Scott Norton is one of the co-founders and condiment aficionados behind the iconic NYC brand, Sir Kensington’s. He hosted an intimate founder forum with our FoodBytes! NYC pitch companies in October, and we had the chance to catch some of his insights and words of wisdom on video (check it out above!).
Read on to hear from Scott on why it’s important to build a mission-driven company, why “investors are like family, but without the unconditional love”, and why plant-forward, noble fats and global flavors are three mega food trends to watch.
Why are purpose and mission critical for food startup success?
“A company should understand its purpose, the contribution it’s making to the food system and what it’s doing for its employees, customers, the environment and society.”
A clear mission that everyone can get behind is high on his list of priorities too, because Scott says it plays such a vital role in investor alignment and ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to fundamentals like governance, business risks and growth expectations. It’s important for stakeholders to understand that mission and purpose aren’t at odds with making a profit.
“They’re not just marketing terms, they’re valuable tools that connect you to your customers, separate you from the competition and help keep you and your investors on the same page.”
What do you wish you’d known when you first started Sir Kensington’s?
“I’d have asked myself the hard questions sooner. Every business should know their product and the benefit it delivers, but you need to spend time to really get inside your purpose and contribution.”
Scott admits he found it challenging at times to articulate Sir Kensington’s purpose outside the boardroom in ways that resonated with their customers, so starting to work that brand-consumer loop as early as possible is a practice he strongly encourages other entrepreneurs to take up.
Sir Kensington’s was acquired by Unilever in 2017. What lessons can you share with other entrepreneurs from that experience?
“Strong corporate partnerships are built on collaboration and interaction. Startups are really good at certain things and corporates are really good at certain things, but not everyone knows their strong suit at the outset, so there’s a learning curve.”
For Scott, collaborative success is only possible if you ask and answer the big questions together, so you can work out where your most valuable skills lie and think before you act. He also believes no one should come to the table thinking they know all the answers. Corporate relationships are just like any other; they should start with openness and curiosity and be led by the strengths of their stakeholders. That means treating every partnership individually and avoiding the temptation to assume an acquisition or investment playbook, just because it worked for another company.
Sir Kensington is described as a man on a never-ending search for something better. What trends does he have his expert eye on right now?
There are three mega trends Scott says Sir Kensington’s is excited about and keen to build into their brand story.
- Plant-forward: It’s not about being vegan or meat-free, it simply embraces the idea that you don’t need to anchor every meal around meat.
- Global Flavors: The United States is a melting pot of flavors from every corner of the world and we see that as culinary diplomacy – a currency that allows us to celebrate different cultural tastes and enjoy them in ways that can bring us all closer together.
- Good Fat: We want to embrace noble fats that have been unfairly demonized. Good fats are an extremely important macro-nutrient that can help us generate energy and absorb nutrition better, so we want to turn that story around.