We’ve been asking and asking, is fat really back? “Fat is back! The growing acceptance of fat as a necessary part of a healthy diet is really helping with the overall trend towards avocado oil,” Natalie Morse, marketing director of San Diego-based Chosen Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
The company’s portfolio includes a wide range of goods from organic white quinoa to chia bite snacks to coconut oil spray. But it’s the company’s avocado cooking oil and other avocado oil-based products that drove Chosen Foods’ growth, which earned it the number five spot for food and beverage companies in the Inc. 500 list, and company number 47 overall.
“With fewer than 30 employees today and a humble start just five years ago, Chosen Foods now shares a pedigree with Intuit, Zappos, Microsoft, Suja, and other notable alumni,” the company said in a press release.
What does it take to be an Inc. 500 company?
Chosen Foods CEO Steve Gallo said that in 2016, the company added 100% more jobs than the previous year and “reached a goal of product distribution in more than 24,000 retail stores across the US & Canada.”
Inc. reported that the company experienced a three-year revenue growth of 5,146.8% and made revenue of $31.7m in 2015. Morse attributed all his growth to ingenious, novel products—an array of cooking oils and spreads based around avocado oil, including a cooking spray and mayonnaise.
“There are old fats getting well deserved attention, like grass-fed butter and coconut oil, but avocado oil could be considered a fairly new fat,” she said.
“We've really been able to carve out a new cooking oil category with naturally refined avocado oil that didn't exist even three years ago. Before Chosen Food brought our avocado oil to Costco, the market was small and boutique,” she added. “We were able to bring it mainstream through Costco and now more than 24,000 other retail locations.”
Plant-based and mission-driven
Two fundamental aspects of the company fit squarely with two booming trends: Growing demand for plant-based products, a category which SPINS estimated to have reached $4.9bn in US retail sales in the year to June 12, 2016, and appreciation for companies that are mission driven at its core.
In Inc.’s summary of the brand, it stated that the company “supplies cooking oils, spreads, and snacks made from sustainably grown ingredients.”
Morse described Chosen Foods’ business model as vertically integrated. “Members of our Board of Directors have significant influence and control over the supply chain of Hass Avocados in Mexico that are used for avocado oil,” she said.
“We’ve essentially built a co-op agreement with our farmers—we don’t own the land, but create partnerships around our agricultural resources like avocados (and more). It’s a strategic alliance that allows farmers an autonomous and independent operation, but creates sustainable and fair-trade contracts for their raw material.”
Using all parts of the avocado
Additionally, the whole avocado is used during the production process. “We have a processing facility in Mexico, over 100,000 sq ft, that is as close to the harvest location as we can get,” Morse said. “This allows us to be in contact with fruit as soon as it comes off the tree. By-products of our production, from the pit and the skin are used to create renewable energy that powers parts of the facility.”
“Gaining such fast and widespread distribution and having the vertical integration necessary to keep up with demand while we scale were key,” Morse added. “And timing is a factor—consumer demand for affordable, accessible healthy food products is skyrocketing and we are meeting the need.”