February 21, 2022 15 min read


Alex Bayer 0:16
Hello, hello, welcome to episode 123 of 15 minutes of genius. It's kind of a cool number, right? Probably symbolizes something. But we bring on great entrepreneurs with really interesting products, different products we bring on investors, we bring on advisors, we also are trying to bring on people that are not in the CPG space. You know, general influencers on LinkedIn and tick tock and Instagrams are really trying to broaden our horizon beyond just CPG. But today, we're going into hardcore into CPG with a CPG product here. But before I introduce him, big plause to mark Nicklaus Mark and in Manhattan Beach, studios.net for editing desires, he's the guy that can do editing for you for photo, video. He is the king of the castle. He is the oz behind the curtain. There's no curtain here, but I see him right here. He has a control panel here at the master switch, which can turn me off at any time. Hopefully it doesn't do that. We'll see where the show goes. Alright, so again, we make sure reach out to him Mark@manhattanbeachstudios.net. So our guest is I've actually never met him, either through video or, or virtually or even or you know, or in person, but heard a lot about him. It's almost like I already know him from just meeting him through online. Matt Feldman, he is the founder and CEO of Moku foods. A little bit about the company. It's basically a plant based savory delicious snack, which is king oyster mushrooms in the form of jerky.

Little bit about a little blurb here. They partnered with a renowned chef to turn king oyster mushrooms into a delicious jerky that anyone can enjoy. From vegans or vegetarians, to meat eaters, alike. That's a big segment. Matt, how's it going, man?

Matt Feldman 2:05
Good to be here. Alex.

Alex Bayer 2:09
Absolutely, man! I know you are in between different meetings. You are leaving in a red eye, tonight, from Atlanta and all these things going on at the same time. So, I appreciate. You are the last thing you want to do, this interview, before. You're bored and start getting crazy in getting all these meetings going and visiting all these places of the country.

Matt Feldman 2:42
Yeah, that's right.

Alex Bayer 2:42
Before I mumble off into something weird. Lets talk about you. Tell us about your story. So, um, it's a category right? that's growing. You know, jerky mushroom, it's it kind of feels like like, like actual jerky. But it's made out of mushrooms. There's a couple other brands doing this, like pans, there's banana jerky? Where is the where's the category? Going? How big can this category yet kind of gets? Just tell us more about your thought process and why you launched into this type of product.

Matt Feldman 3:05
Yeah, so I went vegan in 2017. And I was looking for, you know, a nutritious savory snack. And I went to the whole foods, farmer's markets Costco. And all I could really find was you know, nuts and chips and popcorn for savory. And I couldn't find like a good meat alternative snack, a good vegan jerky. So I started making mushroom jerky more just for fun. I was living in San Francisco working in tech at the time. And I sampled it out to a bunch of family and friends, I was literally just slicing portabella mushrooms, marinating them overnight, and then dehydrating them, and people liked them. So I got some good validation there. And I did some more research on the category. And I saw that beef jerky and meat snacks were approaching about $4 billion in the US and the vegan subset was doing next to nothing. So I was like, wow, there must be an opportunity here. And I started to look at these other meat alternative categories like burgers and you know, cheese and cream cheese and things like that. And the the animal alternatives were approaching like 10% of the animal counterpart. So I saw that there was a huge, you know, opportunity for vegan jerky. You know, if the meat you know sector was approaching 4 billion then you know, there that means there was a huge opportunity for you know, around $500 million for a vegan jerky category which was next to nothing. So it was a combination of me you know, getting good validation from people you know, in the community who were vegans you know, flexitarians people who you know, kind of shift between plant base and meat and then that validation combined with you know, category Greenfield led me to quit my job and just go all in.

Alex Bayer 4:51
Very cool. So it's was, it's a leap of faith. Let's do that again. Mark because I lost my voice as you can see under the weather. It's a leap of faith, you know, getting into a new category. It's young. It's a challenger to what's been around for many, many, many years, which is beef jerky? How confident are you that someone who eats beef jerky will cross over? Similar to someone eating meat, like a patty going to be on meat? How confident are you that someone eating beef jerky can go over and eat yours and get a similar experience? Do you have any insight or data on that that type of customer.

