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Whipnotic cofounders

Spotlight: Tracy Luckow of Whipnotic

Tracy Luckow is an entrepreneur with expertise across CPG, including everything from innovation and consumer insights to building and developing high-performance teams. She spent decades honing her passion for innovation on R&D teams at brands like Pepsi, Dannon, and Sabra.

 

Now, you’ll find Tracy at the helm of whipped cream category-disruptor Whipnotic, which she steers with her co-founder and sister Lori Gitomer.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

Highlight: Let’s start with congratulations! Whipnotic just won Naturally New York’s Pitch Slam. I saw some of the brands you were up against–stiff competition. What do you think went right? What was the clincher?

 

Tracy Luckow: I'm in awe of all of the brands, and honestly, there are probably a thousand that we didn't see on the stage that are also amazing.

I think our success at Whiptonic has been in part due to the fact that we entered a category that's been sleepy, historically. Very few people have really thought about whipped cream as a category. I worked in the dairy industry, and I didn't really think about whipped cream when I thought about the dairy category. It's an unexpected category to be redefining. 

 

“We entered a category that's been sleepy, historically. Very few people have really thought about whipped cream as a category.”

 

There were incredible brands with amazing marketing and incredible ingredients, but they were in categories that have really transformed through the years and modernized. With whipped cream, it always stops people in their tracks because we're in a category that's been left behind.

Secondly, while we are a new food brand and a food innovation, we're also food tech. We have a patent on our technology that we use in the nozzle for 31 claims, which we own in multiple continents. The technology is applicable across all aerosols–whether you're a shaving cream, sunscreen, or deodorant, you can use our nozzle application to put two substances into the same package that swirl together.

 

Whipnotic proprietary nozzle

 

Highlight: I can sense the enthusiasm in your voice and the passion you have for this! I know that your sister tends to own the business development side of Whipnotic as the CEO, while you’re the scientist of the operation. Why that path for you? Did you know from a young age that this is what you were going to do someday?

 

Tracy: My sister and I always invented businesses when we were kids. That was our way to play: we would identify things that our neighborhood needed and we would invent it.

 

My sister tended to be the one who sold it door-to-door and took the money, and I would be the one who would create the thing and make the thing. I was always a maker. 

 

It was no surprise then, when I veered more into the food science and technology side of things, and my sister went more into the communication, sales and marketing side of things–and certainly she has a lot of aptitude for science, too.

 

She's in the factory with me often, asking amazing scientific questions that help us to break through. And likewise I love branding. I love design. I paint in my free time. So I love the aesthetic part of things, too. 

 

We both dive into each other's areas very regularly, but I think my core competency has been with me since I was a kid. 

 

Whipnotic cofounders

 

Highlight: So you guys are a perfect combination, the two of you together.

 

Tracy: She definitely has a lot of skills I don't, and complements me. She can be so honest with me in ways that other people maybe wouldn't. Just one look from her and I know exactly what she's thinking, and vice versa. We can be on a Zoom call or across the table from each other, not have to speak and completely telepathically know our direction.

 

Highlight: The power of siblings, right? I’m curious–as the owner of the product and product innovation, can you talk a little bit about the role that consumer data plays in your innovation process?

 

Tracy: My career, at its core, has always integrated consumer insights. I’ve run consumer insights departments and innovation departments. From the very beginning, the way I've been trained throughout my career has been to incorporate data. 

 

So when we first started to ask if other people like whipped cream, and if so, who those people are, we needed to form a hypothesis on whether this was a category we should really look at.

 

With our jobs, our salaries, and our families on the line, the risk was big and data was a very helpful informant. We studied the category in depth, and every single week we continue to look at the numbers to see what's shifting and changing. 

 

“With our jobs, our salaries, and our families on the line, the risk was big and data was a very helpful informant.”

 

 

When we launched our technology, the first thing that we did was put our numbers on the Whipnotic can for people to call with comments, questions, or complaints. The hotline literally goes to our cell phones, and we’ve talked to every single person who calls in. We try to understand what they're doing and how they're using the product.

 

All of that information led us to our second generation of technology, which is launching this summer [2024]. It has some major improvements to help guide the user experience based on what we've heard so far. 

 

Whipnotic product line

 

Highlight: Are you willing to share any of the secrets of your success with distribution? I saw one interview with you from 2022, another from 2023, and the jump in numbers as to how many stores you’re in nationwide is exponential. What would you say has helped you expand at such a rate?  

