Brand partnerships were once regarded as one-off opportunities for beauty and wellness companies, but they’ve steadily transformed into ongoing strategies for some brands.
Such is the case with Sakara Life, the nutrition program and meal delivery service that started 10 years ago. Brand partnerships began at an early point in the company’s history due in part to having no marketing budget, said Whitney Tingle, co-CEO of Sakara Life. But the exposure to new customer bases, ability to retain existing customers and overall brand equity opportunity led Sakara Life to refine and amplify its partnership program over the years. Sakara Life has had partnerships in the past with Dr. Barbara Sturm, RMS Beauty, W3ll People and Vintner’s Daughter. Partnerships consist of full-size beauty product placement within special food programs, such as the 20-day Bridal Program or the 1–8-week Metabolism program, plus social media posting and partnership events. Most recently, Sakara Life partnered with beverage brand Kin Euphorics. Coming this month is a partnership between Sakara Life’s Eat Pretty food program and skin-care brand Grown Alchemist.
Partnerships contribute approximately 15% of Sakara Life sales, and the brand more than doubled 2022 sales attributed to partnerships year-over-year. The team declined to share customer acquisition and retention rates. As of 2021, Sakara Life had raised a total of $20 million in outside capital and was expected to reach $150 million in “profitable” revenue that year, according to a press release.
Danielle DuBoise, co-CEO of Sakara Life, said there is no formal vetting process for partnerships, but Sakara Life looks for brands that emphasize clean living, that are environmentally-friendly, that have pre-existing relationships with members of the Sakara Life team and that have products that seems suited to Sakara Life customers.
“When we started, few had heard of a plant-based [diet], but now more people are interested in it. How and when you talk to [potential customers] need to be different,” she said. “There’s this level of seduction that has to happen; we need to seduce people into taking care of themselves.”
Partnerships are broken into one of three buckets, based on their end goal: brand awareness, loyalty and retention, or performance marketing and acquisition. For example, Kin Euphorics was viewed as providing brand awareness for younger people, while the Eat Pretty partnership is focused on retention, and corporate partnerships with companies like J.P. Morgan and The Class drive acquisition. Sakara Life invests approximately $100,000 into partnerships per year, through a mix of event hosting, influencer gifting and other activations. Brand partners do not pay to appear in Sakara Life programs, but do provide gratis products. Additionally, brand partners may help with costs for activations or with their own social media and influencer marketing promotion.
Sakara Life operates in a highly competitive and complicated category, where margins are thin, operations are expensive and churn is high. DTC meal prep kits like Blue Apron have made headlines for business problems. Meanwhile, Freshly, acquired by Nestlé for $950 million, closed in Dec. 2022. And RealEats announced its closure Wednesday.
“We’re not solving the problem of what to eat, like Blue Apron or HelloFresh. They’re trying to compete with the grocery store and every restaurant. But we’re offering you an opportunity to transform your health, gut, skin and life,” said Tingle.
On average, Sakara Life’s brand partnerships contribute to a 20-40% increase in website visits. The partnership with Bella Hadid’s beverage brand, Kin Euphorics, resulted in an 18.2% week-over-week increase in site traffic during the week of its announcement. The partnership consisted of a private dinner with guests like model Paloma Elsesser, entrepreneur Bea Dixon and artist Cacho Falcon, plus a live podcast recording, social media posts and press interviews. Rebecca Angus Smith, chief marketing and creative officer of Sakara Life, said the upcoming Eat Pretty program has likely 100 different social media and communications assets.
“[Partnerships] are not just about the actual product itself, but they’re also about the content and education around it,” said Angus Smith. “Kin Euphorics, for example, was about the importance of being able to socialize and enjoy yourself [around the holidays]. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about abundance.”