04 May 2022
D'Vash Organics' keys to sustainable growth
Cofounder David Czinn discusses what's working as the brand expands its line of date products.
Cofounder David Czinn discusses what's working as the brand expands its line of date products.
David Czinn and Brian Finkel started sustainable superfood company D’Vash Organics by selling at farmers markets.
Today, the brand’s date-based sweetener and snack products are sold in 9,500 stores with a model that stretches across wholesale, retail and ecommerce channels. Its business lines span from food service to direct-to-consumer to B2B.
And it recently got a fresh boost. When we caught up with Czinn recently, the Los Angeles-based company was rolling out its date syrup in 2,800 Walmart and Costco stores, as well as date bars in Sam’s Club locations.
The company's journey to this point offers plenty of insights into building a brand. During a recent interview, Czinn shared what’s working now, and learnings along the way. Here are the key takeaways:
In college, Czinn and Finkel used to joke about starting a business. They also shared a passion for food. Those ended up coming together after Finkel learned about date syrup on a consulting project in Israel. With dates also having a big presence in California, where Czinn was based, they realized there was a business opportunity. After research, sampling and consulting with food industry experts, they decided to move forward with launching.
The products stand out on a couple levels. For one, dates bring a healthier option to the sweets category. Date syrup is vegan, it has 25% less sugar than honey and it’s a low glycemic food. For those who aren't familiar with dates, it also has a subtler taste.
“The beauty of the sweetener is that it’s so versatile that you don’t necessarily know that it’s made from dates,” Czinn said. “The fact that you can use this as an alternative to cane sugar, maple syrup and honey is really perfect.”
The recipe also includes sustainability. The products are made from recycled produce in order to reduce food waste.
When Czinn and Finkel first sensed they were on to something, they started selling right away. Farmers markets and holiday markets in Los Angeles provided venues to make sales. Perhaps more importantly, they also provided a chance to get valuable early feedback. The D'Vash team A/B tested logos, products, packaging labels and designs at the markets. The learnings along the way helped put them on a path to retail.
Later, after conversations with buyers from Whole Foods and Sprouts, they started expanding the product line. Now, it includes date paste, date sugar, date bars and date bites. What started with syrup is now setting up to become a wide-reaching date company.
With interest from buyers and customers, another key step to expansion was bolstering production. Czinn wanted to diversify the supply chain. A 2021 partnership with Al Barakah Dates Factory in Dubai boosted capacity to grow. Czinn said the company initially reached out to the factory via email. It ended up leading to one of their most important partnerships.
“It’s amazing what just one email was able to do and where it’s allowed us to go today,” Czinn said.
The expansion has included growing sales on ecommerce channels. Following a pandemic-era push in which brands benefitted from the ease of selling online and shoppers got more comfortable with digital channels, the company has a big presence on Amazon. It is also growing on channels including Shopify and Thrive Market.
With ecommerce, content is particularly important alongside product and operations, Czinn said. That resonates across every channel.
“Every CPG company, every retail company has to look at themselves as a marketing company because it’s on you today to tell your story. It’s on you to come up with the content and the branding that you want to speak to your community and your consumers.”
Lately, TikTok has proven to be a particularly successful platform for growth. The brand is working with creators who post short-form videos on that app, as well as Instagram. With a coupon code, the brand can track the results of campaigns on TikTok.
“TikTok has been incredible and we’ve only scratched the surface there,” Czinn said. It reminds him of the rise of Facebook over the last decade, as brands realized the power of the tools and the potential they brought for growth. “It’s a nascent channel where there’s so much opportunity if you can execute it appropriately,” he said.
Alongside marketing, brands that can build loyalty are likely to gain repeat customers. Czinn said D’Vash has built some of its biggest fans through a focus on customer service. The team responds within 30 minutes and is attentive to what customers want. This has also helped to bring about shifts. Reported issues with previous partners who were shipping the company’s initial products in glass containers helped to bring about a change to BPA-free, recycled plastic packaging, which also turned out to be a must for ecommerce.
While building a brand, business strategies and tactics may change, but an orientation toward customers must remain.
“You need to constantly pivot and constantly change direction if you have to, but you always need to put the customer first,” Czinn said.
Dealboard has funding and M&A updates from ecommerce aggregators and forecasting software.
This week, the aggregator space is active with M&A, IKEA is ready to roll out newly-purchased warehouse management software and Authentic Brands Group acquired a boot icon. Plus, there’s new investment to report for YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain’s coffee brand and retail forecasting.
