What do a fast-casual restaurant turned bottled beverage purveyor, a caffeinated mint and lozenge brand, and an artisanal salami company have in common? All three CPG brands built resilient, investible business models and solid growth strategies through the FFI Fellows Program (formerly the Wisconsin FaB Cap Accelerator).
Working one-on-one with an expert coach, the founders of Forage Kombucha, Rally Energy, and Driftless Provisions each dug deep into sales, operations, accounting, finance, food safety, marketing, branding, and more. They also learned from their fellow cohort members and gained valuable opportunities through FFI’s extensive network of investors, consultants, and service-provider partners.
Of course, like most growing businesses, all three CPG brands have faced challenges at various points in their lifecycles—from limited production capacity to co-packer issues to COVID-19. But using the tools and resources gained through the FFI Fellows Program, all three have maintained the resiliency and nimbleness to thrive in today’s everchanging food-business landscape.
Forage Kombucha: 2020 Fellows Program
Launched as a healthy fast-casual restaurant Forage Kitchen in 2015, the company began brewing and bottling kombucha two years later. Next, Forage Kombucha expanded into retail, where the beverage took off like crazy, making it tough to keep pace with production. Not finding an adept co-packer, the company secured its own space to self-manufacture.
Both restaurant and CPG sales skyrocketed in 2019, and Forage forecasted even greater growth for 2020—but then COVID-19 happened. Despite the pandemic’s many challenges, this business adapted and continued kicking butt. Tune into Edible-Alpha podcast #92 for the whole story.
Rally Energy: 2020 Fellows Program
Launched as a retail brand, Rally Energy grappled with inventory management and cash flow. Soon founder Matthew Starr realized that the direct-to-consumer channel would make both tasks easier and switched the brand’s focus to e-commerce. Interviewed in Edible-Alpha podcast #66 from early 2020, when many food brands were rapidly pivoting online, Matthew offers keen insights into crafting an effective e-commerce strategy.
Driftless Provisions: 2021 Fellows Program
The charcuterie startup has faced its share of growing pains. After using Kickstarter funds to develop product and dial in a unique brand proposition, Driftless Provisions needed a climate-controlled USDA-certified meat processing facility to cure and dry their salami. Lacking capital, the co-founders went the co-packer route, cycling through a few and even needing to switch mid-pandemic.
Despite the headaches, Driftless Provisions built brand awareness and e-commerce sales in the process. Ultimately, the company landed its own production facility and raised money to purchase equipment. Learn more about this pivot-filled journey in Edible-Alpha® podcast #89.
Is Your Business Next?
FFI is stoked to help even more CPG brands like these in our expanded national Fellows Program. Coming up in 2023, there will be two Food Brand cohorts of 15 businesses each—one from January to July, and the other from June to December. Apply for this FREE opportunity today!
But it isn’t only CPG companies that can benefit from this impactful program. We also host a TAP Cohort for food-related technology, value-added agriculture, and processing businesses. That cohort will kick off in April and run through October 2023, and the call for applications will come soon.
In the meantime, check out our podcasts featuring the inspirational stories of past TAP Cohort members:
- B&E’s Trees Diversifies with Value-Added Brand Embark Maple
- Doudlah Farms Organics Builds a Regenerative Legacy
- T4 Solutions Streamlines Grocery E-commerce
- Clean Beam Advances Food Safety for the 21st Century
- Betterbin Leverages Data to Demystify Recycling
And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…
Business Model Insights
- What revenue management should look like today (NielsenIQ)
Pandemic-era disruptions in pricing and promotions underscore the need to review, remodel, or adjust strategies on an ongoing basis.
- When founders should start taking a salary (New Hope Network)
- Overview of the FDA’s Food Traceability Final Rule (Food Industry Executive)
- Meet the Activator: White Leaf Provisions (Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum News)
Learn how the husband-wife duo behind the nation’s first 100% regeneratively farmed, biodynamic, organic, and glyphosate-free line of family foods secured the capital to launch and scale.
