Daniel Goetz: Founder & CEO of GoodPop

Episode 540

Daniel Goetz, Founder and CEO of GoodPop, shares how this brand, which started 15 years ago when he was a college student, is shaking up the frozen novelty products industry. We talk about how GoodPop is reinventing classic treats with healthier options made from real ingredients and less sugar. We also discuss the brand’s future, including drinks. Daniel talks about the early days of the business, including launching with 18 different recipes and selling products at farmers markets and events. He emphasizes the importance of staying focused and building deep relationships with retailers and consumers. Daniel also discusses the challenges of getting into the frozen case and the definition of success as an entrepreneur. His journey getting here and his vision is incredible. Scaling a brand in the frozen novelty industry is no joke and we hear what it takes. You are going to love this episode and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Now on the #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So

your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. And welcome to the Kara Goldin Show. Today, we are joined by a terrific guest, Daniel Goetz, who is the founder and CEO of GoodPop. And you may have heard of GoodPop GoodPop is about a 15 year old brand. I’ve absolutely loved it for a lot of different reasons. And you’ll get to hear a lot of those reasons, probably from Daniel himself in a few minutes. But he started this company and really started this journey as a student at the UT Austin, probably one of the hottest schools out there right now for most kids that are thinking about heading off to college next fall. But he’s turned a simple idea into one of the US is top performing frozen novelty brands. And it’s not just about reinventing that classic popsicle, but he’s got a lot of other brand extensions out there that He’s launching, including a bubbly beverage and all healthier options made from real ingredients. And I’m super excited to talk to Daniel about what he’s up to, and how did this whole thing get started. And so welcome, Daniel, so nice to finally meet you and excited to have you on. Likewise,

Daniel Goetz 1:56
Karen. Thanks for having me on. excited to dive in. And yeah, this is gonna be a great time. Let’s do it.

Kara Goldin 2:04
Super excited. So okay, so tell us a bit about you. And obviously, I mentioned that you were in school when this started over 15 years ago now. But how did you? Like, did you ever work in the food industry? When you were in college or high school job or anything like that? Like how did you have the courage to say I gotta go do this?

Daniel Goetz 2:28
Yeah, kind of dates back. So the story on the boxes is gonna read, you know, UT student, Daniel gets, but it goes back to my childhood growing up. And just hearing these stories of my great grandfather coming to the United States without anything and selling ice out of a trailer in the in the summer, and then using that trailer to sell coal out of it in the winter time. And doing that for 15 years. And they ended up building a food business out of that my grandfather ran and and he was the most remarkable person I’ve ever met, just watching how he treated people. And he was running a social impact company without even knowing what the social impact was not was not a thing that businesses were expected to do in the 50s 60s 70s 80s 90s 2000s. And so it kind of started there with that inspiration.

Kara Goldin 3:36
So when did you love popsicles as a kid? I mean, was this something that you were was like your go to snack or what what made you kind of think about if I was going to start a business? And I can’t imagine that you thought through all of the issues around frozen and then the obstacles because you never probably would have started this business if you would have really thought it through as a you know, consumer, we all think Oh be so easy. We could go do it. And then all sudden we’re in it. We’re like, Ah, I get it completely. But so were you a huge popsicle fan.

Daniel Goetz 4:12
I was a huge sweets fan. I don’t think I had any sugar candy desserts, up until I was like eight years old. My mom kept it out of that. And so when I discovered it, I you know, I think I made friends when I was eight 910 around who had the least healthy pantry. Still my friends to this day. That’s so funny. So I’ve always had a sweet tooth. And I just started recognizing that the things that we were enjoying kind of when I was in college and things like cupcakes and snow cones here in Austin always align around the block for those. Were just really good It’s unhealthy and they don’t make you feel great afterwards. And by you, I guess I mean me like I didn’t feel great after eating syrupy snow cones. And, but I didn’t want to start a business based on just that experience alone. I traveled in Mexico summer before my senior year and fell in love with these fresh fruit palettes that you get from locally grown fruit made in small batches, and you just enjoy them right there on the street. And it’s, it kind of changed my perspective, like, Oh, these are, this is something that doesn’t exist in the States. And people don’t have to indulge with all of this extra added sugar. So that really got my wheels turning. So

Kara Goldin 5:47
were you taking an entrepreneurship class? Or how did this actually then start at out Austin? No,

