In this ongoing column, The Digest, Entrepreneur.com News Director Stephen J. Bronner speaks with food entrepreneurs and executives to see what it took to get their products into the mouths of customers.
Within about two years, Incredible Foods launched its first product: Perfectlyfree, a dairy-free frozen treat that is also free of other allergens. The line is in 5,000 grocery stores and by the end of next year, the company predicts it will be available on both coasts. But, before the release of Perfectlyfree frozen bites, Incredible Foods wasn't even a food company.
Prior to 2015, the company was known as Breathable Foods and led by founder and inventor David Edwards. He developed a process to encapsulate compounds to help consumers with sleep, anxiety or energy in an edible skin. Think: a grape. Edwards won the backing of venture capital firms including Flagship Pioneering, Polaris Partners and Winona Capital Management. Its first product, Aeroshot Energy, was meant to be a competitor to 5-Hour Energy, but consumers found it confusing and the company was sent a warning letter by the FDA.
Investors, who had sunk millions of dollars into the company by that point, sought the help of Kevin Murphy, who had previously served as the COO of Ocean Spray and was now retired, to evaluate Breathable Foods. Murphy and his partner dropped bad news on the investors: there was little hope for the supplements company. But, they saw the technology's potential in food.
"That same kind of technology could be used to effectively coat or skin a lot of different products of different sizes," says Murphy, who is now Incredible Food's CEO. "This technology packages food like nature would, think of an apple or a grape. Essentially, inside the skin you would have food products absent of bad stuff and free of allergens."
And that's a big deal. Between 1997 and 2011, the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50 percent, according to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistic cited by FARE (Food Allergy Research &; Education). "Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. That's one in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom," according to the group.
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While Murphy says that allergy sufferers are a large potential base of passionate customers, he sees Perfectlyfree appealing to more than just allergy sufferers.
"We position it as smarter snacking," Murphy says. "millennials see the allergen free claim as 'hey, it doesn't have a lot of crap in it.'"
Over a year ending in October, unit sales of Perfectlyfree bites increased by 186 percent, the company says.
Click through the slides to learn about Incredible Foods's ingredients for success, according to Murphy, and what you can learn from them.