- We’ve just passed the largest investment in climate and clean energy. Here’s how to make the most of it in ag (AgFunder News)
- 5 Key Factors for Emerging Brands to Stand Out to Investors (NielsenIQ)
- Can Food Brands Innovate Their Way Out of Inflation? (Food Industry Executive)
How can a business change its approach amidst unavoidable operational cost increases? Explore innovative operational methods with the potential to transform the value chain.
- Harnessing the Power of Social Media for Good Delivers Brand Trust and Loyalty While Driving Meaningful Change (Sustainable Brands)
- Brand Growth: A Playbook for 2023 and Beyond (IRI)
- Wellness, Self-Expression Drive the Latest Trends in Colors and Flavors (Food Industry Executive)
Comforting colors, feel-good flavors, and unique food and beverage experiences will resonate most in the new year, according to ADM’s latest Flavor and Color Outlook.
- Mintel: What will we be eating and drinking in 2023 and beyond? (Beverage Daily)
- How are US eating patterns evolving and what opportunities are emerging? (FoodNavigator-USA)
Farming and AgTech
- States mull limits on foreign ownership of farmland (Investigate Midwest)
Foreign investors are required by law to report farmland ownership to USDA—but there are big gaps in the data.
- For Young Farmers, Land Access Will Make or Break the 2023 Farm Bill (Modern Farmer)
- A “Farm Powered” Business Model for Scalable Renewable Energy Production from Waste (Forbes)
- Proper Good raises $3.5 million in seed funding (Baking Business)
Co-founders aspire to build a “modern Campbell’s” by offering fully cooked and ready-to-eat oatmeal, soups, chilis, and curries in transparent microwaveable pouches.
- Post is on lookout for M&A deals, CEO says (Food Dive)
- November investments round-up: Significant funding in doing good (New Hope Network)
- Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation Annual Convention Training Session: Manufacturing Resiliency: 12/3
- FFI Level 1 Consultant Training: 12/7
- FFI MVP Series Workshop: Financial & Accounting Processes: 1/15
- FFI Level 2 Consultant Training: 1/18
- FFI Immersion Training: Farm Financial Management Boot Camp: 1/24–1/25, 2/14–2/15
- NOSH Live Winter 2022: 12/1–12/2 in Santa Monica, CA
- BevNET Live Winter 2022: 12/5–12/6 in Santa Monica, CA
- American Seed Trade Association CSS & Seed Expo: 12/5–12/8 in Chicago, IL
- Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance Organic Intensives: 1/7 in East Lansing, MI
- The Winter Fancy Food Show: 1/15–1/17 in Las Vegas, NV
- International Production & Processing Expo: 1/24–1/26 in Atlanta, GA
- Sustainable Foods Summit North America: 1/25–1/26 in San Francisco, CA
- Global Organic Produce Expo: 1/30–2/2 in Hollywood, FL
- The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers Show: 2/1–2/3 in Orlando, FL
- Organic Vegetable Production Conference: 2/3–2/4 in Madison, WI
- UNFI Natural and Conventional Spring and Summer Show: 2/7–2/9 in Orlando, FL
- World Ag Expo: 2/14–2/16 in Tulare, CA
- National Farm Machinery Show: 2/15–2/18 in Louisville, KY
- Marbleseed 34th Annual Organic Farming Conference: 2/23–2/25 in La Crosse, WI
- American Frozen Food Institute AFFI-CON: 2/25–2/28 in San Diego, CA
- Refrigerated Foods Association Annual Conference & Exhibition: 2/26–3/1 in Kiawah Island, SC
- Sierra Harvest Sustainable Food & Farm Conference: 3/3–3/4 in Grass Valley, CA
- International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York: 3/5–3/7 in New York, NY
- Annual Meat Conference: 3/6–3/8 in Dallas, TX
- Natural Products Expo West: 3/7–3/11 in Anaheim, CA