Daniel Goetz 5:53
I was actually, I was actually in the advertising department at UT. And so I spent so much time thinking about brands and their role with consumers, ways that brands could go above and beyond not just marketing, but you know, really actually doing something to make a real impact on on their consumers and on the planet. At this time, social impact started to become more relevant and kind of became less of a fringe concept and more woven into the fabric of companies of like, why they exist. And so I was totally inspired by everything that was happening from a social impact standpoint, and and these different ways that brands could bring impact to the forefront and have it be fun, and have be relevant rather than preachy to consumers. Which I think the first iteration was a little bit like that. And so it’s a combination of my childhood. And my exposure to the food industry, that way, my obsession with these amazing fresh fruit pie lettuce that I just couldn’t get. And then plus the this ability of, and this understanding that companies have the ability to actually do something really good with their products. And then I just started thinking about it. And one day in class, I started designing a logo, and I started writing down potential brand names. And I started writing a little mini business plan. And I should have been maybe paying attention in class, but instead I, I was just doing that. And so it kind of started that way.

Kara Goldin 7:57
That’s so wild. So how many SKUs did you actually launch with what was the initial plan there?

Daniel Goetz 8:04
The plan was to make a bunch of these Mexican inspired, inspired polet us with locally grown ingredients, and try as many different flavors as possible, ranging from ranging all the way from like traditional fruit bar flavors all the way through. Possible like agua fresca flavors, things that are something that are more aguas frescas, some that are more traditional palettes, flavors, teas. So we started out had 18 different recipes, and we would just take them around town with our pushcart go on town. And, and either hand them out or try to sell them, then farmers markets and then events. So we went super wide to just try to understand what it is that why do consumers care about this thesis in general? Do they care about this concept? And then if so, like what what’s resonating best? So we and I spent three years essentially out there selling products at the farmers markets at a trail at a nonprofit event, partnering with nonprofits and just getting the product out there as much as possible sleeping on couches in order to do it. Because we were bootstrapped, it was just whatever it took to make it happen at that time.

Kara Goldin 9:32
So you’ve incorporated social impact and to the GoodPop business. How do you think about social impact? You’ve talked a little bit about kind of the history and you would always see you know your your family doing doing this, but how did you actually think before you started your company that this was going to be a company you wanted to sell better tasting better for you sweet popsicles that weren’t out as sweet, but we’re just a better version I get that. But so many people think like, I’ve got to have a social impact strategy did which came first? Was it like having a great product? Or was it social impact, when you were launching those

Daniel Goetz 10:17
symbiotic it wouldn’t exist, one wouldn’t exist without the other. So the name GoodPop was and has always been good ingredients, good flavors and good mission. And that’s where the name came from. It’s just, it’s simple. It’s simple, we exist to use our products are delicious, clean products is a vehicle of doing good and giving back. And that has definitely iterated as far as what it what does doing good and giving back mean to our company. Over the years, you know, when when I first started out, I, I was not familiar with all of the different aspects of the the food supply chain and where food comes from and how, how farmers are treated outside of the US. And so as you start peeling back the layers, what good was defined that started to sharpen and you know, along the way, I didn’t set out with a very specific one for one model like toms, like buy a pair of shoes, they give a pair of shoes, I just knew that in order to spend my time and energy, doing anything that I needed to do what motivated me internally, which is trying to do something that’s really great, that can make me feel really good about my effort and leave an impact. And it’s always been that way. And it just so happens that a delicious pop is kind of the vehicle that allows me to do that. And that was my that was when I was a college student. And it’s still my thoughts today.

Kara Goldin 11:58
So how long was it before you actually started going into stores. And and kind of, I would imagine that came first before direct to consumer, we have a lot of people on this program that talk to us about that they were in stores, and then they went to direct to consumer and then direct to consumer and then they went into stores. But I would have to guess 15 years ago in the frozen business, you were definitely going into stores. First.

