The accelerator will continue to focus on mentoring brands in the natural channel, founder and president of SKU Shari Wynne Ressler told FoodNavigator-USA. “The natural channel is something we really enjoy, and something we expect to continue growing,” she said.
Another factor that will make applicants a stronger candidate to join the program is having a product that sells both online and on store shelves. The accelerator has already recruited companies based on their online presence and sales performance, as well as conducted online-channel mentoring programs, “but it’s something I believe we’ll be developing more strongly in our next track,” Ressler added.
Applications are open now, and close on November 20. Though the program’s past participants have included consumer goods ranging from rock-climbing chalk to phone cases to cowboy boots, food and beverage brands make-up the majority of SKU alumni, which include EPIC Provisions.
Nuts, gum, empanadas: Wrapping up the fifth track
SKU wrapped up its Track 5 program back in May this year. Six of the seven companies in that track were food and beverage brands, and included gluten-free empanadas Cocina 54, Mexican meat snacks El Norteño, ‘wrapped’ cashews Karma Nuts, clean label chewing gum Real Good Gum, organic lemonade brand Shade Tree, and soul food-inspired Soul Popped RTE popcorn.
Genevieve Gilbreath, SKU’s managing director, described the past track as "incredibly successful," adding that the mentorship program helped one company revamp its brand and packaging, which in turn attracted the attention of a major retailer.
“They came in with a product selling in a few stores…and now they’ve gotten a big chain that’s bringing them in,” she said.
A community-centered accelerator
A lawyer by training, Ressler started the accelerator because she saw that CPG brands didn’t have the same mentoring opportunities that tech companies and start-ups did.
“My motivation was the 20 years or so that I have working with entrepreneurs,” she said. “The technology companies were getting access to mentors, and money, and things they needed, and I really wanted to start one for entrepreneurs in consumer goods.”
Ressler said that the accelerator was originally designed to increase economic development of Austin, so its model is community-centered. “The people that are participating in the accelerator are very invested in learning and continuing what they do in the community,” she said.