The first sign that this virus outbreak was going to change the operations and futures of many food startups was probably back in March after the cancellation of the Natural Products Expo West sent shockwaves through the food business community. This is a massive event for many young companies, hoping to gain exposure and meet with potential retailers and investors. This was just the beginning as COVID19 began to send ripple wave of challenges for brands.
Companies are implementing new off-premise and online strategies, having to cancel acceleration programmes where they hoped to gain key investment and are putting their plans for growth in 2020 on hold.
New York-based Beyond Better Foods, Inc, the creator of Enlightened Ice Cream and Bada Bean Bada Boom snacks, is having to delay its plans of innovation, setting short term goals and ensuring it has enough inventory to get through this difficult time. In light of the current situation the company has expanded its online products and is donating half of profits made to its Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
“We’re trying to stay as nimble as possible and adjust forecasts on a much more frequent basis as we adapt to this new reality..We’re listening closely and anticipating the needs of our customers and retail partners.” – Michael Shoretz – CEO.
The founders of Three Wishes, which is a New York based startup, is also ensuring it has enough inventory, by ordering enough stock for 5 months, instead of its usual two months. The startup offers high-protein cereal and has increased its production after seeing a spike in sales.
“Since shelf-stable products are currently in high demand, we’ve been fortunate enough to see an increase in sales,” – Margaret Wishingrad, co-founder.
LA-based Koia, that offers plant protein beverages, is rethinking all parts of its business and team.
“We have quickly redeployed our field marketing team and budget to assist in the increased digital marketing activity and retail delivery options.” – Christopher Hunter, CEO.
Many companies similar to the ones above have also seen increases in demand and sales, companies based online as well as non-perishables like cereals and those based around health and wellness have all been flourishing in the current climate.
VMG Partners was founded in 2005 and supports and fosters companies that produce better-for-you food, beverage and personal care products.
“Our firm was built during the most formative years of the financial crisis, so we were working with our brands and entrepreneurs to navigate that difficult time, and we’re very much in business today in terms of supporting the broader ecosystem of entrepreneurs, our own companies and continue to be open to supporting new companies and brands into our VMG family,” – Wayne Wu, general partner at VMG Partners
After the cancellation of Expo West many companies have been offering free services or discounts to small brands to help them stay alive at this time. Retail buyers have offered to receive pitches and schedule meetings with exhibitors and software companies are giving discounts to restaurants to help them move online quickly and offer takeaway or contactless-free services.
“Folks are coming together to share real-time knowledge right now in navigating a very uncertain time” – Wu.
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