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Jesse's 2017 CEO Recap

January 05, 2018

Jesse's 2017 CEO Recap

It’s December 31st, 5:30pm pacific time and here I am, trying to write my Picky Bars CEO recap before the end of the year. There’s literally like 6 hours left in 2017. It’s the perfect “better late than never” micro analogy that resonates fairly well with Picky Bars results this year. Furthermore, I’m on my way to Maui for a last minute family vacation, literally chasing the sun, extending my year by another two hours, and ultimately, it won’t be enough. It’s a Sunday before a holiday, my staff is off obviously, and I’m sitting next to Jude who, God bless his little LEGO soul, is going to keep asking me for help every 75-90 seconds. But like a bunch of Picky projects this year, it’ll get done, and probably (IMHO) fairly well, if only a little late. So hopefully you enjoy!

I thought a good place to start 2017 recap was where I left you in my 2016 recap. I went back and re-read what I told you guys we’d do - and I’m actually really pleased at the results! Let’s jump into it:



    • What I said - This will the biggest focus of 2017. We are 100% committed to delivering more convenient, high quality, real food options to our customers…..
    • What we did - Bottom line is we (mostly) delivered on this, just a bit late. It took us a lot longer than we thought it would, but ultimately we had a hugely successful launch of Picky Oats Performance Oatmeal on Kickstarter, and delivered those goods before the holidays. The process of getting there was a bit of a cluster (failed products, production delays, manufacturing mishaps, even last minute website problems, all worth its own post), but we made a new product that we’re super proud of and got it out to our early supporters. Great job product team!


    • What I said - I love our Picky Club...but it’s clear we’re in need of rehauling our Picky Club infrastructure to make it much more convenient, flexible, and rewarding for our Clubbers. Look for that in late Q1.
    • What we did - Another (mostly) nailed it! We launched a completely redesigned website and club experience….about 3 months later than expected. But I am super proud of it, and the results have already shown it was worth it. Our club churn (members lost per month) has decreased about 60% since it’s launch because of more flexibility with delivery timing, product quantity and variety. As we launch Oatmeal this new flexibility will prove even more valuable. Hats off to my marketing team for, as they call it, “successfully birthing their baby.”


    • What I said - We’ve had success regionally in natural grocery where our brand awareness is strong and we can provide better direct support with sampling through our Field Pro program….
    • What we did - Honestly, we nailed this one. Kudos to Ben our Grocery Sales lead. We not only brought on Whole Foods and New Seasons, we opened our first UNFI distribution warehouse in the PNW and signed on with a brokerage team that expanded distribution to about 120 doors in the PNW. We even have a 2nd UNFI warehouse launching this month. It wasn’t all roses, as you’ll see below, but I’m very proud of our achievement of this goal.


    • What I said - We have our first dedicated sales and support staff for specialty - REI, Sports Basement, and our many running and cycling retailers - and we’ll be focusing on continuing to strengthen this market with new promotions, events, and products.
    • What we did - This one is a mixed bag. I feel like we did a decent job supporting and reaching out to new specialty retailers this year, but the overall results were ultimately disappointing. This was one of two places company wide where we missed our goal (the other is below). I don’t think this is entirely our fault - a lot of people had underwhelming results in this channel - the industry was down. But I do think part of it was just us being a little too strapped internally and/or being too passive with our promotional and sales outreach. Something we’ll work hard to remedy in 2018.


    • What I said - We’ll revamp for a sophomore season of Picky Club Weekend in Bend, Lifepoints Adventure Grant, and Feed the Dream programs this year.
    • What we did - We had a super awesome Picky Club weekend, gave away another $3k in Adventure Grants, and Fed the Dream for 22 people going to 70.3 Worlds and Kona Worlds. All programs I feel super stoked about.

So bam, we mostly did what we said we were going to do, which is probably the first time that’s ever happened in the history of the company! Gotta be stoked about that, and I am.

Picky Bars 2017 CEO Recap

Talking 17 and planning for 18 with (some of) the crew at our year-end retreat



High - Amazon takes off. Amazon doesn’t account for a huge percentage of our sales, but over the year it became a significant channel, in large part due to the success of our “Whole Shebang Mixed Pack.” I have mixed feelings about Amazon, I think it provides unmatched convenience for the typical shopper but obviously has a negative impact on brick and mortar, and could become too big an influence in all commerce in general (if it hasn’t already). But I’m a realist and know we need to be there and support it as intelligently as we can, so we’ll continue to do so in 2018.

High - Kept Some Awesome Employees. Last year my recap said we started the year with 6 employees, and finished with 10, which included 8 new people! That’s a TON of new faces learning new stuff and made it hard to gain real momentum as a team. I am stoked to say that we only had one employee leave this year and added just one. I think this is due partly to more clearly defined roles and goals for each employee, better communication, but ultimately just having great people who are invested in a like-minded culture. This means that starting 2018 we will have our most experienced staff ever, and that is going to be huge for our results. For the first time we’re heading into a new year with a plan we’re fairly comfortable and confident in, with a team I genuinely believe can get it done.

