Mindful Proteins Update: How We Launched Our Product Despite The Pandemic

Sean Penrith
Mindful Proteins ...
from Portland, Oregon, USA
started June 2018
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I am Sean Penrith, the CEO, and co-founder of Mindful Proteins. I was born in Zimbabwe, raised in South Africa, and have had the pleasure of being schooled as an entrepreneur internationally. I doubled Cape Horn on a 42’ ketch, ran a business in Buenos Aires before beginning new ventures in Johannesburg, the U.K., Wisconsin, and Portland Oregon. Mindful Proteins is the seventh business venture that I have been involved in as founder, partner, or chief executive. I have been heavily immersed in the world of sustainability, carbon markets, conservation finance, and climate risk for more than two decades. It seemed natural to me to create a company that solidly aligns with my belief in being a responsible denizen of the world.

Jacoba, my co-founder, and I have set out to build the best functional food and beverage company in the world. All our products are what we term “clean label” as in they avoid the use of artificial ingredients, flavors, and sweeteners to deliver high levels of protein in our products. Our vision is to build Mindful Proteins on solid principles of sustainability and product stewardship that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Our inaugural product is TATU Protein Water named after my mom, Tatu (tāh-too), who was an acclaimed South African artist. Tatu means three in Swahili, and we translate that as wellness for mind, body, and soul. She set me on my path to wellness and is the inspiration for our mission to use simple, safe, and healthy ingredients in TATU to offer convenient hydration and muscle recovery post-workout. TATU is available initially in two flavors – Orange & Mango and Lemon & Ginger. Each 12 FL Oz can of TATU is loaded with 15g of the purest whey protein isolate, contains 0g of sugar or carbs, and just 60 calories. We source our whey from the pristine pastures of New Zealand. Our delicious and naturally flavored clear water provides 30% of your recommended daily dose of protein.

While we have been working to launch Mindful Proteins for a few years, we have recently completed our first production run of TATU and launched our business despite the challenges of the pandemic. We are thankful to have arrived at this place. Our goal is to sell 200,000 cans of TATU this year.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

In November of 2021, Mindful Proteins completed its first production run of TATU Protein Water, which is now for sale to anyone in the continental United States. The pandemic made this a challenging task, as we had to work around supply chain shortages, factory closures, and increased pricing. The good news is that people love our product! The aroma, taste, and muscle recovery effects along with sharp packaging have resonated with people who are after a functional beverage after a workout.

A main challenge that we have had to overcome is getting TATU in the hands of our target audience. Our sales strategy pre-pandemic was to introduce TATU in gyms, fitness studios, yoga studios, etc. The pandemic was particularly hard on these institutions, as the majority of the public hardly left their home, much less attended exercise classes. We had to rethink our entire sales strategy and shift to a B2C/e-commerce strategy that so many other businesses are switching to. We will keep our first sales strategy in our back pockets as we wait for the pandemic to ease, but until then we plan to increase our social media presence and develop an Amazon website.

Be persistent and tackle each issue as it arises. There will always be something that goes wrong, but if you break down each issue you will continue to see growth.

To help increase our sales, we have been interviewing marketing firms who can help streamline and direct our social media, as well as create a solid SEO strategy. Next, we will be recruiting an independent wholesale rep to promote TATU throughout the Pacific Northwest. We have committed ourselves to post a monthly blog that details our journey as we grow Mindful Proteins, which includes all the bumps along the way to help other start-up companies learn from our mistakes.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Trust your gut. Our biggest lesson learned in the past year is to not work with people or companies if you’re not certain about the relationship. We plan to write a blog about our relationship with an organization that was providing a service to us, who we have sworn never to work with again. There are always other organizations that provide the service you need. Find people who communicate and respect you and your company. Do not work with people who treat you less than you are. If there are any red flags along the way, stop and reassess. It is not worth moving forward with a company or person if you are not 100% you will get what you are asking or paying for.

We have been fortunate to ride the crest of the wellness movement advanced by COVID. People are becoming more aware of food and mind integrity during these shelter-in-place times. In a recent Food Dive article addressing major trends in the industry, they point out that consumers would seek out hydration or sustenance from available food and beverage products, but are increasingly turning to them as a way to improve their mood, gain a boost in energy, provide nutritional benefits or improve their gut health. The shift is especially prevalent in younger Gen Z and millennial consumers.

A 2019 study from Kerry found 65% of consumers looked for function in what they eat and drink. The pandemic has accelerated this demand, with Research and Markets estimating that the global functional beverage market alone will be worth $158.3 billion in 2023.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

We have very ambitious plans for the next 5 years. We want to grow the sales channels we use to make TATU available to the wellness community, we want to be sold in retail stores nationwide, and we want to expand the number of flavors of TATU as well as introduce new functional food products to the market.

To achieve these goals, we have a very specific rollout plan. We are currently focusing on the Pacific Northwest. We want to saturate the market in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California with TATU, and then expand from there. Our expansion plan begins on the West coast, followed by the East coast, and then targets the urban metropolitan regions throughout the rest of the United States. By focusing our efforts on specific geographic areas we expect to grow our mindful family and create a loyal and dedicated customer base who support our brand, advocate our products, and remain long-time clients.

Our short-term goal is to get TATU in the hands of as many people as possible. TATU is a drink that needs to be experienced by the customer. They need to smell the aroma, taste the perfect blend of flavors, and experience the power of recovery provided by the whey protein isolate. Our short-term goals do not include making a large profit. We are focused on building our cadre of customers, gathering positive product reviews, and building brand awareness for TATU. We are following Steve Blank’s Lean Startup model. We are building the company from the ground up, and want to do it the right way.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

The following books have been exceptional for us during this past year in distilling our focus and optimizing our execution with a positive mindset:

Essentialism - Greg McKeown

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers

The 12 Week Year - Brian P Moran

The 10X Rule - Grant Cardone

The 80/20 Principle - Richard Koch

Eat That Frog - Brian Tracy

The Big Leap - Gay Hendricks

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

A key lesson we have learned is that one needs to identify the 20% of effort that gives you 80% of the impact. That is different for Jacoba and me. But recognizing it and organizing effort around that principle embodied by Richard Koch in his 80/20 book has been pivotal. The other is that waiting for the perfect time or set of circumstances will simply hold you back. The name of the game is EXECUTE, day by day, no matter what.

Be persistent and tackle each issue as it arises. There will always be something that goes wrong, but if you break down each issue you will continue to see growth. The hardest part about growing a business is having the tenacity to keep moving forward. Even during a pandemic. We have been told frequently, “Starting a food company is hard! Starting a beverage brand is even harder!” We are content to carve our path and achieve success.

We have found that there is often a community of entrepreneurs who are trying to succeed themselves. This community is willing to help in any way possible. Rely on these individuals for help, advice, and experience. Find your community. We have made great connections via Hanna Kullber’s ​​PNW-F&B listserve, Evolve CPG, and Startup CPG.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are hiring a commission-based sales wholesale rep who is immersed in the CPG world and has contacts in the natural grocery store space or access to distributors who service gyms or other fitness studios in the Pacific Northwest. This position is paid on a commission basis, negotiable upon hire. We hope this person also has a passion for better-for-you products, as well as a commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We want to welcome a new member to our mindful family. If this sounds like you, please email us a resume at [email protected] with Wholesale Sales Rep in the subject line.

Where can we go to learn more?

Sean Penrith, Founder of Mindful Proteins Inc.
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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