How Four Sigma Foods Became an International Brand by Jenna Abdou


Every time my mom and I have a spur of the moment revelation we call it a God shot, a term we learned from Maria Shriver. 

Whether it’s a new way to use cacao butter or an exciting potential interview (priorities people!), we call them God shots because we always experiment with them. 

My latest one was the idea to end each of my 33founders interviews with a question on uncertainty. 

From Greg Hong’s advice to “get in there and get my hands dirty" to Dennis Mortensen’s goal to make the absolute most of his opportunity to tackle artificial intelligence, the idea’s been a great success and as always our founders are teaching me how to live a smarter life. 

However, it was Tero Isokauppila, the founder and CEO of Four Sigma Foods, who’s string analogy  left me wide eyed as I sat back in our far too large studio chair. 

Tero started his answer by saying that in life, we’re all going to go from point A to point B. The classic we’re all going to die framework. Grim, I know.

Once we discover a consistent path to follow we find ourselves moving in a straight line. Finding comfort in the safety, we get to point B a lot faster. 

To put it simply, and less grim, the straight line is like trail mix without all the fixings. I’m the first to vouch for the buttery cashew, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to encounter an almond or raisin every once and while. 

Just like us, Tero’s most concerned about the journey between point A and point B; the almonds and the raisins so to say. 

If you look at the journey as a string, at the end of your life, you’re going to take the string and pull it, and the more ups and downs you have the more you have of life

Despite his wisdom, Tero’s vocal about the hardships the Four Sigma Foods team faced to bring their product to retailers in 22 countries and ship it directly to 40. (You can check out their mushroom and superfood drink blends here.)

Growing up with a mom who’s famous for her healthy monster cookies, I’m familiar with how difficult it is to bring a food product to market. Thus I was ready for Tero’s response when I asked him about the early days of the company. 

Man, that was hard. That was hard, first and foremost.

From early partnerships with suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors to finding the first buyer who believes in you, according to Tero, the road for foodpreneurs is anything but a straight line. 

When it comes to pushing through each of these obstacles Tero credits the team’s time at AccelFoods, an accelerator helping food startups navigate the early stages. (You can check out our interview with Jordan and Lauren here.)

Once foodpreneurs finally bring their products to market Tero’s scaling and sales advice is simple: Hustle

Between doing 2,000 hours of demos in 2014 to convincing buyers that they’ll be there every step of the way, the key to success for the founders of food startups is personal interaction.

The Four Sigma Foods team is committed to spending as much offline time with their community as possible and brings the same human touch to each of their online efforts. 

For both online and offline interactions Tero’s strategy is ultra simple: Start out by saying hi. 

Go ahead and have yourself a little chuckle, we did too. Once you're done, take a minute and relive the number of times a sales rep put the latest chocolate bar or yogurt so close to your face that you could smell it. 

Next comes the questions. In relationships as in life, it’s vital to ask and listen more than we speak. With this in mind, the Four Sigma Foods team lets their customers do all the talking. 

Tero prefaces each conversation by asking customers how they found out about the product, how they’re using it, and what they’d like to learn more about.

It’s important not to overwhelm people and take it slow. For example, restrain yourself from filling the awkward chewing silence and give them ample time to form an opinion about your product. 

For Four Sigma Foods, these conversations have not only led to a community of evangelists but in addition to product feedback customers share their favorite recipes for the tea and hot chocolate blends. Here’s a look at at Angie's Raw Cacao Chaga Mousse Cake. 



Tero and his team are hyper-aware that we each have an ultra personal relationship with food, and it’s through this recognition that they’re making a deep impact in their customers lives. 

To learn more about Four Sigma foods tune into Tero’s 33founders episode and let us know about your experiences drinking mushroom teas. 



Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • eero Designs Wi-Fi for the Smart Home Era — Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Principal at Shasta Ventures, recently distinguished exceptional founders by their ability to prioritize. “It all comes back to prioritization, speed, paranoia, and knowing that if you don’t iterate, even after finding product market fit, you can be disrupted by the next product,” he says.


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