Testimonial: OWYN, A Plant-Based Protein Beverage

May 16, 2023
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Bay Food Brokerage has served as OWYN’s natural food broker in the Southeast since 2019. During that time, we’re proud to have helped this beverage brand significantly expand its distribution to major retailers throughout the region.
And, we’re especially grateful to Matt O’Connell, OWYN’s Chief Sales Officer, for sharing his perspective of our partnership in this blog post.

About OWYN

OWYN is an acronym for “Only What You Need.” The brand specializes in great-tasing, ready-to-drink plant-based protein beverages that are also top-eight allergen free.
Based in New York, New York, OWYN offers consumers options for a healthy snack that is high in protein and low in sugar, and supports weight management and muscle recovery. The ready-to-drink products are sold as singles and in four-packs.

The Opportunity: Expand Southeast Distribution Beyond Three Publix Stores

In 2018, OWYN had a few of its single-bottle SKUs in three Publix stores, thanks to help from Matt’s friend at UNFI when they worked Publix. Publix has 1,300 stores, so a key aim of Matt’s was to expand distribution with that retailer.
“Publix is a top prize in the grocery world for a brand,” Matt said. “But, we couldn’t get in touch with the buyer. We were stuck for a year-and-a-half, unable to get mass distribution. We were working with another natural food broker, but they weren’t able to make anything happen.”
Then, Matt met Bay Food’s now Vice President of Sales, Gary Royal, at a trade show. Shortly after OWYN hired Gary’s company, Gary moved to Bay Food Brokerage – and so did OWYN.
“We were exploring various broker relationships to grow our distribution, and Gary was the only one who could get it done,” Matt said.

The Results: Rapid Expansion of Distribution into 2,000 Stores

“Gary, through his connections, really moved the process forward quickly,” Matt said. “At the same time, a new buyer at Publix came on, too, and she and Gary had a great relationship.”
OWYN’s initial expansion with Publix was from three test doors to 130 stores that had an expanded body care/nutritional section. When Account Executive Greg Betz joined Bay Food and got involved as a natural food broker on OWYN’s account, his goal was chain-wide distribution.
Greg and Gary developed a strategy to leverage promotions and work with Bay Food’s retail team to boost OWYN’s sales at existing Publix stores. The aim was to show Publix’s buyers stellar results to get OWYN’s SKUs in all stores.
The plan worked.
“In terms of total product distribution, in less than two years we went from having three items in 130 doors to now 12 SKUs sold or authorized for chain-wide distribution in Publix’s 1,300 stores,” Matt said. “The Bay Food team was able to deliver rapid expansion for us.”
After achieving 10 SKUs with chain-wide distribution at Publix, OWYN and Greg turned their attention to other Southeast retailers. With Bay Food’s help as a natural food broker, OWYN also has or is approved for products in The Fresh Market, Southeastern Grocers (SEG) and Lowes Foods.
Currently, grocery store shoppers can buy OWYN products in roughly 2,000 stores throughout the Southeast.
“We have experienced tremendous growth with the help of Bay Food Brokerage.”

The Experience:

“The Bay Food team really seems to have their finger on the pulse of what’s needed in the categories they manage at Publix,” Matt said. “They have great credibility with the Publix team because they know that when Bay Food brings them a product, it’s one they most likely need.”
According to Matt, in addition to understanding retailers’ needs as a natural food broker, Bay Food has guided OWYN with:

  • Trade-spend
  • Optimizing the promotional calendar
  • Marketing initiatives

“They’re very hands on and are always working to help grow sales when we get the business,” Matt said. “That’s been extra helpful.”
Beyond how Bay Food has helped OWYN grow, Matt said he also appreciates the company’s culture.
“They seem like a really close-knit team,” Matt said. “We went to their holiday party in December, and everyone seems to really get along well. It’s a great atmosphere, and the people seem genuinely happy to work there. I don’t feel like most other food brokers have that culture.”
Looking for a natural food broker to represent your product in the Southeast? Contact us today for more information.