How This Entrepreneur's French Background Helped Him Launch a Risky Food Brand That's a Top Seller Today
Matt Cohen thanks his French background for pursuing what others may have found to be a foolish business: frozen food for kids.
This was in 2007, about a decade before the recent surge in interest and sales in the category, when Cohen's two children were young. Built off the success of a now-closed specialty kids' food store Cohen co-founded in New York City -- "like a mini Whole Foods focused on kids," he said -- Kidfresh launched into retailers in 2009, and now claims to be the top selling better-for-you frozen kids food brand (Conagra's Kid Cuisine still outsells it, according to IRI data), with its products in more than 10,000 stores.
"Being French allowed me to sort of have a romantic view of frozen," he said. "In France, you grow up on frozen, and you can have wonderful cooked dishes that are frozen. There's even a specialty retailer that sells only frozen food in France called Picard's. Frozen is great, it's just a matter of, if you freeze junk, you get junk. But if you freeze a five-star meal you'll get a five-star meal. Frozen is just a mechanism to extend shelf life without any additives and preservatives."
What also makes Kidfresh stand out is the vegetables the brand hides in beloved and popular classic kid meals and snacks, such as its Wagon Wheels Mac ‘N Cheese with carrots, Super Duper Chicken Nuggets with cauliflower and onions and Mighty Meaty Chicken Meatballs with carrots, onions and celery (the brand's top three sellers). It recently debuted mozzarella sticks, burritos and waffles.
Cohen also attributes the success of Kidfresh to its branding, which targets parents, unlike other brands, which uses bright colors and cartoon characters to win over kids.
"In frozen, mom is the purchaser," he said. "Mom has the problem. 'I need to find a solution for my kids that will be healthy and convenient and that my kid will like.' So we talked to the mom."
Kidfresh products are all natural and made with some organic ingredients, but the company decided to go after customers in conventional stores, with prices that average around $3.99.
"We didn't want to go into the premium natural and organic world and offer yet another premium offering," he said. "We wanted the Walmart mom, the Target mom, the Kroger mom, the ShopRite mom, the HEB mom. That allowed us to really build scale, because you had this huge void in frozen."
While that's the core of the brand, Cohen said that he finds it challenging to not pursue opportunities in other areas of the grocery store, such as snacks, refrigerated lunches and beverages.
"It's a matter of prioritizing our path forward and going step by step and making sure that we hit the mark one step at a time," said Cohen, a former management consultant. "There's so much junk out there in other categories, but I just want to make sure we own frozen."