Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Appleton.
Christina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My fun party fact is that I am a fourth-generation grocer. The original Appleton’s Market was a Mom ‘n’ Pop grocery store founded by my great-grandparents in small-town Michigan. Passed down through the generations, the store was where I grew up—riding my tricycle through the aisles and building paper-towel forts. It’s where I fell in love with food and inspired my career in food. I started at General Mills in brand management, working on brands from Trix cereal to Green Giant vegetables. After attending Harvard Business School, I moved to Los Angeles and worked in entertainment before catching the startup bug and making my way back into CPG by joining healthy e-tailer Thrive Market. Focusing on better-for-you products quickly became my passion. I learned that I wanted to create my own business to help make everyone’s lives a little bit easier and a little bit healthier – which was the birth of my Appleton’s Market.
As for how I got to where I am today, it’s because of the great individuals I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from throughout my career. I’ve had great teachers who challenged me and pushed me beyond what I thought I could do, which has enabled me to adopt a “be the dumbest person in the room” mentality. I’ve been fortunate to have gotten some lucky breaks to learn from the best and have worked hard to take advantage of those situations when they are presented to me.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not! I think everyone has come to accept that success is a squiggly line and not a direct road, but it’s definitely hard to wrap one’s head around this while you are living through it. I’ve tried out a few different careers (CPG, entertainment, and startups) before getting to where I am – and who knows where I will be ten years from now? As trite as it may be, the only constant is changed and I have learned the most successful people are those who are the most flexible.
I’ve faced a pretty big obstacle recently with the launch of my latest venture. I spent more than a year building the business behind the scenes, gathering support (and purchase orders) from offices, co-working spaces, and other alternative channels. Launch was set for late March 2020 – and you probably can guess the rest. 100% of those sales went away before we even started. Fortunately, coming from Thrive, I have always been bullish on e-commerce and had set that up as an alternative channel. Now in the post COVID world, it is my primary sales channel, and I’ll admit it’s still a bit hard to wrap my head around. There are days when I lament the loss of my “perfect go to market plan” but am grateful that I am in a position that I am able to pivot my business – some of my friends are not as lucky.
Appleton’s Market – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Like many other millennials, I love snacking (usually more than eating a proper meal!) but am not always thrilled with my snacking choices. Many times I want the convenience and size of a snack, but the fulfilling feeling that I get from a meal. I needed a bridge – lower in calories and effort but higher in all the things I love about meals (greens, protein, fiber, and healthy fats) – that would fill me up, taste delicious, and keep me going for hours. A lot of people told me they needed the same thing – they didn’t have time or money for Postmates but also weren’t happy with the sugary protein bar or handful of sad almonds sitting at their desks.
So I took my knowledge from working at General Mills and Thrive Market and created the new Appleton’s Market. My first product, Power Veggie Bites, is warm and delicious and still delivers the ideal combination of protein, fat, fiber, and healthy veggies with no added sugar to keep concentration high and hunger at bay. I made them frozen so people could keep them in the freezer for months and microwave-steamable in less than a minute to not hog the kitchen or lose valuable time from your day. Convenience without compromise!
As the founder and CEO, I am incredibly motivated to help make everyone’s lives a bit easier and a little healthier – and of course, to create the kind of company that I always dreamed about working for. Almost all of my consultants, partners, and suppliers are women or minorities – and I aim to give opportunities to previously underserved groups who haven’t received the chances they deserve.
This is very personal for me – it is about my family, generations of work, and making the world better one snack at a time. Growing up in a grocery store impacted how I view small business and the world of food. I want to have a brand that quickly conveys how much I care about my products and the ingredients, and how much I care about everyone who will eat them. I want to make food that will fuel bodies in a healthy way every day. It doesn’t get more personal than that!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest I have been so far has taking a leap from working in F500 corporate America. After years of only working at huge companies (and going to big-name schools) I knew that I had to bet on myself in a real way – those institutions were never going to care about me as an individual. Yet I was still the same person inside who cared very much about the structure and validation that those institutions provided. I quit my job at FOX with nothing lined up (scary for someone who had been working constantly since they were a teenager) and took some time to really think about what I wanted and needed out of my career. It was scary, and there are still days I look back and wonder “wait, was that the right decision?” (mostly when I want a vacation) but I am proud of myself for doing something that wasn’t comfortable and pushing my limits.
- One 10-ct case of Thai Sriracha, Sun Dried Tomato Basil, or Mexican Enchilada Power Veggie Bites – $29.95
- One 6-ct Sampler Variety pack containing 2 Power Veggie Bites of Thai Sriracha, Sun Dried Tomato Basil, or Mexican Enchilada Power Veggie Bites – $19.95
- Website: appletonsmarket.com
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