Back to the Roots raises $2 million to develop new RTE products & growing kits

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Back to the Roots raises $2 million for RTE products, growing kits

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Back to the Roots want to go beyond providing consumers with packaged food that has a simple ingredient list – it wants to give them the exact recipe so they can recreate the product; and big names in the food and tech world want to help the company do it by providing $2 million in seed funding.

“Printing the recipe for Organic Stoneground Flakes cereal on the box is the next phase in the current food movement,”​ in which consumers want to eat healthier, simpler foods with ingredients the can pronounce, said co-CEO Nikhil Arora. He explained that by giving consumers the actual recipe, “we are providing total transparency, and a path back to the root of food”​ and cooking.

He noted that although the ready-to-eat cereal launched less than three months ago, consumers already are sharing stories with the company about how they followed the recipe on the box to recreate the cereal with their children. Bringing people together for an experience, helping them understand where food comes from and how it is made are main goals of Back to the Roots, he added.

Arora is not worried that consumers will stop buying the cereal if they have the recipe. Rather, he said, they will continue to buy it because they trust it and because it is more convenient than making it themselves, which he noted was the genesis of packaged food.

Top food and tech CEO investors, including Annie’s CEO John Foraker, Clif Bar CEO Kevin Cleary and many others, are not worried about it either and gave Back to the Roots $2 million in seed funding to help it achieve its goals and accelerate product development for its Ready to Eat and new Ready to Grow products. The funds also will help Back to the Roots scale retail distribution and integrate its products more deeply in schools, where teachers use the growing kits to educate students about plants and science, Arora said.

A simplified cereal in a simplified package

The whole grain cereal also returns consumers to a simpler time before they worried about eating paleo or gluten-free, Arora said. He explained that the cereal gets to the heart of consumers’ desire for nutritious food, which prompted many to embrace special diets in the first place.

The firm also aims to disrupt the RTE cereal category by introducing a new, more sustainable package. Unlike competitors’ cereal, Organic Stoneground Flakes are packed in a box without an unrecyclable plastic back inside. The box also uses 25% less material than traditional cereal boxes.

The milk-carton shaped custom shaped box also captures consumers’ attention in an aisle filled with all similarly rectangular shaped packages, Arora said. But, he added, the shape has stumped some retailers that don’t know where to put it on the shelf.

A cereal that doubles as a snack

Back to the Roots also is addressing head-on the threat to RTE cereal sales posed by the increasing snacking trend, which has contributed to the category’s flat-lining in recent years.

Specifically, the company is repackaging the flakes in smaller, on-the-go, 100-calorie packs and calling them Stoneground Crisps.

Arora acknowledged the duel packaging and branding was a “big move,”​ and that he is unsure how consumers will respond, but he thinks they will like having options for how to eat the products.

Back to the Roots also is tapping into consumers’ desire to customize food by launching Breakfast Toppers, which are blends of dried fruit, seeds and grains that can be added to yogurt, oatmeal or cold cereal and granola.

The toppers come in three flavors: Dates, Coconut & Chia Seeds; Raisins, Sunflower Seeds & Buckwheat; and Blueberries, Almonds & Buckwheat.

Roots and shoots

Back to the Roots also is getting back to its own roots by launching a new line of Garden-In-a-Can products that include organic basil or cilantro seeds in cans filled with soil, organic fertilizer and biochar for moisture control. Consumers simply open the cans, which double as the plant’s containers, plant the seeds, add water and watch them growth.

The line builds on the firm’s success of its flagship Organic Mushroom Farm kit, which allows consumers to grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home using recycled coffee grounds collected by the company.

The Mushroom Farm and the firm’s other products are distributed in more than 10,000 stores worldwide, including at Whole Foods, Target, Costco and other retailers. 

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