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Pay Close Attention to the Woman Behind the Curtain: Founder of Savvy, Crystal Black-Davis

Allow me to give you a glimpse into my world, past, present and future. I’m currently the president of Savvy Food Marketing and, of course, The Kitchen CEO. My "day job" is consulting specialty food manufacturers and commodity importers as well as mentor and advise founders of pre-launch and early-stage CPG brands. I absolutely LOVE WHAT I DO!

I began my marketing career in technology, working on the hardware component side as well as web-based applications. I’ve seen the ups and downs of technology, enjoying the fruits of the .com boom, to crashing and burning, hard, during the .com bust.

In 2006, after several years in tech and being the causality of two corporate reorgs, I decided that tech was no longer my jam. So, to chart out my next move, I took a mini sabbatical to Europe and decided that I was going to pursue entrepreneurship in a field that I was super passionate about, food. Unlike tech, where you constantly innovate and launch at a pace so rapid that you’re hardly able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, food is all about enjoying the now. Savoring the moment and reveling in the consumption of something that was specifically prepared to bring you sensorial pleasure. Also, let’s be real, food is recession-proof. I was seeking the best of both worlds, passion for an industry with obvious ongoing and endless demand. Oversimplistic? I know, but as a young professional, that’s all I really required.

In 2007, after my husband finished grad school, the stars aligned in my favor because he was recruited to a role based in the New York City metro. I would be in the food epicenter. I knew that my core marketing skills were transferable, however, I acknowledged my lack of food industry experience. Eager to learn, I took odd jobs and did pro-bono marketing work for various brands, to understand this new and exciting world of food. Admittedly, it was a humbling experience going from a marketing and global business development leader to food sampler at Costco. However, never once did I allow ego to get the best of me because I was determined to succeed in this industry.

After about six months in, it finally happened. I received my first paid Savvy Food Marketing gig with Valley Produce Company (VPC) a beautiful line of imported cheese condiments, which at the time was owned by the popular Australian chef Christopher Smith. VPC needed a North American business director to strengthen brand awareness, execute shopper marketing activities, and manage their Canadian and US sales force. I was the right person at the right time for the project. Soon after, I was contracted by the owners Preferred Brands international, parent company of Tasty Bite heat and eat Indian cuisine to manage their national in-store promotions at Whole Foods. That was the beginning of the snowball effect. By fall 2008, I had acquired several new clients, mainly import brands, including Champignon North America and Norseland Inc.

Within the course of a year, I transitioned from being a scrappy one-person shop to leading a team of field reps in over thirty metropolitan areas and setting US market strategy plans for a base of awesome CPG customers. Fast forward to 2014 when I was contracted, then hired by Italian-based Loacker, the global category leader in wafer confections. Based on their observations of my success with Savvy, I was tapped to lead their newly formed US marketing organization and business unit operations as Vice President of Marketing and Executive Vice President for the US region. During my assignment at Loacker I was responsible for marketing strategy, had full P&L accountability, and stewarded multimillion-dollar marketing budgets. I served on the global brand committee, participated in over 100 innovation projects, and managed FDA compliance audits. That role allowed me the opportunity to launch an international brand to a new base of US consumers, manage the process of transforming concepts to products, lead cross-functional global teams, and take ownership of the annual success of a multi-million dollar company. What an awesome experience.

After an abrupt and major family situation, I stepped down from my role in February 2020 to return to entrepreneurship. In March 2020, one week before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, I re-launched Savvy. Although my intention was to only work with established CPG brands and commodities importers, I started to become bombarded with inquiries from pre-launch and early stage CPG founders needing help. Listening to their needs and pain points along with uncovering critical knowledge gaps due to their lack of deep industry experience, led me to create The Kitchen CEO.

In addition to running Savvy and The Kitchen CEO, I’m a serious gastronome and jazz aficionado, not to mention the glowing wife of Anthony and proud mom of Elijah. I feel compelled to say that I absolutely love my life and I am immensely blessed.


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