Matt Feldman 5:33
So I know that for Beyond Meat, the majority of their customers are not vegans, which I think is a good sign. But it really depends on why they're going to eat the meat alternative, right? Because if it's, if it's for health reasons, then they're probably not going to eat beyond me due to the long label and chemicals and all that. But if it's for the, you know, the planet, then they're going to shift. And I think, for me talking to, you know, people who eat meat, they're like, if something tastes good, and it's clean, I'll definitely shift to it. But it has to taste good. So for us, we worked with, you know, two chefs early on to dial in the taste and texture is much like me as possible. It's not an exact replica of meat. This isn't like a product made in the lab. But it's close enough where both the vegan side and the you know, flexitarian and meat eater side can still enjoy it. And I think as more data comes out, and you know, as like climate change gets worse, unfortunately, people are going to have to start shifting to, you know, healthier foods for the planet, not just for their bodies. So when I started the company, I wanted to make sure that one it was something that I would eat, so it was clean label, something I was comfortable putting in my body, but also something that is good for the planet. And I think over time, there's just going to be a higher need for to eat, you know, foods that are good for our planet. So I think it's going to keep going up the lab based and the, you know, you know, long label meat alternatives that I don't have as much faith in just because I think people are starting to look at the label, similar to probably you, Alex, and how you have a very clean label for your smoothie. Like the dollars of the world, like those won't always work, I think.

Alex Bayer 7:14
Exactly. I think that consumers are becoming smarter and smarter and more educated. And it's also about going where consumers understand your product, you know, where they're gonna see the value in it versus another beef jerky that could be last year cost versus yours, which is much cleaner and better. So yeah, it's it's really it's one of these things. And, you know, question I have for you is, you talk about being better, you know, for the planet, and one of the things you all agree with you Beyond Meat is having a lot of issues right now, ton of issues, I'll know if you, I'm sure you are being in business, you follow their stock, I mean, it's plummeted more than 70% in the last year because the hype, I believe the hype is over for just for the Beyond Meat products, which are really not good for you like just being vegetarian is not enough to get somebody to buy it. So yeah, so that was a side note. But getting into just the product itself and good for the planet. How are you communicating this to the customer, right? It's on a shelf. It's it's vegan, has to taste good. It's different, a little bit weird, it's different. How are you communicating that on your website, social media, because that's going to get people to buy more. So what's your strategy there?

Matt Feldman 8:31
Yeah, there's a lot of different ways we do it. And there's still more ways that we should be doing it. But on our website, we have, you know, a page on the sustainability on the product page on our homepage. If you turn the back of the bag, around, there's a section on, you know, comparing one bag of goods in the amount of water, land and co2 emissions that you're saving, right. And when someone receives a package of Moku, there's a insert card, which also shows the environmental impact. But we still want to do like more videos. And the thing about like our product is, health is so subjective, that like we don't want that to be the face of why you should eat Moku instead, where the labels clean, but instead, the argument about how it's better for the earth is much easier. And it's no one will argue that you know, Moku mushroom jerky is better for the planet than beef jerky. So that's kind of our main marketing ploy. I would say.

Alex Bayer 9:31
Yeah, I think it's getting to the customer, you know a why, right? It's a very kind of cliched statement, Simon Sinek, and why and the power of why that consumers are gonna go out of their way to buy this product. Because not only does it taste really good and nutritious, and it's better for them, but they're also helping the planet. So it's a win win. So the category, you know, going back into, I think how big you can get this. What's your strategy for distribution again, you know, there's a lot of brand I've noticed that our challenger brands, right, just like yours, you're challenging this huge, I think you said five $5 billion category, or

Matt Feldman 10:09
four to 5 billion

Alex Bayer 10:10
four to 5 billion. So you're challenging this? And do you want to stick with more of the Whole Foods and sprouts? Do you feel that this can go into a Kroger and a Safeway target? Like, what's kind of the, what's the endurance of this kind of brand going into conventional, which is hard to cross over with a challenger brand? So what's what are your thoughts there?

Matt Feldman 10:30
Yeah, I actually think this will do better in conventional and alternative retailers, like, you know, seven elevens, and gas stations, but we need to get the brand image out. And that'll take, I think, a year or two at least, so we started, you know, earlier this year 2021. And we only sell our product online, a couple of different channels online, but we want to understand who our consumer is where it's selling best, and leverage that into then into the natural retailers next year. And then from there into these alternative retailers and some of these larger conventional retailer. But I mean, in natural, there's going to be a lot more competition, whereas like a 711, it will probably be the only plant based jerky there. So those are the areas that we want to play in eventually in the markets, I think is way bigger for a product like this, and some other products that we're working on in the category, but we're going to start with natural. And then once the brand, you know, awareness, you know goes up, then we'll eventually launch in to the other channels.

Alex Bayer 11:34
Yeah, it definitely a smart choice. And going exclusively online, especially during the pandemic, obviously a great choice like shipping easy to, you know, affordable to ship. You can you can maintain a great price point online with your type of product. One one retailer or chain that just comes to mind, like a freight train is Starbucks to me. Like I know, it's everyone wants to be in there. But I see this as a perfect fit. Like first Yeah, box like being in those baskets. So are you have you approached anyone there yet? Are you trying to get to Howard Schultz? Have you? Have you made any contact at all with homebased Starbucks?

