If I Owned an Equity Firm, I Would Invest in These Food Brands

09.13.17 / Diana Fryc

The current marketplace is filled with darling brands – like KIND, Plum Organics, and Patagonia. People expect something new and innovative from these brands because of their consistent success over the years. However, we forget that most of these brands started out at the kitchen table or in the garage – all on shoestring budgets.

One of my early roles here at Retail Voodoo was in client development. I have walked many a tradeshow floor and seen many interesting products and brands over the years. I enjoy watching unknown brands that started off as one person in the back of a tradeshow grow into household brands (EPIC, FitBit, Applegate Farms and Justin’s being a few favorites). As you attend enough of these shows, see enough products, and talk to enough founders, you get a good sense for who’s about to break out.

Let’s talk biohacking. A fairly new trend, it turns natural, health and wellness on its head while the marketplace emerges from an era where raw diets and clean foods were the hot new “front pagers.” Biohacking takes healthy living and food one step further than these trends. It breaks down raw, clean foods into a mineral or even molecular level, and then designs a regimen that captures all those “best items” to shape the perfect diet. We all know people who geek out over this – they are the ones that tell you the antioxidants from this specific plant combined with the minerals from this specific animal, fused together in a blended drink with caffeine, is the best way to do X, Y, and Z (from jump-starting your brain activity, allowing you to focus better, grow your muscles faster, etc.). For control freaks (we know who you are) this is the diet lifestyle du jour.

The brands leading the way have made biohacking far more approachable and so much easier to understand and adopt.

BulletProof

This darling brand leads the way in the biohacking movement. Dave Asprey – part nutritionist, part life coach – truly walks the walk. He is committed to making sure his product connects with the lifestyle of an active biohacker or the atypical overachiever. With purposeful mission and passion, this brand stands on the precipice of massive growth.

Soylent

Who else thinks of the funky 70’s movie, “Soylent Green,” your college sociology professor probably made you watch? Thinking the brand named itself after this movie weirds me out a bit, but I see what they are doing by leaning into the science fiction nature of their product. It’s risky – if played wrong, it could be a failure of a gimmick. However, since the brand doesn’t shy away from the scientific nature of their meal replacement products, it works. In fact, they’re unapologetically GMO. This brand has legs, but it needs more time to get over the hurdle of “what is this.” While the company received a recent investment/capital infusion, I have yet to see them making the marketplace impact that they have the potential to do. A little brand strategy love could really crank their engine and set them up for takeoff.

Eating Evolved

Many of us aren’t a target for biohacking, until we are. We love our food, and stick with our regular eats. That’s why Eating Evolved takes a food I already love (like chocolate) and changes the conversation by making it functional. This type of product will have a harder time being taken seriously because, come on, can chocolate actually be good for you? Apparently – yeah it can. It’s just that most giant candy brands have hijacked the good-for-you ingredients, watered them down, and turned them into junk. Eating Evolved flips that on its head and gives consumer permission to take a new look at “forbidden” favorites with new eyes.

The biohacking space is still in its infancy. I see entrepreneurs and investors very excited about the possibilities in this space. However, for many Americans, these brands are a bit far away from something they’re willing to try – yet. Early adopters (and control freaks) jump headfirst into this new space, while the rest of consumers are simply looking for life to be a little easier (particularly when on-the-go).

These next brands make eating yummy food easy and healthy without too much of a learning curve. Foods in a bottle, on a stick, in a tube, or injected (you know that’s coming…) are not new concepts – but the caliber of product and ingredients are changing and improving quickly.

PowerICE

I LOVE this product. I first found them at Outdoor Retailer about four years ago. It’s essentially natural Gatorade in Otterpop form. Are you kidding me? Why isn’t this product exploding? With some solid research, they could identify their future brand evangelists. Get this in front of the right audience, and this product will explode. Someone needs to buy this brand and give them the nudge they need.

Tio

I met this founder sitting on the floor at EXPO West a couple years back. This guy hustles – handing out samples and talking to everyone that will listen. Not only does he have passion, but he also has a near-perfect product. Drinkable, cold soup is healthy, easy, and portable. It just needs some brand strategy and financial backing to see great success in the marketplace.

Bonafide Provisions

This brand seems to have the traction Tio hasn’t quite yet by leveraging the bone broth craze. Not only is it healthy, but it makes the concept of bone broth very approachable by adding vegetables and creating flavor profiles that consumers easily recognize. The Bonafide brand is ready for the big leagues and I believe this drinkable soup should be picked up by one of the House of Brands.

Here’s the real reason why I am watching these guys: they don’t just have an innovative product; they have a brand. Yes, some of them could use a little more TLC to go big time, but there is legitimate opportunity for these brands to grow. The brands have passion for the product and consumer, not just the sale. I think they have the DNA of brands that could become the next Wheaties under the loving guidance of the right parent.

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