ECRM’s EPPS: A Startup Brand’s Perspective  11/15/2016

When you are a startup brand, you can't afford a bad decision. Taking a wrong path can prove detrimental to your company survival.

In the world of startups, just about everything is unpredictable. As a founder of Nothing But Real, LLC -- a natural products company producing clean protein drinks and snacks -- my role is to minimize those factors that are left to luck. I need to know that the money I spend will deliver the maximum return. ECRM seemed to be working for large companies, but what about a startup?

Based on my experience, I believe that the format and process of ECRM’s meetings provides the best bang for the buck for startup brands. Over this series of columns, I'll be chronicling my experience with ECRM, from my decision to attend, through the EPPS meetings themselves, through the follow-up process in which I am currently engaged, through the addition of my product on retail shelves. But first, here’s a little background on my decision.

As so many others, I had tried the traditional expo route as part of my previous startup. While the price of $5000 for a small booth won’t necessarily break the bank, when you add the additional expense of the hotel, travel costs, shipping merchandise, and the public relations and pay promoters to pitch the product at your booth, it's difficult to create a meaningful expo presence for less than $15 to $20,000.

Unfortunately, after laying out that money, the amount of actual retailer interaction we achieved at expos– meetings with people who can actually get my products on the shelf -- was negligible. Most of the visitors to our booth were consultants trying to sell me their services, as well as employees of large corporations trying to learn about my products so that they can replicate them on their own.

Those retailers who did make it to my booth were there for two or three minutes maximum, and they were distracted minutes at best. So, in the aftermath of an expensive 3-day expo I was usually left scratching my head wondering whether it truly had helped to move my brand and business forward.

The Value of EPPS Meetings

I was searching for a more focused, more efficient, and more effective way to reach the buyers. Securing one-on-one meetings on my own wasn’t easy, and it would take months, if not a year, to meet with all the buyers on my list.

ECRM’s offer sounded interesting because there was no “if” in the equation. I was guaranteed to meet with dozens of retail buyers, and each meeting would be dedicated time spent with them, no distractions. We had control over our meeting space, so we could showcase the products exactly how we wanted, and we could make sure our samples were available at exactly the right temperature at which we want to serve them.

This was the reasoning behind my registering for ECRM's recent Snack, Beverage & Grocery EPPS – to get the most value per dollar spent.

In my next column, I’ll focus on my preparation for my first EPPS meetings, and how we leveraged ECRM’s platform, process and people to get ready to meet with more than 60 buyers.

Editor's note: Nothing But Real is based on a principle of manufacturing completely additive-free products with the highest quality of ingredients. Its first product “Oat Chocolate & Protein, the Next Generation Protein Drink” was just launched at Kings Markets across the Tri-State area. Below are some images of the product.

If you're a startup brand and would like some information about how ECRM can help get you in front retail buyers, contact Joseph Tarnowski, VP of Content at, or visit

Nothing But Real's first product - front panel view
Rear panel view
Nutritional infomation - nothing but clean ingredients -- and just a few of them!
Founders of Nothing But Real Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen

Mika Manninen

Nothing But Real, LLC

Mika Manninen is co-founder of Nothing But Real, LLC along with his wife and business partner Helena Lumme. They are serial entrepreneurs whose previous product Simpli OatShake won several major food awards, including a Bevnet, Sofi and National Restaurant Association’s innovation award, and in just 18 months got into 2000 stores across the US.

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