Stay Ahead by Being a Human and Not a Zombie How a Top-Performing Snack Company Prioritizes Values
Julie C. Lellis and Melissa Eggleston
Zombies have no motive other than sustaining themselves. On reckless missions to find food at all costs, they alienate and repel others. Businesses can act like zombies, and they are often easy to spot! They may make decisions that don’t prioritize others and pay the price. They can’t move quickly or adjust to change. And we really don’t know what they will do or say next.
But even the most successful businesses feel like zombies from time to time. Self-awareness and a renewed commitment to being human will ensure you don’t lose your way. Let’s look at how one top-performing company does this.
The Humanity in a Snack
Since its debut in 2004, KIND – the New York-based company responsible for the popular fruit and nut snack bars – has doubled its sales each year.1 In 2014, more than 125,000 retailers carried the products, and more than 450 million KIND products were sold.2
After considering several names for the company, including “Nirvana Now” and “Health Heaven,” founder & CEO Daniel Lubetzky and his staff decided on the word KIND, which reflected the company’s purpose “to be kind to our bodies, our taste buds and the world.”3 They deliberately chose a simple name that had a human connotation.4
The company has ideas and beliefs that matter to them. You probably do, too!
How Values Guide Decisions
In his book, Do the KIND Thing, Lubetzky explains 10 well-documented tenets that reflect who KIND is, including items such as “transparency,” “trust,” “empathy,” and “grit.”5
KIND uses its tenets for many different business and communication decisions. For example, to be transparent, the company deliberately chose to sell its bars in clear wrappers, which in 2004 was the opposite of what competitors in the snack food industry were doing.6 In another instance, to ensure a foundation of trust with customers, Lubetzky pushed back against the KIND design team who wanted to use fruit icons on the KIND website. He explained: “We don’t use fake pictures of food. We don’t even use photographs of ingredients, since most food companies have abused this technique so much that subconsciously consumers are already programmed to distrust them.”7
KIND behaves like a human by honoring its values in its decisions. Zombies are reckless and not deliberate. And they certainly don’t live by values! You can start to be more like KIND by looking at the core tenets of your business. Write down your values and assess whether you are actually living by them each day.
How to Respond to Adversity
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put KIND to the test in early 2015, sending Lubetzky a warning letter that some of KIND’s products didn’t meet the standards for using the word healthy in labels and marketing.8 Although KIND’s labels had been the same since 2004, it seemed that the FDA now had concerns about fat content, likely the result of the amount of nuts in the bars.9 Dr. Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, called the FDA’s move “well-intentioned but absurd.”10
Surprised and concerned, KIND chose to cooperate and work closely with the FDA rather than fight. In a blog post on the same day the FDA released the letter to the public, KIND shared directly with its community the FDA’s warning and reassured its fans that it was working to fix any items deemed mislabeled. The post asserted the health of its products and linked to two outside articles that explained the nutritional value of nuts.11
In December 2015, with the support of leading nutrition professionals, KIND wrote a thorough citizen petition asking the FDA to update its definition of “healthy” to match the latest research.12 Under FDA guidelines, Pop-Tarts met the definition of healthy, while almonds did not.13 In May 2016, the FDA “re-evaluated” its previous decision and allowed KIND to return to the original packaging labels, including using the word healthy.14 The FDA also stated it would be reconsidering its definition of “healthy” in light of the newest nutritional research as well as the citizen petition.15
KIND stayed focused on what mattered most to the business. It was kind to the world.
Win with Brains and Values
KIND’s values not only led it through this bumpy period, it’s also helping to modernize nutrition standards in the United States. Instead of having limited mobility like zombies do, KIND was flexible. You can win by understanding the identity of your business and prioritizing relationships. If you’re sensing you may be a bit lifeless, get back on track. Explore your core values and relate your behavior to them. Zombie-free communication will keep your stakeholders happy and increase your bottom line. To learn more about the five human traits businesses need most, visit zombiebusinesscure.com.
1. “The Fastest-Growing Energy Bar, Bar None,” CBS News, April 12, 2015, www.cbsnews.com.
2. Daniel Lubetzky, Do the KIND Thing (New York: Ballantine Books, 2015), 276-277.
3. Ibid., 117.
5. Ibid., 11-19.
6. Sarah Nassauer, “See-Through Food Packaging Boosts Sales,” The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2014, www.wsj.com.
7. Lubetzky, Do The KIND Thing, 247.
8. William A. Cornell, “KIND, LLC 3/17/15,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, last modified April 25, 2016, www.fda.gov.
9. Poncho Putsch, “Nut So Fast, Kind Bars: FDA Smacks Snacks On Health Claims, National Public Radio, April 15, 2015, www.npr.org.
10. Anna Almedrala, “Why The FDA Action Against KIND Bars Doesn’t Mean They’re Unhealthy,” The Huffington Post, April 15, 2015, www.huffingtonpost.com.
11. “A Note to Our KIND community,” KIND (blog), April 14, 2015, www.kindsnacks.com.
12. James Hamblin, “Kind Bars to U.S. Government: Redefine ‘Healthy’,” The Atlantic, December 8, 2015, www.theatlantic.com.; Justin Mervis, “Citizen Petition,” December 1, 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/kind-docs/citizen-petition.pdf.
13. Hamblin, “Kind Bars to U.S. Government.”
14. Beth Kowitt, “In Reversal, the FDA Says ‘Healthy’ Can Return to Kind Bar Packaging,” Fortune, May 10, 2016, http://fortune.com.
15. Kowitt, “In Reversal.”
This article was adapted and reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from THE ZOMBIE BUSINESS CURE © 2017 Julie C. Lellis, PhD, and Melissa Eggleston. Published by Career Press, Wayne, New Jersey. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.