Matt Feldman 12:17
I haven't. And that I was thinking the same thing as you a year ago, when we were launching. I was like, if we can do it an exclusive launch of Starbucks, I would do it as the only retailer. haven't, I haven't even reached out just because we're still like, focused on online only. And I want to dial some more things in before we so that we're buttoned up before approaching Starbucks, but I don't know who the right person is there. But I do believe that they would be a great fit. I don't know how many new brands are working with anymore. I don't see as many like up and coming. Brands. Yeah, he's too. But I agree. It would be a great, great channel.

Alex Bayer 12:54
Yeah, I'm just something more of like a tip just for anyone watching and for yourself. There's actually Howard Schultz venture fund.

Matt Feldman 13:02
Yeah.

Alex Bayer 13:03
So and a lot of people don't know that, that Howard Schultz just formed it, you know, because he's basically a billionaire. And they invest in early stage brands. I don't know if they invest in and put the brands into Starbucks, I don't know the details. But just something it sounds like you're aware of it. Anyone watching? Yeah, you're you're small brand, you want to be in Starbucks, you know, start with the venture fund. So anything else you want to share with us about cuz we're running out of time here about the story about, about new innovations are you gonna stick with is it gonna be like a mushroom brand across and doing different mushroom innovations are gonna stick just with jerky.

Matt Feldman 13:42
So we're gonna, our next product that we're launching is also in like, the meat snack category. And we want to use mushrooms in all of our products in some way.

Alex Bayer 13:50
Right.

Matt Feldman 13:50
Functional mushrooms, it could be, you know, edible mushrooms. But I think that's a core, you know, principle of our brand. But at the end of the day, at the end of the day, we want to make delicious food that is good for the planet, and kind of bridge that gap of, you know, food that vegans can eat and foods that meat eaters can eat and make it easier for those meat eaters to shift without compromising on, you know, price taste, label or sustainability. So we're sticking with the snack category now. But I'd say like one interesting thing is like, like you said, we haven't met yet. I haven't even met my team. I met one person on my team. I haven't. I just started meeting investors because I launched the company during COVID. And we at this point, we have about 15 investors and I've met maybe one or two in person when I would come to LA.

Alex Bayer 13:59
Welcome to the new world, right?

Matt Feldman 14:42
Yeah. So it is it has been cool just like starting a company from Hawaii. Meeting all these people virtually like you haven't even met my business partner and team, which is kind of crazy. It'll happen eventually. But it is possible to you know, LinkedIn is such a powerful tool. Like, I know you use it a lot, Alex. And it's a great way not only for marketing, obviously, but you can get in front of everyone. You have to be very strategic in your messaging. And make sure you stand out because a lot of these people get messages from a lot of folks. But, you know, if you're, especially if you're young, hungry and asking for someone's time, 10 minutes to pick their brain on stuff, like you'd be surprised how many people are willing to tat like when I first started, I reached out to founders, like yourself, Alex, and I just asked for 10 minutes of their time. And so many, you know, accepted that first phone call. And those lead to investor intros and founder intros. And it allowed me to, you know, our first check came from Casper mattress, the founder and Thrive Market and just getting those two as first investors, those, those, so many other investors wanted to come in, and I didn't know anyone in the food industry. But I was hungry, and like I knew how to use LinkedIn. So if there's anyone that's like in a foreign place, that's not close to people in person, like it doesn't mean you can't reach out and make these connections.

Alex Bayer 16:06
Exactly. I think it's a very, very well said, and just for anyone out there, LinkedIn is a very strong tool. And when you reach out, if you're a founder or entrepreneur, reaching out to another entrepreneur, there's a lot of empathy, non about like empathy, like we feel what you're going through, we know that it's hard, it's not easy. And we want to lend a hand, right? I've reached out entrepreneurs helping me that are way further along than me. And then I've had people reach out to me where I'm further along than them. So it's like this great kind of synergistic platform on LinkedIn that really help each other for the common goal for all of us to win and succeed. That's a great thing about the platform. Yeah. So let's get into our next magnet segment, which is called rapid fire questions.

Alright, so before you drift off to sleep on a red eye flights, one more exciting thing, this might actually keep you up on the flight are all these questions, and we're gonna put you on the hot seat here. But it's not too bad. depends on the person, but I think you're you'll ace these. So here we go. question by question. One minute or less, let's answer them all as quickly as we can. First question for music. Which decade is the best the 70s 80s? Or 90s 80s?