Daniel Goetz 12:28
It’s interesting because I started this company when I was 22. You know, that stage of life where I could sleep on people’s friends, loving, loving friends couches and go stay at home with my parents, I needed to live a very scrappy lifestyle for a few years. And so I didn’t have that immediate pressure of needing to turn a massive profit in order to return investor funds. So the first three years, it was just me the first four or five, six years actually was just kind of me figuring this out. And so at the very beginning, I was making product. In the evenings, I was making pops in the evenings. And then first thing in the morning, I would get up and make deliveries to stores, I’d load up my car in coolers, and just put pops in there and just drive them to stores, shake hands with everyone in the store, make sure everyone had a chance to try them. stock the shelves, finished my deliveries, then I would go back and go do a demo and introduce the product to consumers. And I did that for years. And so I don’t think if someone’s watching this and thinking, Yeah, I have no I have, you know, two, I’ve got kids at home, we’ve got all these different things going on in my life. That might not be a relevant path because it’s just it’s not possible. It’s like the stage I’m in today we have a little one at home. It would be very different startup. But I think ultimately, it’s really about narrowing in on who your consumer is and what this product that you have is intended to solve for that consumer and staying as narrow as possible. And you know for me it’s always been about deeper not wider. And that started out with relationships and stores and it’s still to this day is deep meaningful relationships with your retailers and your your consumers.

Kara Goldin 14:35
Yeah, definitely I couldn’t agree more. I so the the frozen world. My dad had actually started a brand years ago called Healthy Choice. And when I wanted to start hint I went to him it initially started inside of armour food company, and then they were acquired by ConAgra when I was I guess in high school And he, anyway, he always laughed. Because when I started hint, I said, so how do I, I know, yours was like the frozen aisle. And I’m not trying to get into the frozen aisle, I’m trying to get into the beverage aisle, but how do I get space? And, you know, he told me, he was the first person to tell me about planograms. And like, he had no idea what existed outside. And to some extent, I mean, didn’t really understand sort of what went into the planogram. He just knew how much space he was allowed within the frozen case. Right. And that was all negotiated by, you know, AWS in the in the background that he used to say, but But I’m so curious, like, how difficult has it been to get into the frozen case? I mean, it’s very competitive. There’s only a limited number. Here you are, you know, high school student or new graduate who’s coming out, you know, you’ve got a great tasting pop, but you probably had a few buyers saying, I’d love to do something. There’s just no room. I mean, that’s sort of the thing that every entrepreneur entrepreneur hears. And I’d love to hear if there was like a story that’s really memorable to you in those early days. Yeah,

Daniel Goetz 16:17
and I have a question for you also. But, you know, I’m just thinking, as you know, as you were talking about your dad and going to him with this concept, did he tell you don’t waste your time in food and CPG? It’s difficult, it’s a tough road. And because I hear that, I hear from so many early stage entrepreneurs, that that’s most of the advice that they get from seasoned not owners. Is that do you remember him trying to dissuade you from getting into starting your own brand,

Kara Goldin 16:53
he thought it was incredibly competitive. For starters, he actually did not want me to jump into this new business, primarily because I had three kids and I had one on the way that I was pregnant with. And I also had a pretty nice career in tech that I was that I was walking away from and his view. So I always tell people that you know, people who love you, and people who are, you know, the people that you probably go to first to say, hey, what do you think, because you respect their opinions, they’re actually the worst, because they want you to be safe, they don’t want you to take any risk at all. And at the end of the day, you have to listen to your own internal, you know, voice and, and make those decisions along the way. But I mean, he was definitely happy once I started getting traction, but he actually wasn’t a whole lot of help. And I would have thought that he would have been a lot of help, but he just didn’t really understand it. And he was probably the first person that kind of educated me on the difference between the journey of an entrepreneur versus the journey of somebody who’s incubating a new idea within within a large company. Because it’s just, it’s just very, very different. Absolutely,

