Community//

Santi Proano: “Balance your life”

In-store shopping is not going away anytime soon, but the surge in online shopping that we’ve seen in 2020 will stick. Especially for Gen Z and Millennial parents who find the convenience of delivery or in-store pickup far superior to loading up the kids to go grocery shopping. As part of our series about the […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

In-store shopping is not going away anytime soon, but the surge in online shopping that we’ve seen in 2020 will stick. Especially for Gen Z and Millennial parents who find the convenience of delivery or in-store pickup far superior to loading up the kids to go grocery shopping.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Santi Proano.

Santi Proano has over a decade of experience creating disruptive innovation and building brands across CPG, Hospitality and Micro-Enterprises.

An American native of Ecuador, Santi is a student of culture, passionate about helping others reach their potential. After graduating with a B.S. in Accounting he began his career at Starwood Hotels, supporting sound financial decision making. Santi then served as a Peace Corps Micro-Enterprise volunteer, helping low-income coffee growers in Ecuador develop their own brand of coffee. Since receiving his MBA from the University of Michigan, Santi has served consumers through delicious food innovations beginning with the renovation of legacy brands at Kraft Heinz. He then lent his passion for making positive impact as a founding member of the Innovation Lab at Tyson Foods, including the creation of alternate protein brand RAISED & ROOTED and YAPPAH! — a concept inspired by a tradition in his homeland.

Santi currently lends his passion for making positive impact leading the Lighthouse Incubator at Ocean Spray, focusing on health & wellness benefits with new brands Dabbly, CarryOn, Atoka and Tally-Ho. A blessed father of 4 children alongside his wife Kayla, they enjoy spending their free time on biking and hiking adventures, including climbing the highest active volcano in the world (Cotopaxi).


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After 6 years in the corporate world, I decided to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. My focus was serving a coffee farmer cooperative in my host village. Although many said it could not be done, I thoroughly enjoyed helping the farmers create a coffee brand, connect with customers, and watch their income grow. Even more exciting was helping the farmers believe in themselves and take a risk on something new. From that point on, I knew I wanted to help improve the lives of others by creating new brands and products from scratch and I wanted to do it in the context of a larger organization for maximum impact. That’s what led me to a career focused on innovation.

As the head of Ocean Spray’s Lighthouse Incubator, I have the privilege of leading our team to create new, delightful health & wellness brands and products. Our focus is on starting small, testing, learning and ultimately creating future income sources for our farmers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting moments in innovation inevitably happen when you come into contact with real life consumers out “in the wild.” While doing consumer research for a new brand we developed at a former company, my team set up a table in a touristy Chicago plaza to ask consumers for feedback on our product while recording their reactions on camera. I will never forget their reactions and insights. The feedback was priceless. When you start small and test your products with consumers, you strive to save money, which can lead to some interesting outcomes.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Leading the Lighthouse Incubator, I talk a lot about failing fast, cheap and forward. Most innovations fail. That’s why making space to fail can be very freeing for teams focused on innovation.

Way before my career in innovation, I was a bank teller that made the mistake of accepting obsolete Mexican currency from a very chatty customer that caused the bank a loss of around 1,000 dollars. I had dealt with pesos before so during the transaction I felt something was off. Instead of going with my gut, I checked with a colleague, talked to the customer again, overthought the situation and got it wrong. It was a painful lesson but a timeless one. Do not ignore your gut. Often your best ideas and decisions start there. It’s ok to make a mistake and fail, but learn and grow from the experience.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I am thrilled that my Lighthouse team has launched 4 new brands in the last year to serve different elements of consumers’ health & wellness journey. Our incubator model is a 5-month concept to test-market cadence, which we did for each of these brands.

The brands include CarryOn™, delicious CBD sparkling waters with functional ingredients designed to boost mental wellness; Dabbly™, cranberry extract based supplements that support skin health among other functions; Atoka™, herbal tea tonics with ingredients curated by a master herbalist for holistic wellness; and Tally-Ho™. The most recent is actually for the health & wellness of our dogs! We just launched Tally-Ho™ water enhancers for dogs on Indiegogo and in PolkaDog stores in the Boston area. These water enhancers are delicious and come in 3 varieties to support our beloved dogs’ immune, oral and emotional health.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Balance your life. Spend focused intentional time with your partner and kids. Take a day off to focus on your faith, your values, and to do something you love. Leave the phone behind. It is hard to keep going 100% all the time and the reality is taking a step back and getting centered helps you be at your best in the long run.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There have been a few key people that saw something in me and decided to invest time and advocate for me. One of these was a professor in college who patiently gave me his time and attention every occasion I asked for help. I thought I was being a bother but when he was asked by a recruiter for the name of a student to consider for an internship it was my name he gave. That internship became my first job out of college.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There are several great organizations making a positive impact serving prisoners, modern-day slaves, the fatherless, and refugees. I enjoy finding and supporting those organizations.

I am proud to work for Ocean Spray, a farmer-owned cooperative that has this same giving mindset. Ocean Spray is working to make the world a healthier and happier place, with a mission to connect our farms to families for a better life. Our cooperative gives to St. Jude, Feeding America food banks, Bright Pink, and several other organizations local to our farmer-owners through our Community Fund.

Any success I have had is linked to others pouring into me. Paying it forward by pouring into others is the best way I can bring goodness to the world.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

Retail has been on a trajectory of adjustment and investment that has only accelerated due to the events of 2020. Some of the ways we may see retail changing in the future include:

1.) Increasing assortment of proactive health products

Consumers will be looking for increased assortment of proactive health products that help them get out in front of health issues. This includes familiar categories like supplements and will expand into food and beverages. Retailers will diversify their offerings across many categories to ensure proactive health benefits are in their assortment. Brands that can deliver these benefits with whole foods and credible claims will be best positioned for this in the future.

2.) Bringing the digital experience in-store

Consumers will increasingly expect the pleasant, well-designed user experiences that they enjoy digitally to extend to the retail environment. Retailers will likely adjust by integrating digital aspects and technology into the in-store experience. This could include virtual shelves, augmented reality for trying on product, as well as interfaces with online inventory.

3.) Adding healthcare service offerings

Large retailers not traditionally known for healthcare will likely add healthcare service offerings to their physical stores. Access to affordable healthcare is a major problem that large retailers with scale can help solve. Focus will be on preventive, proactive health at the primary care level.

4.) Increasingly brands will have their own direct-to-consumer channel

Direct-to-consumer channels will not threaten retail so much as complement it. Brands will look to use this channel to help consumers sample and trial new products, gather consumer insights and feedback, and provide their users with offerings that may not be widely carried at retail.

5.) The acceleration to online shopping will stick

In-store shopping is not going away anytime soon, but the surge in online shopping that we’ve seen in 2020 will stick. Especially for Gen Z and Millennial parents who find the convenience of delivery or in-store pickup far superior to loading up the kids to go grocery shopping.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can go to www.OceanSpray.com and follow Ocean Spray on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also, please follow Atoka™, Dabbly™, CarryOn™ and Tally-Ho™ on Instagram.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

How Generosity and Giving Benefits Your Well-Being

by Larry Alton
The Thrive Global Questionnaire//

The First Thing I Do When I Get Out Of Bed

by Thrive Global
Community//

“We Don’t Believe in Taking Short-Cuts” with Santi Subotovksy

by Jean Ginzburg
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.