In Edible-Alpha® podcast #33, Tera interviews Matt D’Amour, now of Tribe 9 Foods. Matt was the first guest on the Edible-Alpha podcast, when Matt’s company Yumbutter was in trial at Target stores. Since Tera last talked to Matt, Yumbutter is in full distribution in Target, something Matt credited to grassroots marketing efforts that paired with store-led marketing in addition to having brokers who know how to work with buyers at Target to advocate on Yumbutter’s behalf.
Matt and the team were also fundraising while supporting their national launch. They ended up using conventional bank financing (lines of credit) to support their growth, later merging with RP’s Pasta and Ona Treats to form Tribe 9. They also secured growth capital to bring manufacturing in-house for all three brands, something that has allowed them to have control over batch timing, batch size and product quality. In addition, in-house production allows them the flexibility to try new things and have a co-packing line of business for their core product types (nut butters, pasta, bars).
Their co-packing capability pairs well with their national brand business model because they are able to produce food for the fast growing private label category. In addition they allow large food manufacturers to test innovative packaging/product ideas and they have the experience and quality facility that other up and coming national food brands need to operationally scale up and succeed in today’s crowded marketplace. Yumbutter’s team brings experience in branding/marketing and RP’s team brings experience in innovative food manufacturing and food safety protocols, allowing them to combine flexibility with economies of scale while serving multiple types of customers with their co-packing service. Their facility is designed for small batches and is state of the art. It includes the capability to produce gluten-free foods, fill nut butter pouches, fill individual and industry/bulk jars, extrude and fill pastas, and freeze using the IQF method, giving them diverse and unique competencies.
Matt detailed that merging the three companies has not been without challenges, but that their combined experience has allowed them to innovate and even launch a new brand (Taste Republic®) to fully spotlight their gluten-free products. Their team has learned how to own what they are good at and stop doing what they are not good at, all while keeping the focus on the customer and responding to the marketplace. Matt reflected that it is getting more expensive to do business and everyone is looking for new and innovative ways to make and market food. He sees some food companies going deep with niche communities online and direct-to-consumer before or instead of going into traditional retail grocery stores. Tribe 9 is always looking to be flexible and nimble, diversifying as the market changes and as everyone tries to figure out a more sustainable way to produce and distribute high quality food.