In our 90th episode of Earned, Conor sits down with Amina Pasha, CPG marketing expert and current CMO of Thrive Market, the cult-favorite healthy food retailer that brought in nearly $500 million in revenue last year.
To start the show, Amina unpacks Thrive Market’s mission to make healthy living easy, affordable, and accessible. We then hear what drew Amina—who previously served as VP of Marketing at Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company—to mission-based companies after spending over a decade at Procter & Gamble. We dive into Amina’s takeaways from her time at P&G, including the importance of being a cross-functional leader and understanding your consumer’s needs. Next, Amina shares the learnings that surprised her about Thrive Market, such as investment and involvement from respected health and wellness influencers like Mark Sisson and Thomas DeLauer. We then explore Thrive’s recent uptick in Instagram followers, and Amina reveals the company’s strategies for success on social. (Hint: creating content that educates, inspires, and entertains.) To close the show, Amina offers her advice to young professionals looking to advance their careers and make an impact.
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
How Thrive Market Partners With Health and Wellness Influencers to Drive Product Quality and Innovation
Conor Begley: What have you learned about Thrive Market that surprised you? What did you learn about the customers, the big advocates for Thrive, that maybe you didn't expect from the outset?
Amina Pasha: There were a lot of things that I didn't really know about Thrive that I learned coming in. One was, I just assumed we'd be coastally stronger, which we are. But when you look at our heat map of where our members are, it is so dispersed, and it makes sense because that's our mission, we're e-commerce. But I was shocked to see how dispersed it was. It was incredible.
The other thing that really surprised me was who our first equity investors in the company were. Initially for the founders, they didn't immediately hit the ground running. They still had some convincing to do around, is this proposition needed? Should it be funded? And they got the initial couple of rejections, but then they realized, wait a minute, this proposition makes the most sense to health and wellness influencers. Let's go talk to these experts.
So they went to Mark Sisson, who was basically the paleo guru, and Mark was actually the first one to invest and earn equity in the company. And he not only invested with money, but more importantly, he invested with his brand Primal Kitchen. Primal Kitchen was first launched at Thrive even before it was launched in retail. And that showed you not only how much he believed in it, but how much he trusted the founders too—that they would make this his brand, his baby essentially, successful. And it followed suit that way.
We started off with more niche lifestyles. We're definitely much more pervasive than that too. But Thomas DeLauer is one of our biggest keto experts—he has over 2 million followers on YouTube. He partners with us on a level that is just incredible, far and beyond what you would be getting from a paid influencer. We have a relationship with him. We have a true partner who has equity in the company, who believes in the mission. He will sit down for hours and brainstorm with us, and the amount of value and learning you get from him is just incredible. We have an arsenal of influencers like that, who are telling us what's trending, what's changing, what's evolving, and then how can we take that in terms of the products or the innovation.
We have our own brand too, which I was very pleasantly surprised to learn is about 25% of our business. So it’s a very sizable, north-of-a-hundred-million size of the business already. We have over 650 SKUs, and the real intel for that also came from so much data on our third party brand SKUs that are doing incredibly well, but we also learned where there are gaps in the portfolio, where are there misses, where can we get better innovation? And we started our own brand with that insight first. And it just took off. It is still the best selling product, highest rated, and most affordable as well. So a great exclusive membership perk that you get by joining Thrive Market is this access to these incredible products from our own brand as well.
Conor Begley: Yeah, I love that idea, and I think it's something that's very under-leveraged when it comes to the influencer space. In order to build credibility as a paleo expert or as an expert in anything, you have to do your research, know what works, what doesn't, right? That's how you build an audience fundamentally. So using them as a resource for innovation or discovery in terms of how do we make this better? What are we missing? What could we do that hasn't been done before?
I think it's just fascinating. Whether it's a formal collaboration or formal partnership, like we're actually co-selling their products in this case, or it's just making your existing products better. I think that’s just such a powerful source of information, and the fact that you guys have them as equity partners obviously makes them very supportive of the brand as well, which is a great secondary benefit.
