Stuck at home… still? The glamor of cooking elaborate meals worn thin? Children, once again, not in school? Welcome to the COVID reality. According to experts, snacking has evolved since the pandemic first struck earlier this year. It has gone from a convenient and comforting experience to a more health-conscious one. Here are just a few snacks that are better for you and the planet, to help you make it through these challenging times.
1. Stryve Foods
Stryve Foods, which describes its product as “the filet mignon of jerky,” has a female CEO and is run by an entirely female office. Jaxie Alt serves as co-CEO along with her cofounder, Joe Oblas. Prior to cofounding Stryve, Alt spent the majority of her career at Dr Pepper Snapple Group, where she led carbonated soft drink marketing with brands that did over $7 billion in retail sales annually.
Stryve’s ecommerce business has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as consumers began staying at home more and trying to stay healthy. And although retail sales dipped from March through May, they increased online and picked up in stores again over the summer. The company donated 50% of its online sales in April to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Over the last few months, they have donated thousands of bags of Stryve Biltong to hospitals and first responders to help them stay fueled during their long, exhausting days.
“I’m personally passionate about health and wellness, so the chance to work on a healthy brand and put a product into the world that can help people feel better and live better is incredibly inspiring to me,” says Alt. “I want to sell a product that I am really proud to give to my family, friends and my kids.”
Alt advises aspiring social entrepreneurs to accept the fact that they are going to make mistakes as they build their company. “It’s OK,” she says. “Fail fast, learn, move forward and be so dedicated to company success that you won’t allow the business to fail because it’s not an option.”
Pipcorn makes better-for-you popcorn and crackers that also taste delicious. Teresa Tsou is not only the cofounder of this new company, but also has a newborn and a 3-year-old at home in quarantine. “I’ve been wanting someone to make my life easier and give me comfort during COVID,” she says. “We want the exact same thing for our customers, which is why we’ve focused on selling online, excellent customer service, and storytelling. We can’t as easily connect with our customers in the physical world, but we can still be there for them in the digital world.”
Coronavirus flipped the Pipcorn business on its head, Tsou says. Through the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, the company leaders laid out a game plan to success. Then the whole world changed! Tsou and her colleagues had to push off major strategic initiatives indefinitely and cancel retail launches. As an emerging brand, they had relied heavily on consumers discovering Pipcorn at the grocery store. Suddenly, they had to shift focus online and figure out how to connect with customers there. They have done so by sharing their authentic story.
In addition, Pipcorn has donated snacks to NY hospital workers and donated funds to various charities helping support families to keep them fed in this difficult time. A donation to Feeding America provided 250,000 meals to food insecure families.
Prior to starting Pipcorn, Tsou was working 100+ hours a week on Wall Street advising large consumer products companies and fashion houses on M&A and IPO activity. While she was making a lot of money, she felt she had no purpose. She reached a breaking point both mentally and physically. So, she quit her job and joined her husband and sister-in-law in launching Pipcorn. “This brand is not only a healthy snack but also one that cares about sustainability – for the planet and for us as founders and the team behind it,” she says.
Even though she is working even more now than when she was on Wall Street, Tsou says her sense of purpose drives her to continue pushing for what she believes in. “I’m proud to say it’s possible to build a successful company while also being authentic, honest, respectful of the earth and good to the people on it,” she says.
3. Country Archer Jerky Co.
Country Archer Jerky Co. is the number one meat snack and jerky brand in the natural and specialty channels. Their snacks are made from 100% grass-fed beef, antibiotic-free turkey and pork, and high-quality, authentic, clean ingredients free of preservatives, nitrites, MSG, gluten, antibiotics and added hormones. In addition, Country Archer works to reduce their carbon footprint, from transportation to sourcing and packaging.
Eugene Kang is the CEO and cofounder of Country Archer. He discovered hand-crafted jerky at the age of 22 on a road trip with his current business partner, and immediately hustled to secure funding.
COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of Country Archer’s business, Kang says. Sales on Amazon peaked as high as +375% versus February daily sales. While eager to keep up with increased demand, the company also was committed to protecting employee safety. Immediately, they implemented rigorous protocols, increased PPE for staff on the production line and increasing paid sick leave. They now keep only minimal, essential staff on site to limit exposure and have put strict social distancing measures in place. In addition, Country Archer has increased pay for staff on-site.
“As a result of these steps, we were able to move to 24/7 production to keep up with the demand,” says Kang. “Even members of our executive team, including myself, have taken shifts on the production line to lend a hand. Additionally, we’ve supported our suppliers and partners in the supply chain by providing trucks to deliver essential goods to supermarkets across the U.S.”