 

Tracy: I would say the same thing that won us the attention at the Pitch Slam is probably the same thing that helps us with the customer. And that is that there are very few people pitching new whipped creams. 

 

There is certainly a cost to being very innovative, but there's also a benefit that comes with being very innovative. And in this particular case, the benefit is that our challenges are not necessarily getting on the shelf. The [retailer] sees our product, and they understand right away that our product doesn't really compete with the other products that they carry. We encourage them to keep the other whipped creams. 

 

“There is certainly a cost to being very innovative, but there's also a benefit that comes with being very innovative.”

 

We're not trying to compete with other whipped creams. Other whipped creams are amazing at their moments in time, in the seasons that they perform well. Our product was designed to fill in gaps for seasonality that would ordinarily be in food service, but not necessarily in grocery. 

 

Our hypothesis from the beginning was to bring in new occasions. Let's bring new moments. Let's bring new seasons to this category. And the customer gets it right away.

 

Whipnotic use cases 



Highlighters: Have there been specific challenges with different retailers? Or expectations around what kind of data you need to bring to these conversations? 

 

Tracy: No, no, that hasn't been our challenge. We've had struggles, but that hasn't been the challenge. I think in the very beginning, retailers don't expect data. They expect your hypothesis. And then as you progress, they expect data to determine whether your hypothesis was right or not. And luckily our data has been showing that what we've promised is actually materializing in our customers.

 

The biggest thing that has been a surprise to us has been the “who.” When we invented our product, we thought that people with sugar concerns–diabetics, people on keto–were going to be our primary target market. We invented it with our mother in mind, who is insulin-dependent, who wasn't able to have dessert with her grandchildren. We wanted to provide her with something that she could enjoy at the table with everyone else. 

 

And certainly the diabetic and low-sugar community has been finding us, which is wonderful because that was the primary intent. But what we've learned is that our target is actually much younger, more of the TikTok generation who are new to the category and really love the multi-sensory aspects of the product. For them, the low sugar and the health benefit is the cherry on top rather than the main driver. 

 

That has been interesting to use data to learn and course correct based on who's been discovering us and who's become loyal fastest.

 

 

Highlight: Has this knowledge of who your core consumer is impacted any of your plans?

 

Tracy: You certainly have to shift. That's part of entrepreneurship. You have to be informed by data and then allow yourself to shift with that. 

 

“That's part of entrepreneurship. You have to be informed by data and then allow yourself to shift with that.”

 

We have shifted where we sample and how we sample. We’ve amplified our efforts on Tiktok and Instagram in order to keep the momentum going and continue to be a voice in that conversation. 

 

Our consumers are leading that conversation–as they should. Our flavors, seasonals, and future SKUs are more informed by the diet and multi-sensory desires of that generation.

 

I’ve relied upon my teenage daughters for support as well. They have become important focus groups.  

 

Highlight: You have your own set of in-home usage testers!  

 

Tracy: Yes. As part of my daughter's high school curriculum all seniors had to do an internship after school was over, before finals. So during that month I brought as many of them into the company as possible to hear what they really think about topics like our giveaways, what brands we should partner with, what we should be doing more of on TikTok and Instagram, and more. We take as much advice and perspective as we can, given that they are really our target.

 

Learn what customers crave

 

Highlight: I love that! Ok, one last question. What are you most excited about for Whipnotic in the next 12 months?

 

Tracy:  Having worked in industry for 25 years, I have really benefited from incredible mentors across a brilliant set of disciplines–how to launch a brand, how to do this job, how to be structured in my thinking, how to course correct myself when I'm failing–and what I love about Whipnotic is that now I have so much freedom to do things that weren't necessarily in those boxes. 

 

“I’ve spent years studying the rules…and I’m very excited to break as many of them as possible.”

 

I always think if you want to break the rules, make sure you learn the rules really well first, and you understand why those rules have been set. So what I'm really excited about, and why you can hear passion in my voice, is that I've spent years studying the rules, and understanding them, and I believe strongly in them…and also I'm very excited to break as many of them as possible. 

 

That's what we've been doing, and we've been having a lot of fun doing it. 



Try Whipnotic for yourself! You can order directly from the Whipnotic website, or use their store locator to find them at your local grocery store.

 

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