Grainful stands out of the freezer aisle not because of flashy packaging or lofty promises, but because its core starch and grain ingredient—oats—is rarely seen outside of the breakfast space. Its product offering pairs oats with veggies, meats, spices, herbs, and sauces, as one would do with potatoes, rice, quinoa, or pasta: With Thai Curry, Porcini Mushroom Chicken, or Tuscan Bean and Kale, to name a few.
“Brick and mortar distribution has been going very well for us since late 2015. We’ll be in over 1,400 retail locations throughout the United States by the end of the year and we’re also evaluating international opportunities,” co-founder and president Jan Pajerski told FoodNavigator-USA, confirming that the target he had in a previous interview in 2015 is not only on track, but going beyond.
Oats—right under our nose the whole time
While quinoa has been in the spotlight as a trendy alternative to pasta and rice in the US market for the past few years, oats are slowly emerging from the backseat and the breakfast pigeon hole they have been put into for a long time.
“The trend of savory oats has been growing significantly in the past 12 months. We are seeing the emergence of savory oat cafés throughout the nation,” said co-founder and chief food officer of Grainful Jeannine Sacco, who will be sharing her industry expertise and observations at Food Vision USA in Chicago in November. “There is a lot more buzz about oats beyond breakfast hitting the social media platforms so the awareness is growing.”
So much so that the company is seeing a sales velocity exceeding their expectations given the short length they’ve been on shelves.
“Usually sales slow down significantly in the frozen food categories during the warmer months but we haven’t been experiencing that,” Sacco said. “The January to April time frame is traditionally strong for frozen products, but given how young our brand is, demand for Grainful is trending upwards throughout the year.”
Amazon: Navigating the jungle of online retail
Expanding its reach to US consumers, the Grainful team researched the e-commerce channel. “The e-commerce grocery channel will continue to grow and we felt it was important for Grainful to incorporate this channel into our overall sales strategy,” Pajerski said. As of early August, Grainful's entire line of products are now sold on online retail giant Amazon.
“E-commerce gives young brands like Grainful an opportunity to reach a national market and gives early-adopters the ability to purchase our products irrespective of brick and mortar distribution,” he contended. He also added that the platform enables them to test mobile-based promotional and marketing tactics.
Sacco said that online also let them sell in bulk and variety packs straight to consumers, and argued that all these benefits outweigh the cons. “The greatest challenge we came across was determining shipping & packaging costs. The cost of shipping supplies alone can be detrimental to selling frozen products online,” Sacco said.
“You have to source supplies that will maintain the integrity of the product from the time it leaves your facility to the time the consumer opens the package. In addition, shipping rates are expensive. Even with those barriers in mind, we determined that the advantages of selling our frozen entrees online were much greater than the challenges,” she added.
On the horizon: Channa masala and Ranchero Chicken (with oats of course)
After a promising year, the co-founders said that the next 12 months look to be equally exciting. “Our retail footprint will continue to grow coast to coast, we will be introducing line extensions to both our Steel Cut Meals and Steel Cut Sides product lines and we’ve got some awesome brand extensions in the works as well,” Pajerski said.
“We have a pipeline of frozen entrees that we will be ready to launch into the market place by early 2017,” Sacco added. “A couple of flavors we are really excited about are our Ranchero Chicken and Chana Masala among others.”
Who’s driving innovation in the food industry? Head to Food Vision USA 2016 in Chicago on November 9-11, to hear from brands at the cutting edge, from Health Warrior and Quest Nutrition to Grainful and Veggie Fries…