their products.”
To celebrate this partnership, SPINS sat down with Navigator Lighthouse Foundation co-founders Subriana Pierce and Allen Pierce to discuss their motivation for establishing the organization and how this partnership will uplift brands.
What drew you to be passionate about helping minority-owned businesses and start the Lighthouse Foundation?
Allen: After the death of George Floyd, people all over the world started picketing and everyone was asking how do you help these communities? Subriana asked what had we done to help these communities who need help, and we realized many people in these communities don’t know about the grocery business. People who have great recipes from their families that they’re trying to get on the shelf—that’s what we know how to do. So we started Navigator Lighthouse Foundation.
Subriana: Having been a former retailer, I had brands come in and say “This is the best-tasting barbeque sauce!” and then I realized that’s not enough. As we started to train and educate, we realized we need to meet them where they need to be met. They’ve commercialized [their great-grandmother’s recipe], but now let me teach you how to be successful at it so you don’t lose everything. We wanted to help them build generational wealth.”
Allen: Generational wealth to people who have never had generational wealth.
Why are minority-owned businesses and diversity overall important to the grocery industry?
Subriana: Everything goes to sales and profit. Research shows that diverse-owned brands are driving incremental sales and incremental traffic to retailers—and that’s what they want to see. The same goes for diversity in corporate America: The more diverse your board is, the more diverse your leadership team is, and it directly affects sales and profits.
How does data come into play for brands that are just starting out, whether they’re still in the research stage or already in the market?
Subriana: There are a couple of reasons data is important for any brand. If you don’t have sales, you need the data to understand your consumer and your category. We had one brand from our first cohort and she had some syndicated data that she went into a retail meeting with. They listened to her because she had data. They were blown away because this emerging brand is not selling anywhere yet but she came in with this category data and she knew what she was talking about.
Data is also important to these brands because they might have won their spot on the shelf through a supplier diversity program or a women’s program—and that’s great—but it’s not going to keep you on the shelf. It’s going to be your sales, your turns, and your growth. You don’t know how to measure that unless you have data.
Why is a personal and ongoing relationship between the foundation and these brands so important?
Subriana: Let’s say you print out a report—many emerging brands would not understand what any of the information means. There are metrics that only someone in category management at a major CPG company would be familiar with. It’s also about relationships and access. Major retailers who have come onto our webinars and helped train our brands on how to do business with them, and financial partners offer educational sessions on how to manage wealth. We have a unique and esteemed board of directors to have some of the best minds available to help copywrite, trademark, consult, and complete other critical milestones that need to happen before a brand can launch. Those touchpoints are important to guide and steer people in the right direction.
Why is now the right time to form this partnership with SPINS?
Subriana: We’ve seen the importance of SPINS data in action ourselves. As an emerging broker, it took us a while to build up to where we could have data that we could then turn around and provide brands. SPINS has been on that path and journey with us.
Allen: In that summer of 2020, people started calling grocery stores asking if they had women-owned, minority-owned products on their shelves. Grocery stores never had calls like that, and we realized knew what minority-owned brands they had on their shelves—but they did not. Everyone expedited efforts to get these products on shelves, but nobody had a supply chain or an engine to manage these deals. Now, SPINS and Navigator Lighthouse Foundation become an engine for these brands. Retailers will continue to segment their stores for local, minority-owned, women-owned, and so on. SPINS and Lighthouse Foundation together will have a vehicle to help retailers find those brands.