Táche Founder Roxana Saidi: There’s no magic bullet
This week, Roxana Saidi launched Táche, a brand of pistachio milk she first began working on in the kitchen of a studio apartment in 2015. With pistachios sourced from fourth-generation farmers in the middle east, Táche sets itself apart as a more environmentally friendly option than almond milk and a healthier option than oat milk. Earlier this year, Táche raised a $1.1 million pre-seed round with backing from investors like Gary Hirshberg, the co-founder and former CEO of Stonyfield Farm.
But launching a new brand in 2020 is no easy feat.
Here, Saidi shares her playbook for fundraising, navigating a complex supply chain, and launching a CPG brand in the middle of a pandemic. Her answers have been lightly edited and condensed.
How did covid-19 impact your launch plans?
“I have been percolating, learning, and working on this idea for five years. So the vast majority of the strategy was done pre-pandemic. The reason that it took five years to go to market is because this type of product is one where you need to really scale the business before you can launch. To make a shelf stable plant based milk, there are really only a handful of manufacturers available in the U.S. These manufacturers have the luxury of commanding enormous minimum orders on your very first production run, ranging in the hundreds of thousands of units. So I had to first scale the business, raise capital, and have plenty of working capital on hand before I could even sell my very first unit.
But now that so much has changed, relying on a lot of the traditional methods of driving discoverability, and trial, and sampling — a lot is out the window completely.
So we had to pivot how we were going to drive sampling. So far, discoverability has mostly been through our B2B side. Táche is available in more than 40 locations in the New York City area, specialty coffee shops, matcha bars, cafes, and a couple of grocers. We donated a lot of product to these small and medium business owners and said, ‘Hey, use Táche as a way to offer a pistachio milk latte, and use it to your benefit.” We developed a lot of recipes that we’ve also shared. And we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from these small businesses, so we’re really driving trial and discoverability through donating product to these small businesses.”
What influenced that strategy?
“In 2015, when I was making pistachio milk in my kitchen and digging into what it would take to scale a business — there came Oatly. The way they launched in the U.S. was through coffee shops in New York City. I remember distinctly walking around my neighborhood seeing signs in coffee shop windows that said, ‘Do not try to buy Oatly off of us, we’re out of it.’ That really had an impact on me. I wanted to follow in their footsteps. But I also really believed in direct to consumer. When the pandemic hit, we leaned more into the direct to consumer side than we would have. There, we’re focused on PR and social media , email, and SMS marketing.”
How did you find those first 40 buyers?
“I went to every event I could attend over the last five years. I went to the New York City Coffee Fest three times, I went to BevNet, I was constantly putting myself in places where I could learn from people who were already in the industry. I made a lot of early relationships with folks at Bluestone Lane, or Devocion, all of these people who were steeped in coffee, and people who really made it their life. Because that’s what I wanted to do. I was constantly putting myself in positions where I could learn from other people and make introductions.”
What has been the most challenging aspect of developing a supply chain?
“We source pistachios from quality producers across the EMEA. After a great deal of research, we determined that the nuts from overseas had a superior taste and flavor profile.
You would think the pistachios would be the most sensitive to disruption. For us, pistachios were the easiest. What’s been the hardest has been corrugated packaging supplies, and everything at the end of the supply chain. That’s where we’ve seen all of the issues related to the pandemic.”
How did you approach fundraising?
“Bootstrapping went out the window as soon as I was told ‘you must do a minimum order of 75,000 units’ by every manufacturer in North America. Bootstrapping was no longer possible. So initially I started fundraising with friends and family, along with angels. We were able to raise $1.1 million in about seven months.
Pre-launch pitching is a doozy. It’s that chicken and the egg thing, where they say, ‘We love what you’re doing, but we want to see traction.’ There’s no magic bullet or way to get around it. You have to keep doing what you’re doing, and you have to find investors that align with your mission and vision. For us, it was investors that said, ‘I believe in you, your vision that pistachios are a highly underutilized nut in the U.S., and that there’s a huge market in non-dairy milk, and we want to see you in that market.’ You really just have to stay at it. Eventually you’ll find people who believe in that prototype, the strategy and the vision.”
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