Before you read on, check out our introduction to this series, An Insider’s Guide to the Beverage Industry. In the United States, it is estimated that over 30% of the population is obese or overweight. Much of the concern attributed to this issue is directly connected to an unhealthy diet and eating habits. In 2006, Scott Ohlgren recognized a need to curb unhealthy consumption and decided to develop a company, TrueToniq, that could help do just that. “Obesity is currently our largest health issue in the modern world. Overeating — simply eating too much at each meal — is the cause behind much of this problem,” said Ohlgren. True Toniq, and its successor Trim Toniq, were created as an effective beverage solution to help consumers suppress overeating and unhealthy snacking. With the help of Dave Dafoe and other beverage architects at Flavorman, the TrueToniq concept was taken from a bold idea and turned into a promising reality.
While TrueToniq experienced major success initially, a series of unsuccessful business ideas and partnerships can be attributed to the company’s eventual failure. In the words of Flavorman CEO Dave Dafoe and Senior Beverage Architect Marlena McGuffey, there are many valuable lessons to be learned from working with Ohlgren and TrueToniq. Products and partnerships like this can educate us on the importance of forging benevolent relationships and how they can shape a start-up company and its product offerings.
Why did Scott Ohlgren come to Flavorman?
When TrueToniq first launched, it had a small but successful distribution. Scott came back to us to create a low-calorie beverage in his product line, called Trim Toniq. He would bring us many flavor ideas and we would sit down and discuss all factors related to how they would affect a beverage. Many of the ideas were tested for solubility and judged on their flavor and aroma quality. They were often too earthy and herbal in nature. [Ohlgren] was very big on having millennials and younger people working for his company that were very interested in the “Whole Foods” market and major health-related trends. He was always looking for the next new-age ingredient, the next best thing, and came to us to help him make that happen.
Why was this company not successful?
Ohlgren’s first product — True Toniq — was very successful. He was hoping to expand his product line following the success of this product. Aside from Flavorman, he was meeting with individuals who pushed him to move in directions that were not technically or financially feasible. We encouraged him to consider that certain ingredients would not work together and would present limitations for his business and products. Ultimately, he pursued a product that was more natural and organic — and very expensive. The downfall of this company can be attributed to the expectation of creating a product that was not financially sustainable. It is not reasonable to create a beverage with high raw material costs and expect to sell it at a price that many consumers will be unwilling to pay. Ohlgren had a vision for a product and at first, people were buying it. That vision, however, was completely altered by the business partnerships he adopted, and that eventually led to the development of an unsustainable drink.
What is your advice for managing partner relationships?
It is important the listen to the people who have given you expert technical advice and have your best interests at heart. Ohlgren didn’t know what he needed at first and came to Flavorman for help. We assisted him in creating a successful product and had been doing this work for a very long time. We know that when our clients are not successful, we are not successful because our business is directly linked to their product’s success. Simply put, the lesson learned here is to work with experts, and trust your experts. As important as it is to explore what you can do with a beverage, it is also important to keep your ideas practical and logical, working with individuals and companies with the technical skill sets that can bring your idea to a feasible reality and help you maintain your success.
What was your favorite part about working with Ohlgren and TrueToniq?
Scott Ohlgren was a kind and genuine person. We always knew that when he would come in, he would bring along a myriad of unconventional flavor ideas. He was also reasonable and was willing to listen to us; if a certain combination was not going to work, he followed our advice. It was such a fun project to work on and we learned a lot of new information about different ingredients that we never used before. With some customers, there is no margin to learn original information. Scott brought so many unusual ingredients to the table that we were able to learn a great deal from this project. And in some respects, he taught us just as much as we taught him.
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