Laurie Breton knows that the success of any growing brand is a balance between implementing processes and systems while still enabling progressive thinking and creativity. As the Head of Supply Chain at Recess — a rapidly growing CBD-infused sparkling beverage — she’s focused on working with the team to build a leading consumer wellness brand.
“I love the fact that the organization has a great balance of traditional CPG experience and folks who don’t come from the beverage industry,” Breton told ForceBrands exclusively. “Recess is building a new type of beverage brand and organization and I am invigorated to be one of the leaders building Recess.”
We caught up with Breton to learn more about the culture inside Recess, what it’s like to be a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated sector, and more.
ForceBrands: You have an impressive background in CPG. Mind telling us about your career experience and how you got started in the beverage industry?
Laurie Breton: I began my career in the beverage industry back in my homeland of Canada. I started in a division of Cadbury Schweppes, producing multiple beverages for well-known brands, supporting the Canadian market. While it wasn’t a deliberate career path, I fell in love with both CPG and supply chain management and never looked back.
The transformation occurring at Cadbury Schweppes at the time following the spin-off of Dr Pepper Snapple Group enabled me to expand my responsibilities to include Beverage Concentrate (BC), Direct Store Delivery (DSD), and Warehouse Direct (WD) routes to market. I was fortunate to be a part of an amazing senior leadership team who, throughout my career, entrusted me to lead the supply chain, logistics, and quality control.
I was proud to work for a company that valued women in key leadership positions and gave me the support I needed to transform how the supply chain was viewed internally — as a critical business partner and path to success for the commercial and marketing teams.
FB: When you began working at Bai Brands, you were introduced to the ‘startup’ world. What excites you most about it?
LB: Hands down, it was the people and culture. When I joined Bai, the business was at a strategic point after the sale to KDP. Everybody understood that in order for us to succeed and to continue growing the brand, we needed to implement processes and systems to prepare us for the next phase of growth. I believe that the key to success in a leadership role, especially in the startup space, is finding the right balance between implementing structure and process while still enabling the progressive and sometimes out-of-the-box thinking that got the brand to where it is today.
FB: What inspired you to move into cannabis and join Recess’s team?
LB: I was blown away by the Recess team and by their strategy to winning this emerging but gigantic category, and their focus on building a leading consumer wellness brand. Ben has taken a very deliberate approach to building Recess and getting the company into the position it is in after only seven months — the clear category-defining brand. When I looked at how Recess was tackling this space through a brand-first approach, their innovative omni-channel distribution and marketing strategies, as well as their groundbreaking creative strategy — I was sold!
It’s also pretty incredible the level of obsession consumers already have toward the brand and the inbound demand to carry Recess from leading retailers and distributors.
FB: How do you describe the culture of Recess and how important is it for driving the success of the company?
LB: Culture comes from the top and the founder sets the tone through their actions and through the team they build. At Recess, there is already an incredibly strong and dynamic culture. Let me sum it up this way, most of the time I forget I am at a startup that only launched seven months ago, other than the fact that there are only about 35 of us. For example, the on-boarding experience at Recess felt like I was joining a 20-year-old established company and the internal processes and communications that are already established are incredibly thoughtful and impressive. Ben realized that this is a very unique category forming with a land grab dynamic — establishing a strong foundation now and building an experienced executive team is a prerequisite for rapid scaling. The other thing that is fascinating about Recess is their deliberate approach to identifying what areas it makes sense to think out of the box and reinvent the wheel, and what areas are best suited to think like a traditional CPG company. I think Recess is building a new type of CPG brand and a new type of CPG organization.
FB: How does your classically trained CPG background in beverage translate into cannabis?
LB: At the end of the day, hemp extract is merely an ingredient that is not all that different than other functional ingredients commonly used in the food system. There are of course unique elements to the category in the short term due to the evolving regulatory environment, but once that is fully clarified, this category will function similar to existing beverage categories. I have really appreciated the team’s proactive approach to navigating the regulatory situation and their intense focus on quality and compliance. Recess is much more than a “CBD company.”
FB: What do you find most rewarding about leading operations at Recess?
LB: Everyone at Recess feels deeply connected to our mission of helping people reduce stress and feel calm and inspired, and recognizes just how big of an opportunity is in front of us if we execute against our plan. I love the fact that the organization has a great balance of traditional CPG experience and folks who don’t come from the beverage industry. As I shared before, Recess is building a new type of beverage brand and organization and I am invigorated to be one of the leaders building Recess.
FB: Here at ForceBrands, we have a series called Female Forces where we highlight women who are leaders in their organizations. What’s it like to be a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated field?
LB: This has been a journey for sure! Being female in supply chain management was certainly not the norm when I started. While there may have been a shift recently, it still is predominantly a male-driven world. It comes down to having confidence in your capabilities and making sure your voice is heard. I always found that if you deliver on what you say, the results will speak for themselves. I still remember my first logistics meeting with a large national account where they did not even want to start the meeting until a male transportation director showed up. I finally was able to convince them that I could handle the conversation and the relationship. It was a turning point for me personally when everyone left the room aligned on a path forward.
FB: What excites you the most about the future of Recess? Can you offer us a sneak peek into any new future partnerships or product innovations?
LB: Ben and the team at Recess have accomplished an incredible amount in only seven months. Recess is incredibly well positioned. I’m thrilled to have joined the leadership team at a time when Recess is hitting a key inflection point and preparing for rapid growth. I can only sum it up by telling you we are fired up for the future and look forward to the results reflecting the commitment of our team.
Interested in joining a dynamic team in the beverage industry? Explore our BevForce division.