Here’s a look at the latest deals:
Chamberlain Coffee, the consumer brand founded by YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain, raised $7 million in new funding.
The financing included backing from existing investors including Blazar Capital, Chamberlain and United Talent Agency. New investors include Volition Capital, Electric Feel Ventures, L.A. Libations and Noah Bremen, founder of PLTFRM.
The new funding follows the launch of a Ready-to-Drink (RTD) product and coffee pods. Previously, the brand raised a Series A in August 2022.
"Creating a uniquely inviting coffee brand has been my dream for so long now, and having key investors back us allows us to build Chamberlain Coffee in ways that feel fresh and exciting,” said Chamberlain, in a statement. “There are so many products I am eager to develop and projects I'm excited to get working on. With such an incredible team and group of investors I am more excited than ever to see what the future holds for Chamberlain Coffee."
Impact Analytics, a software company for retail supply chain and merchandise planning, raised new funding from Vistara Growth.
The new investment, the amount of which was not disclosed, comes after Impact raised funding in February 2021 and October 2022 from Argentum.
The funding will help Impact Analytics further develop its Impact Analytics SmartSuite product portfolio, which is designed to help optimize forecasting, merchandising and end-to-end lifecycle pricing. Rather than the traditional forecasting approach of basing decisions on the preceding year, Impact Analytics applies a model that includes 150 variables from internal and external sources, while combining recency and history. Clients include BJ's Wholesale Club, Dick's Sporting Goods, Puma and Tapestry.
Selva Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on consumer brands that promote healthier living, closed its second fund at $34 million, TechCrunch reported.
With the new funding, Selva will invest in brands across categories including health, wellness, beauty and personal care. The fund expects to write checks of $1-2 million in seed and Series A startups, while assisting in areas like finance, operations and retail partnerships.
Backers of the second fund include Unilever Ventures, PagsGroup and Obelysk.
Nautica and Forever 21 owner Authentic Brands Group acquired the intellectual property of Hunter, a 160-year-old British outdoor lifestyle brand known for its Wellington boots.
With the deal, ABG appointed longtime partners Batra Group and Marc Fisher to execute retail and ecommerce operations, as well as continue to expand the brand in the UK and U.S., respectively.
“At the intersection of fashion and outdoor, Hunter introduces another elevated global brand to Authentic’s diverse Lifestyle portfolio,” said Authentic CEO Jamie Salter, in a statement.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The investment arm of IKEA parent Ingka Group acquired the warehouse management software platform Made4Net.
As a result of the deal, Made4Net’s software will be deployed across IKEA’s 482 stores and fulfillment centers. Made4Net will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary of Ingka, with a headquarters in New Jersey. CEO Duff Davidson will remain at the helm of the company.
“Our business currently requires a better fulfillment operations system with more accurate data that better supports handling for our customers,” said Tolga Öncu, head of retail at Ingka Group, in a statement. “Our goal is to become leaders of life at home, serving more people in an omnichannel reality, whenever and however customers choose to meet us.”
European ecommerce aggregator SellerX acquired Elevate Brands, a U.S.-based aggregator.
The combined companies will be known as SellerX Group. It will comprise a portfolio that includes 80 Amazon-native private label consumer brands in categories including sports and outdoors, home, mobile accessories, pets and consumables. The portfolio will span over 40,000 products.
With the deal, SellerX Co-CEOs Philipp Triebel and Malte Horeyseck will lead SellerX Group, while Elevate Brands cofounders Ryan Gnesin, Jeremy Bell and Robert Bell will remain in key leadership positions.
“This acquisition combines our know-how and diversified portfolios of strong brands with a market-leading technology platform and strong operational infrastructure,” said Triebel, in a statement. “By leveraging our combined strengths, I am convinced we are well-positioned to drive further consolidation in the industry.”
Ecommerce aggregator Society Brands acquired Wolf Tactical, a tactical gear company.
Founded in 2017 by Tim Wu, Wolf Tactical makes products including DC belts, range belts to weighted vest and tactical backpacks.
"I started Wolf Tactical by myself as a side hustle with very limited knowledge of business and entrepreneurship. A combination of hard work and relentless learning allowed me to build it into a multi-million-dollar business," said Wu who will remain as brand president, in a statement. "With the help of Society Brands, I have access to untapped potential that I would not be able to achieve by myself.”