Matt Feldman 17:34
80s.

Alex Bayer 17:35
What do you do for exercise?

Matt Feldman 17:39
Surf, basketball, gym.

Alex Bayer 17:41
Right on! Movie you can watch an unlimited amount of times.

Matt Feldman 17:48
I usually don't watch movies over again. But the Count of Monte Cristo, I love that movie. And I've watched it multiple times.

Alex Bayer 17:54
I remember seeing that in college. Yeah. Where they they're on this, like this big field coming out each other. Right? Like the Yeah, huge moment in the movie.

Alright, chocolate or vanilla?

Matt Feldman 18:06
Vanilla.

Alex Bayer 18:08
Favorite country to travel to?

Matt Feldman 18:12
Costa Rica.

Alex Bayer 18:13
Yeah, I was gonna say Hawaii seems like a country out there. Yeah, it's like so different. All right. I can't believe it's part of the US. It's just like radically, so different and far away.

Matt Feldman 18:24
A lot. Don't want it to be part of the US.

Alex Bayer 18:28
right there with you. Freedom. Alright. favorite Star Wars characters?

Matt Feldman 18:36
Don't hate me, but I've never seen Star Wars.

Alex Bayer 18:40
I don't hate you. But I feel sorry. Next question. What is your spirit animal?

Matt Feldman 18:46
Turtle.

Alex Bayer 18:46
Turtle? I love that. It's a very Hawaiian right a lot of turtles in Hawaii.

Matt Feldman 18:51
Yeah. Oh, no. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Bayer 18:53
Calm. You know. hard-shell. Graceful, very smart. Slow and steady wins the race. Even though you're moving pretty quick. For a turtle.

Matt Feldman 19:02
Yeah.

Alright, so do you like to drive an SUV a coupe or a truck?

SUV

Alex Bayer 19:10
for food? I think this is an obvious I know what the answer is but Salty or sweet.

Matt Feldman 19:16
Salty.

Alex Bayer 19:18
Doesn't take a genius to know the answer that one. Favorite day of the week and why?

Matt Feldman 19:25
I would say Friday because even though we work all the time as founders, just has that energy where you know you'll have some free time over the weekend and people still, you know want to do stuff Friday evening.

Alex Bayer 19:40
Right on. And then LeBron James, Michael Jordan or Kobe. Greatest of All Time.

Matt Feldman 19:49
I didn't get to watch too much of Jordan. But I would say Jordan.

Alex Bayer 19:53
Yep. Agreed. Love Kobe. Love Kobe. I think he's he's definitely up there as number two are three, probably number two at this point? Terminator two from actually Terminator one, or Terminator two?.

Matt Feldman 20:08
I can barely remember them, but I think Terminator one.

Alex Bayer 20:11
Got it. Everyone's been answering Terminator one like the last like four interviews. It's like, it's like, it's like an energy right? Like, the first 10 People answer Terminator two and then suddenly four people answered Terminator one. Yeah, it's a good movie. I enjoy it. Favorite food or drink if you're stuck on a desert deserted island and you cannot say Moku you cannot say Genius Juice.

Matt Feldman 20:36
Oh man, um avocado.

Alex Bayer 20:46
That's a good one. Avocado. healthy and delicious. There you go. That is rapid fire questions, but not Feldman courtesy of Moku Foods. Awesome. king oyster mushroom, delectable, delicious. Snacks, jerky. They're amazing. So Moku Foods, M O K U foods.com, right? Yeah. Is it on Amazon or just your website? Or is it on both?

Matt Feldman 21:11
Website. Amazon. Thrive Market.

Alex Bayer 21:14
Right on, man! And of course you have the investment from someone to Thrive Market. One of the co founders, you said So yeah, that's a natural shoe in. Right there.

Matt Feldman 21:22
Yeah

Alex Bayer 21:22
Yeah. Right on man. Well, thanks for joining us in Episode 123. Have a safe flight. Good luck on all your business meetings. And great to finally meet you man and congrats on everything.

Matt Feldman 21:33
Yeah. Thanks so much, Alex. It's great to be here and look forward to meeting you in person.

Alex Bayer 21:37
Likewise, Expo West baby will be there. Alright, so that is episode 123 of 15 minutes of genius big plause to mark Nicholas mark and Manhattan Beach studios.net For all your editing, desires for photo video. You know, I want to do your own podcast. This guy on the plaid shirt over here. Winter clothes and all he does it all. No camera on him but he's there. There's someone here. Alright, so again, thank you to Matt Feldman for joining us and sharing his story. One last thing, stay jerky and genius.

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