Welcome to Meet the Team, a monthly series that introduces you to the great talent and leadership at Label Insight. This month we’re excited to introduce Co-Founder and VP of Data Dagan Xavier.
Label Insight’s mission is to help consumers understand what’s in the products they eat and use. What inspired you to start the company?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs — my dad has his own business that he runs out of Australia and Hong Kong. His dad, my grandfather, also owned his own business in Hong Kong. So I guess entrepreneurism is something that has always been instilled in my brother (and co-founder) and me from a young age — that opportunities exist, and that it’s all possible.
There is no better business than a business with a cause. The “who” and the “what” are important, but it’s really the “why” that keeps you going. Our founding story isn’t unique — and I guess that’s the point, right? What happened to my dad — getting sick and needing to change his diet — happens to millions of people. But despite that being terrible, it’s the opportunity it created that was so exciting. We believed we could help millions of people make better food choices by helping the industry become more transparent. How can you not get inspired by a cause like that?
You lead the Data team at Label Insight. What is the role of this team?
I studied Nutritional Sciences at University so it was a natural fit for me to be in charge of building our expertise around ingredients, nutrients and marketing claims. Having grown up in this business amongst data — it is now part of my DNA.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that data also is part of the culture we’ve created within the Data team at Label Insight. From data generation to data activation, the Data team is responsible for the deconstruction, construction, customization and transformation of every product that enters our database.
We take immense pride in our abilities to ingest multiple types of products, our speed to production, our use of instrumentation to iterate and improve processes, our data quality and our best-in-market attribute analysis.
What skill sets do Data team members have?
The Data team at Label Insight is comprised of three groups — Data Transformation, Data Generation and Data Quality — and each is a melting pot of various talents. The Data Transformation group has subject matter experts (SMEs), including registered dietitians, food scientists, cosmotologists and chemists. On the Data Generation side, we have data and business analysts, as well as graphic designers. And the Data Quality group includes statisticians, data analysts and computer science experts. Together, it’s a really smart group that’s creating real impact in the push for transparency by harnessing the power of product data.
Proudest moment at Label Insight?
I can’t point to a single moment — there have been many proud moments. The first time we worked in the same office. The very first food product we captured and digitized. The great all nighters of 2013. When we almost lost the funding, but got the funding. The fact that we have always been able to pay our employees, no matter what. The very first full-time employee we hired. (Actually, every time we make a hire is a proud moment.)
What’s the biggest challenge to increasing transparency in the food industry?
The transparency revolution that we are part of right now is here to stay — consumers are demanding it. Today, the challenge I hear from within the industry is about how to standardize this push for transparency, whilst still maintaining a healthy dose of differentiation. I think this is natural, and all part and parcel of the evolution of regulation, which is naturally always a little bit behind the demand.
But I’m confident that establishing greater transparency will in fact create greater opportunities for brands to differentiate their products. At Label Insight, we view transparency along a continuum and our job is to help brands understand where they are on this continuum and where they want to go. Using tools like data deconstruction and segmentation, we can find the trends and gaps that brands can leverage to set themselves apart.
You talk with grocery brands and retailers about product data every day. What question(s) do you most often get asked?
Little known fact about you?
I can do a pretty mean Haka (traditional ancestral Maori war cry) that tends to come out every now and then. I can also pretty much word for word recite the ‘95 Rugby World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and England.
Person you’d most like to meet?
Bono for some beers and karaoke.
Want to hear more about Label Insight’s approach to product data? Stay tuned for monthly blog posts by Dagan. From granular attribution and transparency to the latest food industry movements (like clean labels and simple ingredients), he will be sharing perspectives and customer case studies. Sign up now and we’ll send the posts directly to your inbox.