Amina Pasha: Yeah. In fact, I can't drop the announcement, but I can tease it here. We're actually doing a product development collab with one of our influencers that we're about to launch in just a couple of months. And it has taken us months in the making, but the power of our ability to create high-quality products, combined with their expertise in particular lifestyles and spaces, and using that to create a Thrive Market co-branded product line, is incredibly exciting. It's something that’s done in almost every category, but not really in food. So we're really excited about this collab that's going to come out, because it's less about the marketing. We really think it's about the best of the best brains coming together to create the best possible solutions and products for our members. So that's what's been so exciting—to see that energy on our side, but also on the health and wellness influencers who want to partner with us and create these lines and really figure out what's missing and how to evolve and how to adapt and make it better, and give Thrive members the best experience with those products.
“Where we've really gotten it right is our ability to both listen and quickly create the content that matters”: Thrive Market’s Strategies for Success on Social
Conor Begley: While we're on this topic of social media creators, in looking at the data on Thrive Market, it was really interesting. You had this significant uptick of your follower count on Instagram starting in January, and if you look at a lot of other brands, Instagram's intentionally doing some trimming right now, like they are cutting followers that are inactive or bots or whatever. So to see an uptick in the last five, six months is very uncommon. So I'm curious, do you know why that's happening? What do you think is driving that? It's pretty fascinating.
Amina Pasha: Yeah, well firstly, I have to congratulate our social team because they're driving it. We've really invested a lot of time into learning and understanding, across all our social media channels, but Instagram in particular, how do we bring our mission to life? Our mission is complex because it is multifaceted. We're talking about healthy living and sustainability. We're talking about affordability and access. How do we take all that content but make it educational, make it inspirational, make it fun? And make it on trend, which is the hardest thing to figure out because you have to be constantly listening to see what's going on.
I think where we've really gotten it right is our ability to both listen and quickly create the content that really matters, to get people to share that content faster. We're in a space where everybody's shopping, yet if you take a step back, people don't really know the difference between organic, free-range, and pasture-raised eggs. There are all these options out there, and some people just default to one, but here's an opportunity where we created an Instagram post and actually educated people on what the differences are and what's worth it, and it's content like that where suddenly people are like, “Why am I buying this? Maybe I should buy this.” And it's making them smarter, savvier shoppers.
The other thing is, I go back to this insight with Nick [Green], we would talk a lot about, why is healthy always pictured as untasty? Like the minute you think healthy, you think broccoli and you're like, well, the kids aren't going to eat it. So we're like, how do we take a spin on that? And so finding powerful, magical ingredients, unexpected ingredients, that you can throw into food that kids will love. We had this Reel that just did so well, which was about cottage cheese ice cream, and no one's really doing it. Pick it up, throw it in ice cream, and people are like, “Wait a minute, I have to go try this out and share this.” So it was bite-size, shareable content that was fun.
The other thing that's been working for us is showing them truly behind the scenes of what's going on at Thrive. What is it like to work at a mission-based company? What is the difference? So just showing them the BTS of what we're doing. When we went to Expo West, which is this large food and beverage expo, we just took our phones with us and videoed what it was like to be there and what the big innovations we saw were. What did we learn, what did we see? That was powerful because some people may not have gone, but they got the content and then they shared it with other people. So whether it's how do we shoot our ads or how do we make a prep meal or do one of our content recipes, et cetera, we break it down, show them how it actually gets produced and done. Because we do everything in house. It just becomes bite-size content that inspires people, like, this is what it's like to work for mission-based companies. So, whenever we're packing boxes, we tell them, this is what we do. This is part of our work. Our mission is our work. And I think it's that type of content that inspires, educates, is fun and tied to a mission, but also on trend, that really got us to see that uptick and this kind of rinse and repeat is working.
We're now working on a new concept, which I'm really excited about, and it's all about Thrive in Five. We wanted some ownable content and the Thrive in Five is, again, all tied to a mission. Five ingredients, five simple ways. Five minutes, five power ingredients, whatever it is, all tied to five to get you your five meals for the week. Boom. So how do we become a destination to help you live easy? In the summertime, people don't want to be spending all their time cooking. How can we help you get it done in a fast, easy way and make it affordable and fun? I'm really excited about this new concept, because then we can be, again, a destination for people to be like, they've got the Thrive in Five, I have five minutes, I'm going to cook something fast with the kids or the family, here's what it takes. So it's finding that next level where you can actually help educate and inspire all at once. That type of content we've seen really, really work, and it's been the biggest driver for our success over the last six months.
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