Earlier this month, natural açaí bowls and smoothies purveyor Oakberry named two new executives to its team, global head of marketing Bruno Cardinali and global head of business Leandro Gasparin.
Both executives have a wide range of experience in the restaurant industry, having previously spent several years at Restaurant Business International, heading strategy for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Their plans for the brand Oakberry, will look a lot different, however, with a completely new consumer base.
"Our brand has experienced accelerated growth over the past few years and by bringing Bruno and Leandro onto our team, their experience and leadership will fast-track our expansion both in the U.S. and globally," said Georgios Frangulis, Oakberry Founder and CEO.
In April, Oakberry announced the opening of a flagship location in Venice Beach, California, the brand’s seventh in the Southern California region. This is part of a larger plan for the brand to bring its açaí brand throughout the U.S. — with a goal of 150 store locations globally in 2023 alone.
Before the pair worked on Popeyes strategy together, where they helped to introduce the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich, Cardinali was head of marketing, Latin America & Caribbean at Burger King for one year, and before that, spent 13 years at Unilever where he was the marketing director of Lipton Iced Tea among other leadership positions.
One place the pair plan to start their marketing and business strategy is just making açaí a household word and to make more U.S. consumers aware of it.
“The vast majority of the U.S. is aware as to what açaí actually is, but most who are aware haven’t tried it” said Cardinali, referring to research conducted by the company, and of those who knew what it was, many of them had never tried it. “Our brand is in a good spot to bridge that gap between awareness and trial,” Cardinali said.
“We have kind of reinvented the way people eat açaí,” said Cardinali. Oakberrry utilizes a layering technique, which alternates between a layer of açaí, and then a layer of granola or any other desired toppings, followed by açaí, and so on. “We have kind of recreated that typical açaí experience.”
The açaí berry market — which refers to products from a fruit that grows on the açaí palm tree in the Amazon rainforest — accounted for US$ 6.3 billion in 2022 and is estimated to be US$ 21.7 billion by 2032, according to research from Prophecy Market Insights.
Competitors of Oakberry in the space include Sambazon, Açaí Roots, and NativoAçaí, among others.
Sourcing is another way that both Cardinali and Gasparin plan to differentiate the brand from the rest.
“We have a fully verticalized business structure, so every single bucket of açaí that goes out to every single one of our 600 plus stores comes out of the same place, which is our factory,” said Cardinali. This allows the brand and business to operate in small departments and allocate control in an extremely efficient way.
The last and most important pillar, according to Cardinali, is brand awareness.
“So honestly, we're not we're not the first movers in the market, açaí has been around for a long time. But I think what we have done is create a brand,” he said.
As most of the U.S. have never tried açaí, Cardinali and Gasparin are relying on increasing brand awareness to educate the consumer on the food.
“We will look to offer a purpose proposition to consumers that will transition way beyond just the product offering,” said Cardinali.
Standardization of the brand is also an essential part of creating a global brand, said Gasparin. Giving all customers the same experience, no matter what store location they are in, is one example of this. “I want people to go into our store in New York City, La, in Rio, or Dubai, and have exactly the same experience and feel like they're in exactly the same place.”