3 Food Brands Build Resiliency as FFI Fellows

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:

And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…

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