Q&A

CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS: Brett Beach, director MIA

By Anthony Myers contact

- Last updated on GMT

Brett Beach
Brett Beach

Related tags: Creative Conversations

Creative Conversations is ConfectioneryNews’s new online series profiling influential people working in the confectionery industry. Brett Beach, director, MIA, an ethical bean-to-bar chocolate producer, is our guest today.

Name​: Brett Beach

Job title​: Director

Company​: MIA

Website​: http://www.miafoodie.com/

Twitter url​: N/A

Linkedin url​: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mia-food-with-thought/

Tell us about your job/company/role?

I am primarily focused on sales and marketing to get store placements and tell our brand story to consumers, but I also work on strategic projects, long-term planning, NPD and finance periodically. As much as possible, we look to find great partners to implement brand initiatives so that we can learn at each turn and also depend on an experienced perspective to make key decisions. We take this approach to PR, fundraising, accounting and more.

What drew you to working in the confectionery industry? (Apart from the free chocolate!)

I was introduced to Africa as a volunteer in Madagascar. I loved the people and country so much that I stayed on to work in development projects and called the island nation home for six years in all. When I decided to go back to the US, I started a food business based on the import of vanilla and chocolate products from Madagascar and I haven’t looked back since. Premium chocolate confectionery is fascinating for the array of products that are crafted from cocoa, its universal appeal and the special position it enjoys as an affordable luxury. Chocolate confectionery is also a great tool to bring about positive social change as cocoa is primarily grown in less developed nations and the chocolate making process involves many steps to go from cocoa bean to finished chocolate bar.

We want ‘made in Africa’ to naturally roll off a consumer’s tongue the way ‘made in Belgium’ and ‘made in France’ do today.

What do you love most about your job?

I love working with the chocolate production team in Madagascar and sharing the bars with customers in Europe. I especially enjoy NPD with the factory and the collaboration to create new flavours. It’s exciting to come up with a new inclusion or flavour combination and quite humbling to go from the original idea and take it through all the different stages that are part of making a great product: market opportunity, pack design, supply, flavour stability, shelf life and production line feasibility. The reward comes when we can introduce consumers to these new flavors, putting all of the behind-the-scenes work and decisions to the test!

What do you dislike most about your job?

New product forms. They are tedious and create real issues if not done accurately, but they are also a necessity. On a personal level, it’s the equivalent of filling out paperwork at a doctor’s office.

What is your biggest creative achievement so far?

I am most proud of my role in the creation of the MIA brand and our chocolate range from scratch. We worked with a great partners and had a lot of input from industry experts but, ultimately, we had to decide on loads of details from brand name to packaging to product flavour to market positioning. The process taught me how exciting, daunting, draining and fulfilling brand development is. You go to great lengths over tiny details that seem to be a natural choice when all is done and in place.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

As a co-founder and firm believer in the brand vision, my future is intertwined with the MIA journey. We created MIA to share great food with the world and to realise a higher purpose; the belief that amazing flavors can also do good for communities on the African continent. We are out to prove that, contrary to 99% of brands on shelf, MIA can make finished products in Africa and put communities from this natural-resource rich continent on the map as artisan producers of delicious foods. Today, there are many retailers looking for vegan, organic or fair trade products. In five years, we want to see products that are fairly made at the source recognised for the economic and transformational value they bring, and we want MIA to be one of the pioneering brands in this movement. We want ‘made in Africa’ to naturally roll off a consumer’s tongue the way ‘made in Belgium’ and ‘made in France’ do today. Achieving this objective means we must create great products and spread the MIA vision around the world. This also means being part of a bigger MIA that goes beyond chocolate confectionery in Madagascar to partner with communities in other African countries where we aim to produce delicious nut butters, coffees and honey.

Describe a typical work day.

The first half hour I check email for and organise priorities for the day. I use the productive morning hours to focus on sales. Lots of calls to customers, email follow-up and pitches to prospects. I work on marketing materials in the afternoon: press releases, design projects, social media plans, blogs, etc. At the end of the day, I take care of any issues or loose ends that inevitably come up throughout the day.

What do you do enjoy doing outside of work?

I like long evening walks in the countryside to unwind, playing with my two young boys and experimenting with new flavor combinations. My wife is also pretty super company and we spend hours talking about whatever is on our minds at the moment.

What do you think will be the next big thing in the confectionery world?

Functional chocolate meets flavoRr innovation. Many of the large brands are already tapping into more obscure flavors combinations that used to be the realm of craft makers. Parallel to this, we see more and more consumers with specific requirements like sugar-free or vegan. I think both flavour combinations and niche dietary needs will continue to evolve and the brand that can effectively deliver on both and will be a market leader. For example, can we create a delicious chocolate that meets a dietary need for one group but can also be appreciated by consumers in general for its amazing flavour? Today, you find a lot of both in the market – delicious flavours and functional products – but not many that do both well in the same bar.

Apple or Android?

Apple. I had an Android years back. The pictures were great but the side of my head felt a bit numb after calls...

What is your favourite book?

The Hobbit as a child. Africa, Altered States and Ordinary Miracles in more recent times.

Where do you stand on social media – can’t live without it, or an evil necessity?

Definitely not evil but I can live without it on a personal level. However one uses it, I think social media is great when it connects but not so fantastic when someone is connecting with the other side of the world and ignoring the person opposite at the table. On a business level, I think social media is a huge opportunity to communicate with consumers and understand their needs and how the brand is perceived.

If you could change one thing in the confectionery industry, what would it be?

I would want the consumer to have a true understanding of the conditions for the people that grow ingredients and make their products. I think this would force some less scrupulous companies to change quickly and it would convince consumers to pay more for well made and ethically sourced products. All of this would lead to more prosperity in developing countries and more appreciation of chocolate confectionery in richer nations.

Time’s up!Thank you Brett

  • Please contact CN editor Anthony Myers​ to put yourself or a colleague forward

Related topics: Editor's Blog, Industry Voices

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