High - International Sales. We saw continued growth in Canada mostly thanks to our friends/distributors there, Ryeka Sport. We launched successfully with Paula Radcliffe and Fit Brands to the UK as well - for those UK/Europe readers, we’re now available on Wiggle, so check us out and leave a review please! We also saw some success in Sweden, South Korea and Dubai! Way to go other countries!


COGS and Supply Chain Probs. Outside of delays to new products and our new website, and some struggle in the specialty channel, our biggest miss this year was on admittedly on the operational side. We saw a number of out of stock and shipment delays across all of our channels throughout the majority of the summer. While trying to “catch up” on inventory, we saw a significant increase in our cost of goods due to general manufacturing inefficiencies/overspending trying to make up for mistakes along our supply chain. So not only did it hurt our sales during the most critical time of the year, it also hurt our margin and overall profitability, and limited what we could do promotionally because of lack of funds for marketing, discounts, and general sales support. While it’s just one area of the business, it’s obviously an area that affects everyone, so the hurt was real. This will be one of our three main focuses for 2018.



If there’s one thing I’m bullish on this year, it’s our Performance Oatmeal. The success of our Kickstarter, coupled with the positive early feedback from its recipients has me believing we have a super strong product that we just need to get out there! I hope (and our plan is) by the time you read this Picky Oats are in stock and available to current and new Picky Club members as well as selected retailers who supported us with early orders. We will launch on our website, in Amazon, and all retailers beginning in February, ultimately in three form factors - a single serve pouch, a single serve cup, and a multi serve bag. Depending on early results, we’ll invest heavily in distribution and marketing. Once Oats is successfully launched, we have a couple of other irons in the fire for a new product or two we hope to launch this year. It is our goal to eventually have a full line of high performance, real food products for your active lifestyle, so here they come, one step at a time!

Picky Bars 2017 CEO Recap

No pressure, Jude, but 2018's sorta riding on you and your dump truck

 Phase One: COMPLETE. Picky Oats are available through the Picky Club!


While we saw solid growth on the bar business this year - both in current channels and expanded distribution in natural grocery - our sell through per door hasn’t reached the threshold I want it to achieve before we aggressively try to expand to more regions. Our buyers are happy/satisfied, but it’s become clear to me that something is limiting our potential among customers who first discover us on store shelves. My gut is it’s some combination of our price, our packaging, and our product (haha, what else is there, really?). So before continuing our expansion, we’re going to work a lot on those three areas in 2018:

  • Product - I spent months researching this late this year and it’s clear Picky Bars face an uphill battle with current trends in the market. The top 150 or so SKUs in natural grocery (not to mention mass retail), outside of legacy brands like Clif and Lara, are almost entirely high protein, low carb bars. Looking at the data, it’s clear to me that customers now are buying protein almost exclusively in energy bars, even if it doesn’t taste good, wrecks your stomach, and to be honest doesn’t work. There’s a belief out there that carbs are bad and more protein is always better, and our bar, while optimally balanced with protein/fat/carbs for performance and digestion, doesn’t match that trend. We’re not going to change our formula to match a trend, but we will more clearly position our bars by making their benefits and primary uses clearer through our packaging and general marketing.
  • Price - It’s also clear based on external data and our own tests that our bar is more expensive than the market ideally wants it to be. When we can afford to do so and run a promotion in retail, we see a huge sales surge when the price goes down. We’re working hard on reducing our costs so we can ultimately reduce our price more consistently - a benefit our current customers will also be stoked about.
  • Packaging - I love our packaging, and so do most of our customers, and don’t worry, it’s not gonna die. It’s a huge part of the brand. But I’ve received a lot of feedback in retail that our packaging, for new eyes, is tough to read, tough to understand what the bar is and is about, and ultimately who/how/when/why you should try it. We’re going to work on revamping our packaging to maintain the awesome branding and uniqueness we have now, while improving it’s look and feel to first time eyes. Look for that hopefully in early Q2.

 Those are the main things we’re going to focus on for next year. There’s a LOT of other stuff going on as well as our staff of ten hits the ground running on January 2nd (or so…) - new content from Lauren and I (stay tuned for an announcement), improvement of the Club, and way more support for our retailers will all be part of it. I’m super psyched for the challenges ahead and like I said, more confident in our team than ever before. Thank you all so much for your support throughout this year and the 7 years prior. Can’t believe we’re turning 8. Here’s to 2018!


PS - if you have questions, feedback, or ideas, let me know -jesse@pickybars.com. I promise I’ll do my best to respond, if a little late…

Picky Oats - Available through the Picky Club now!