“For kids and families who are dealing with severe food allergies, it is significant for everyone in the house because it is microns of the protein that can create an anaphylactic reaction, and you can die from it every single time. And while EpiPens are there to try to shock your system out of shutting down and they work almost all of the time, sometimes they don’t. So, finding food that is safe is a profound issue,” said Will Holsworth, CEO of Safe + Fair.
It is also difficult because there are so few products – across all categories – that are certified or guaranteed as allergen-free all the way up the supply chain, he explained. Adding insult to injury, many of the limited products that are guaranteed allergen-free often come with a price premium to cover the extra cost of safety checks and certification.
For the co-founders of Safe + Fair, who have family members that struggle with severe allergies, this double whammy didn’t seem right. So, with Holsworth’s help last year they launched a business aimed at creating products that didn’t compromise on safety or taste and which were priced fairly.
The young company decided to start with kid-friendly foods, and in particular products that can easily be packed for school in part because eating lunch away from home can be scary and ostracizing for children, Holsworth said.
“The lunch room for most kids is the best part of the day because you get to hang out with kids you like. But if you have a food allergy, you have to sit somewhere else that is safe for you and you have to eat foods that look really different” with warnings all over the packaging about what is not inside, Holsworth explained.
New products focus on school snacks
To make lunch a little easier, the company is launching five new snacks that are, as the name implies, safe for those who suffer from nut allergens and fairly priced. These include two types of Abby’s Cookies – chocolate chip and shortbread – Gavin’s Granola, and cinnamon and honey versions of Remy’s Grahams. The snacks come in 1.2 ounce packages that easily pack into lunches and sell for $14.99 for a box of 36 bags.
While the bags clearly indicate that the snacks are safe for those who suffer from nut allergies, they also have “beautiful branding design to make it look like a food that everyone will want to eat,” Holsworth said.
The snack foods extend the company’s existing portfolio of macaroni and cheese and cake mix, but is still only the beginning of what Safe + Fair wants to offer, Holsworth said.
He explained: “Families with food allergic members need lots of things – not just snacks. When you talk to them, they can only eat a very few things that are certified or guaranteed safe,” which, might mean eating the same noodles and single sauce for 20 years because there are no other products in which they feel confident, as in the case of one of the company’s board members, Holsworth said.
As such, he explained, the company wants to expand into “obvious categories for families that don’t otherwise have the ability to interact with those foods.” This will include a line of chips that will launch in eight weeks, a granola that is free from the top eight allergens, six pasta sauces and eventually “things like soup, pizza, ice cream, Asian meals that can be made at home and more,” Holsworth said.
“Our goal is getting people into lots of different day parts where they can continue to have different foods” while still enjoying the same convenience as families without allergies, he said.
The young company also sets itself apart from the competition by offering all these choices at a price point that families can afford, Holsworth said.
“People shouldn’t have to pay more for good food and they certainly shouldn’t pay more for food that will keep them and their children safe,” he said. Unfortunately, he noted, many times they have no choice because the cost of producing safe foods is higher and that is often passed on to the consumers.
Safe + Fair, however, plans to tighten its margins so that it can offer its products at a price point that is comparable to category leaders, Holsworth said.
“It costs us quite a bit more to make safe products – we have 14 pages of allergen testing protocols that we employ in every facility. But we don’t charge for that, and we don’t charge for having clean label, non-GMO certified food … because we believe families should have really wonderful food at a price that is fair to them,” he explained.
The company hopes that this ethos will help it win consumers’ loyalty so that as it scales its offerings across categories, they will fill their pantry with its products – allowing it to earn a profit on volume, Holsworth said.
“The American consumer is smarter and smarter and more educated about their food and how it is produced, so I think that the costs we absorb right now with the allergen testing and clean label food, over time will work to our benefit. People will look at us and say, they are making good honest, clean label food,” he said.
By keeping the price down, Holsworth said the company increases the chances that school districts will more easily be able to swap in its products for the conventional alternative it currently buys. This not only would be a boon for business, but could lead to children being able to safely eat together, which is a win for family and friends.
New branding on the way
As if the company’s breakneck product launch timeline were not enough to manage, it also is in the process of revamping its packaging and website so that it has a more streamlined look across categories, Holsworth said.
“We are trying to focus more on our Safe + Fair on the packaging than other things,” Holsworth said, explaining: “We want to create a degree of clarity around the name,” and at the same time create an “alchemy” in the design that allows it to work well across categories and target demographics.
One of the changes will be to remove the ‘good to give’ callout at the top of the current packaging, he noted. However, it will not remove the message’s ethos from the brand.
The company will continue to donate 3% of its proceeds to the Sean N Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research to help advance the investigation for cross-contamination mitigation strategies, Holsworth said.
The new website also will feature developing research related to allergies with the goal of becoming a resources for families who want to know more, he added.