Daniel Goetz 18:15
yeah. No, thank you for sharing that. And, yeah, totally, because it’s consistent with the experience that I hear a lot of entrepreneurs come to me with. And it’s also consistent with the experience the the advice that I got early on. And so I think when you’re first starting out, there’s this. There’s this balance between just being really just like having a ton of gumption and having a ton of stubbornness and belief that you’ve got this thing, it’s going to work. And then on the other side, you know, it hasn’t been proven yet. And so there’s pressure to pivot, there’s pressure to maybe, you know, it’s until something becomes real, you’re not going to get that extra pat on the back. And so there’s a moment where you started getting traction, and then, you know, your support systems like yeah, no, this is great. You’re doing this thing. Okay, cool. Let’s keep going. And so it’s kind of up to each individual entrepreneur to stay to, you know, for us to just stay fully level headed throughout it and have an amazing product with it with a great positioning. And there has to be some form of secondary meaning behind it intrinsically. For you. For me, it’s this ability to do something good for for our planet. Our people, our employees, our farmers, like I love that and that’s what keeps me going. For some people it might be Getting towards an exit and, and whatever it is there has to be some secondary meaning to it. And then you know, sticking sticking to what you believe in and having the having and staying authentic, staying authentic, operating with integrity, and trying to do all of this while the world might seem to be colliding all around you, because there’s everything going on as an entrepreneur, there’s so many things happening in your day to day. So I don’t know if that answers the question, but it’s, I remember that mindset being always on the top of my mind the first five years plus, and we still have to have it today. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 20:48
definitely. So when you’re in that first buyer meeting, and so you walk in, was it just total success? I mean, did you just go chain wide and and to what was your first store, by the way, outside of the farmers markets, and what was the kind of the first big one,

Daniel Goetz 21:08
our first store was Weeksville Co Op. On Guadeloupe, right by campus in Austin, Texas. And it’s known as one of the best coops in the country. They gave us our first shot. And I love that store so much. And they’re just an Austin Austin icon. They’re an example for all these other coops around the country. But there was nothing happening in pops. And every time I went into a meeting, there was just so much doubt that this is something that consumers want. It’s fully unproven. There’s no data, there’s no big category there. I didn’t know what data was, I didn’t know what a category was. I just know, I knew we had a much better product than what was available. And slowly, but surely, you of course, have to get buyers who are willing to take to take a bit of a chance. And you have and our job as entrepreneurs is giving them that reason to believe. But yeah, I got told no, so many times we with whole foods, and now Whole Foods, we are the we’re the number one frozen novelty brand at Whole Foods nationwide. And as of last year, and Kara, we, I was delivering store by store, they my first meeting with whole foods, they said, Okay, we will, we’ll activate your brand in the southwest, but you’re gonna have to go sell store by store. And without without a distributor. So I did that. And I had to make sure that not only the products stay stocked, but that made I made the products make sure they stayed stocked. And then they had to move. They had to they had to sell well. So I had to figure out marketing, whether that was demos, or something else. And so we did that. And we built this thing, store by store. That’s amazing.

Kara Goldin 23:10
So Southwest is like a I mean, it’s a pretty big region. So did you actually get in your car and go to all of the I mean, if you can just describe like, how big is the Southwest for Whole Foods? Like what states? Is that encompassing? It’s

Daniel Goetz 23:26
primarily Texas. It’s Louisiana, Oklahoma. And so when they said, Yeah, we’ll authorize you for the southwest region. I was thinking, okay, great. So I’m gonna start in Austin. And then I’m going to go to Houston, where my family’s from and where I grew up. And I know we’ll get some support there. But also, I just need to show my friends and family what I’m up to, so they can have a place to go to get pops. I made runs between Austin and Houston for two and a half years. And then eventually, we were able to get into you and FY and get the entire region your three. But that’s awesome. It was yeah, it was. It was not a normal thing to do. Yeah, it was crazy.

Kara Goldin 24:19
And so many people have asked me over the years, like how do you know you’re successful? Right? It’s, it’s, you know, it’s something that is pretty. It’s a pretty interesting question. I think for so many entrepreneurs no matter what category you’re in, and obviously you look at your, your numbers, and you want to make sure that that you’re actually performing but how do you know you’re successful? I mean, and if you’re successful, does that mean that you can just sit down and have a beer or glass? I mean, I’m sure you can do that at some point, but you know, it’s, it just seems like You’re always going to have different factors coming in competition or a new buyer or, you know, lots of different things that you just don’t expect to roll in. Maybe something happens at the plant that you didn’t anticipate to anticipate either you never really know what you’re going to wake up to. But what would you say to that question? Like? Probably because a lot of people think that you’re massively successful here, you’re killing it at all these stores, you’re continuing to grow. We’re going to talk about GoodPop as well, the the new launch of your mini cans line, but I mean, how do you personally look at success as it relates to your business?

