FaintFlex Vol. 17 - Keto Commerce
Two different, yet effective approaches to building viral health food brands.
FaintFlex is a newsletter covering new media & personality-driven startups.
I’ll admit, I slept on the ketogenic diet movement popularized in the last few years. I just viewed it as another passing diet fad like Paleo or Whole30, generating a rush of undifferentiated companies attempting to capitalize.
But it looks like it might be here to stay. And the emergence of Magic Spoon cereal sparked my interest in gaining a better understanding of the online communities, personalities, and brands driving keto’s mainstream popularity.
If you’re still unfamiliar, keto consists of limiting carbs from your diet, which trains your body to burn fat as fuel instead. The goal is to maintain healthy blood ketone levels, which has been said to generate a number of benefits including enhanced moods & mental clarity.
One company that stood out to me is Perfect Keto, a DTC keto-friendly snack & supplement brand co-founded by Dr. Anthony Gustin in 2016.
(Note: After recently co-authoring a book under the same name, he paused Keto Answers to launch a new, broader health-related podcast that will be released soon.)
Why It’s Interesting
Commonly referred to as “The Godfather of Keto”, Dr. Gustin actually launched his career as a certified chiropractor, building his practice from 1 to 6 locations in under 3 years.
Gustin wanted to help prevent many of the challenges his sports patients were facing through proper nutritional planning, which included answering questions related to both whole food & keto diets via 1:1 conversations.
One of the common threads that I noticed was that, if people did not focus on nutrition, then none of the problems would get better, no matter how much you're rehabbed or what things they're being prescribed. - Dr. Anthony Gustin (Nutraingredients)
So he decided to scale these conversations by starting a blog (now newsletter with 70k organically acquired subscribers), a whole foods supplement brand (Equip Foods), and Perfect Keto shortly after - which appears to be experiencing the most growth.
A few of the brand’s noteworthy points include:
Positioning to be the approachable, trustworthy experts by building a team of ~10 research & education writers for Perfect Keto’s blog vs. producing undifferentiated SEO-feeling copy
Attracting over one million monthly visitors to the website, in which 95% is organic (hit 10M in 2018)
Building a team of experienced DTC & retail talent, including a top notch interim CMO last year & Director of Paid Advertising to supplement organic growth
Despite being bootstrapped, they’re doing well enough to have a number of job postings like VP of Growth
Co-founded by the founder of Kettle & Fire, another popular food DTC brand
Not taking any paid sponsorships on Gustin’s personal social media accounts or podcast
Building a YouTube presence (which is small compared to Gustin’s other channels) that is on par performance wise with VC-backed H.V.M.N’s YouTube (which covers similar health topics) despite launching it nearly 4 years after.
Education vs. Built-In Virality
It’s clear that Perfect Keto is good at staying top-of-mind with their customers in a trending food category. However, I wonder if they limited their brand growth possibilities by naming it “Perfect Keto.”
It’s an interesting thought exercise to compare with a brand like Magic Spoon, which feels positioned more around cultural relevance vs. education. Although its a popular low carb, high protein option for keto enthusiasts, the use of the word “keto” is hardly ever used on its packaging, website or social media.
With its illustrated & gamified packaging, the press worthy Magic Spoon brand is unique enough to capture mindshare of both the keto superfans AND the health-conscious HENRY consumer that may only be keto curious.
And in addition to digital ads, they’ve been sponsoring giveaways with fitness & keto oriented micro-influencers on a weekly (& at times daily) basis.
As a venture-backed brand, I’m sure they have aspirations to expand beyond just new cereal flavors & into other low carb snack foods. Their colorful branding positions them well to stay relevant even when keto is no longer as prevalent.
Regardless of their differences, these are each effective approaches in their own right. It’s just another great example on how the decision to raise venture capital can affect the strategy behind building a brand.
The Foto App by 9 Count, Inc.
Quick review of the Foto app by TikTok star Romina Gafur
Does anyone know what the big vision & appeal is around Foto, the recently launched photo sharing social network?
I noticed a few big name Gen Z TikTok stars like Danielle Cohn posting about it last week but I’m still educating myself on what the bigger play here might be.
Despite the founder being the former President of North America for Musically and being backed by GGV ($4.5M), I’ve barely found any press around their launch this past summer.
The best way I can describe it is a mashup of popular features from both Instagram & TikTok. Reply or DM me on Twitter (@faintflex) if you have thoughts or insight.
As always, thank you for reading & sharing. 💭
— Aaron McClendon