Country Archer has donated to The American Red Cross to help support those affected by the pandemic. In addition, they have provided 500 pounds of product to the Los Angeles Unified School District for “grab and go” sites for the nearly 80% of local children who rely on school meals, and to San Bernardino Community College, which is helping to feed food insecure students and homeless individuals in the local community. The field sales team has made personal deliveries to healthcare workers and first responders on the frontline.
While Kang doesn’t come from a formal business background, he says that entrepreneurship “trickled down” from his immigrant parents, who owned a chain of convenience stores throughout Southern California. “I grew up working in their stores and stocking the shelves,” says Kang. “I was able to see what it took to open something going from the ground up. I also gained great customer service experience.”
Daring is the market leader in clean, plant-based chicken. The company was born to meet a real need. When cofounder and CEO Ross Mackay turned plant-based six years ago, he found himself missing the experience, protein, and versatility of real chicken. Combining his passion for business, health and nutrition with a need for a better product, he turned to his lifetime friend and cofounder Eliott Kessas to help him create plant-based chicken.
“I am personally driven to remove chicken from our food system and challenge the norms associated with the need to produce animal protein for mass consumption,” says Mackay. “Poultry is currently the number one most consumed animal protein in America. By swapping chicken for daring even once a week, people can drastically improve their health and the health of our planet.”
Overall, the COVID pandemic has created even greater awareness of and attention to the food we eat. It has fueled consumers’ growing interest in trimming meat, dairy, eggs, and chicken from our diets to help both their own health and that of the environment. From a short-term commercial standpoint, COVID hasn’t affected this year’s sales numbers for daring. But the company has launched its direct-to-consumer platform, bringing products to everyone, everywhere nationwide.
The company’s daring is caring initiative donates a percentage of sales to game-changers in the food, wellness, and social justice space. From June to July, daring donated 100% of all direct-to-consumer proceeds to The Okra Project, which delivers home-cooked, healthy, and culturally-specific meals and resources to Black Trans community across the country, in addition to the NAACP and Equal Justice Initiative.
5. Safe + Fair
Safe + Fair provides allergy-compromised families with safe, delicious, fairly-priced food. The cofounders, Dave Leyrer and Pete Najarian, both have kids with nut allergies – as do 1 in 12 American families. They were tired of scrutinizing food labels, so they decided to launch their own brand.
The company saw a 300% increase in online sales since COVID-19 hit in March. “Every member of our team donated product to essential workers, hospitals and food banks,” says CEO Will Holsworth, who along with his wife has six children ranging in age from 1 to 27 years old. “ We let them choose how to help in a personal way.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Holsworth offers this advice. “First, figure out something you love and work to do that better than anyone else. Authentic passion is an inherent and irreplaceable advantage. As a father, I can tell you that no one loves my kids more than I do. I know the unique greatness that is inside each of them. Those very same things should be true in the company you start. Second — and this is a bit harder — hire great people and treat them really, really well. Pay attention to who they are, not just what they do. If the last six months have taught us anything, it’s that you really have no idea what tomorrow may bring.”
6. CORE Foods
CORE Foods makes nutrition-rich bars from real protein sources (not isolates) that are also packed with prebiotics, probiotics and fiber. They contain no added sugar and are certified organic, GMO-free, gluten-free and vegan. They’re sold in the refrigerated food section of the grocery store because they contain no preservatives. In response to the COVID pandemic, CORE Foods partnered with the New York Food Truck Association to donate over 10,000 nutrition bars to doctors, nurses, and other first responders at New York City hospitals, including NYU Langone and Mount Sinai.
Brett Hartmann, President and CMO of CORE Foods, says that COVID-19 has impacted all facets of not only operations, but also the personal lives of employees. The company has had to work logistics surrounding shipping delays, which is harder to do with a refrigerated product. At the same time, working from home has allowed him to spend much more time with his family. His three boys helped taste test the new CORE Kids Chewy Granola Bars, which just launched at Target.
Growing up on a farm in rural Illinois, Hartmann noticed a lot of unhealthy packaged foods around the house and in the local grocery stores. He felt a need for healthier alternatives that were less processed but still enjoyable to eat. Now, COVID has pushed health and wellness to the forefront of consumer’s minds. CORE Bars are a quick and easy option for anyone looking for a nutritious snack with functional benefits, plant-based protein, and probiotics.
“My biggest piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to take the leap and don’t be afraid to fail,” says Hartmann. “Once you take that leap and commit to starting a business, you will learn more in the first three months than you ever imagined possible.”
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