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Terrible jobs leave a bad taste in your mouth. Great ones make everything a bit more delicious. Jennifer McKnight, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Airly, enjoys the latter.

“We’re empowering the shopper to vote with their dollars without sacrificing taste or price – and I’m loving every minute,” McKnight said.

Airly Foods is part of Bright Future Foods LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Post Holdings, Inc. Its crackers – now available at Wal-Mart – are the first ever climate-friendly snack designed to remove greenhouse gases from the air.

Airly shares its carbon footprint on each box of crackers, removing between 18 grams – 21 grams of CO2 from the air – a small act with the potential to build to a big impact.

Capturing retail shelf space in the food and beverage sector is not for the faint of heart.

A survey conducted by RangeMe found that 57 percent of retailers receive more than 50 product pitches per week, and only 12 percent of those pitches make it to the shelf.

Making it onto the shelf doesn’t guarantee profitability. A study by McKinsey & Company found that less than 40 percent of new CPG products break even within their first year of launch, and only three percent of products exceed their first-year sales targets.

These statistics suggest that launching a new food product in retail can be a challenging process with a high failure rate. However, with proper planning, marketing, and distribution strategies, it is possible to hit your goals.

“I credit our success with building the right relationships, yes, but also for simply buckling down and staying in market for an extended period of time,” McKnight said. “You have to punch your ticket and prove that you’re not a fly-by-night product.”

Airly has embraced innovative technologies into an otherwise stagnant sector. To develop the product, McKnight and team partnered with Indigo Ag and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Keith Paustian, to directly connect world-leading scientists with farmers.

Indigo Ag provides the technology that enables Airly to monitor, measure, report, and validate the amount of greenhouse gases sequestered in the soil through sustainable farming practices.

Even with the most groundbreaking technology behind them, the path for McKnight’s product to store shelves was not an easy one.

“We had to talk to retailers – maybe even more than once,” McKnight said. “The retail industry has not historically been open to new innovative products – especially during the onset of the pandemic when it was really hard to crack into big box stores.”

In such a cut-throat environment, Jennifer finds career happiness through her mission.

Airly Foods co-founders (from left to right) include Chief Supply Chain Officer Kris Corbin, Chief Science Officer Mark Izzo and Chief Marking Officer Jennifer McKnight (Provided by Airly).

“It comes down to understanding what brings you joy,” she said. “There is not one path. I found out early in my career that I love solving complex problems. Give me a multi-faceted project with no clear solutions, and I am all in.”

McKnight has more than 15 years of global marketing experience at big-name brands like Post, Clorox, Procter & Gamble, and Campbell Soup. She has launched 20+ products for brands valued at over $600 million.

“When you’re starting a company or a brand, it’s difficult,” she said. “I have built some big brands. This project is the first time I’ve worked on a product that’s been fundamentally focused on solving a global problem. I am working with people who are genuinely passionate about this mission. This kind of energy actually comes back to you in a big way.”


Want more career happiness stories? Check out our recent spotlight on Oscar Mayer Hotdogger, Chili Cheez Keagz.