Daniel Goetz 25:42
curveball at the end as it relates to business, because I was thinking personally, because, in general, as entrepreneurs, we’re all dealing with internal struggles. And just as people, we’re all dealing with internal struggles, and we have, you know, our fears, and our doubts and our insecurities. And I think being successful is, is kind of being free of those things. And when you can feel when you can feel really good about who you are as a person and your place, and what you’re bringing to this world. And again, it’s not talking about product, necessarily, because that’s just that’s short term. It’s transactional, you know, businesses come and go. I think individually, we have to get to a place where we feel really great about who we are, and what we’re bringing across the board, and how we treat people, how we make people feel. To me that’s getting comfortable there and feeling great. There is undoubtedly, that success.

Kara Goldin 26:51
I love that. So when you think about the launch of your new mini cam line, I mean, first of all, why did you decide to do that and why now?

Daniel Goetz 27:01
Yeah, so Kara, we’ve and I mentioned this earlier, like we were, we’re kind of on similar paths, you know, hint and GoodPop, we’ve, we’re both in categories that historically, the largest drivers of added sugars in American diets, so beverages, hand frozen desserts, and pops and novelties. And so that’s what I’ve been, you know, again, like start peeling back the layers of all these problems in our food system, dating back to the introduction of what really just trying to scale food in this country and add the way food is being advertised and then all of a sudden, high fructose corn syrup becomes a thing in the 70s. And then now Americans tastebuds are completely shot and need to really be retrained to annex to an extent. But the categories that we were playing in have historically been pure sugar water so popsicles that sugar and water, freeze your pops, those things that you buy for $3 for 100 and take them home and freeze them all those bright colors, that’s also just sugar and water. And so I’ve spent the last decade plus trying to solve for that and, and educating consumers and I think a better option for products that are 100% juice, no added sugar can taste great. And there’s one there’s one other category that has always been adjacent that I’ve I’ve had retail buyers ask us for that Consumers ask us for and that’s and that’s kids beverage you know, kids are consuming added sugars at an insane clip. In this country. It’s like 260% of what’s recommended. So recommended, added sugar and takes 25 grams, kids are consuming 66 grams of added sugar every day. beverages are the leading driver of that. And so I felt like if I was going to be true to our mission of using our products as a vehicle of doing good, giving back and leaving the world a better place than we found it I’d have to seriously consider doing this in intense beverage. So there was that and then also we from a procurement standpoint, we source what I feel are the best organic juices from all across the planet. And they translate so well into a drink and so we decided to create a juice based, so simple just sparkling water and juice eat less sugar still delivers on a lot of flavor. And give kids a better often.

Kara Goldin 30:06
That’s awesome in the many cans to, like, you’re you’re primarily focused on on that. So why just kids? I mean, why not look at it as launching for the entire category? Yeah,

Daniel Goetz 30:20
I think, Kara, you know, staying focused and having picking a very intentional lane and solving a very intentional problem is is, you know, is always the fastest and easiest way to make an impact. And especially if you are from from our side like we’re Bootstrap, we’ve always had to stay very focused on all the decisions that we’ve made. Sometimes it’s saying no to a retailer, sometimes it’s saying, you know, sometimes it’s saying no, this product can’t be for everybody just yet it needs to be, we have to solve this problem first, and then other consumers will discover. And so that problem is, is pretty well documented. And it’s it’s two out of three kids in the US under 18. They are consuming a sugary beverage every day. So that was a very specific problem. That that leads to all sorts of health issues, and it kind of starts there. And so that’s why we wanted to focus on families with kids providing a better different option than just full strength, juice or soda.

Kara Goldin 31:38
Now, it makes sense. I mean, especially because your marketing for GoodPop has really been around that as well. So it’s it seems like I could see you going in broader later. But but for now, I think it definitely seems like you’re right on target for sure. So I could talk to you for hours more. But more than anything, I wanted everybody to get a glimpse of of who you are as the founder and CEO and all the good stuff that you’re doing and everyone needs to try GoodPop, as well. You guys are also available online to figure it out by a local retailer, although you said you’re in addition to whole foods you’re rolling into. Or you’re in with your popsicles. You’re in Walmart already and many other locations. But we’ll have all that info in the show notes too. But thank you so much Daniel gets really appreciate it. And thanks, everybody for listening.

Daniel Goetz 32:34
Thank you, Kara. Thanks for listening, guys. Bye.

Kara Goldin 32:37
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. I would love to hear from you too, so feel free to DM me. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my Wall Street Journal, best selling book undaunted, where I share more about my journey including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for listening and good bye for now.