'It’s more about a lifestyle and philosophy of eating ...'

Soozy’s raises $2.5m: ‘We’re not sure what the shelf-life of the Paleo trend will be, but the philosophy behind it is here to stay’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Soozy's at the Winter Fancy Food Show in January this year
Soozy's at the Winter Fancy Food Show in January this year

Related tags Gluten free products

If some of the trends Soozy’s is tapping into – Paleo, gluten-free, grain-free – lack universal appeal, its broader philosophy of “clean eating,” minimally processed foods with “ingredients you can pronounce” and no “fillers, stabilizers and additives,” resonates with mainstream shoppers, say the founders, who have just raised $2.5m in a seed round led by BIGR Ventures and AccelFoods.

Soozy’s uses a gluten-free flour blend (almond, arrowroot, coconut), combined with eggs, coconut cream, coconut sugar and coconut oil, to create its super-moist, dairy-free muffins, which are sold in the frozen case in 500 stores including Wegmans and H.E.B.

Early adopters of the brand – which has gluten-free, Paleo and Non-GMO Project Verified certifications – have been the “Paleo, gluten-free, grain-free, Crossfit crowd​,” but the core branding (‘clean, delicious, mindful’) is far more inclusive, cofounder Mason Sexton told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Paleo feels a little niche at times and while it’s on trend now we don’t know what the true shelf life is. But the philosophy behind it is here to stay, eating real, less processed, nutrient dense foods, foods that go bad.”

Co-founder Susan Chen added: “We’re in the better for you category.”

While not all nutritionists might agree that a product with no grains and high levels of saturated fat from coconut oil and cream is necessarily a healthier choice than a wholegrain muffin made with, say, canola oil; Soozy’s muffins contain 3-4g of fiber and 4g protein and feature a clean label with no gums, fillers, stabilizers and additives, explained Chen.

“It’s more about a lifestyle and philosophy of eating that’s about real foods and less processed foods.”

Rethinking the frozen aisle

But are non-celiac consumers – who are increasingly shopping the ‘fresher’ store perimeter – looking for baked goods in the frozen aisle?

“The reality is that when you bake something, every minute that it is at room temperature it is degrading in taste and texture unless it’s been laced with preservatives,” ​said Sexton, who launched the brand with Chen in late 2017 and notes that overall sales volumes of frozen food have rebounded this year, while many natural and organic brands were performing well in this segment even when the overall category was struggling.

“When you freeze you’re locking in the freshness and the nutrients in the way that you lose when things are left out at room temperature. I think people are realizing that with produce, but it’s an education process in baked goods, so we’ve played around with straplines like frozen is the new fresh.”


Soozys muffins

Soozy’s​ has three muffins on the market (sweet potato, wild blueberry, and double chocolate) and plans to launch three more shortly (matcha green tea, coffee cake, banana chocolate).

It uses a gluten-free flour blend (almond, arrowroot, coconut), combined with coconut cream, coconut sugar and coconut oil to create the base for super-moist muffins with no grains, dairy, soy, gums, fillers, stabilizers and additives.

Ingredients, Soozy’s sweet potato muffin: ​Soozy's Flour Blend (Blanched Almond Flour, Arrowroot Flour, Organic Coconut Flour), Cage Free Whole Eggs, Maple Syrup, Filtered Water, Sweet Potato Puree, Pumpkin Puree, Organic Coconut Sugar, Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Dried Orange Peel, Paleo Baking Powder (Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate, Cream of Tartar), Sea Salt, Cracked Black Pepper.  

The sweet potato muffin contains 160 calories, 3g fiber, 4g protein and 11g sugar; while the more indulgent double chocolate SKU has 220 calories, 4g fiber, 4g protein and 15g of sugar and 9g of saturated fat (owing to the coconut oil and cream and the cocoa butter).

Sometimes early success can be a curse if you don’t plan the next 18-24 months the right way

Chen and Sexton – who both have backgrounds in the finance industry but are new to food - said the $2.5m cash injection would help boost distribution and support the launch of three new SKUs: matcha green tea, coffee cake, banana chocolate.

Asked what AccelFoods and BIGR Ventures brought to the table aside from money, Sexton said: “Operational experience.As you’re really starting to pick up and gain traction, one of the challenges with any start-up is how to scale.

“We’ve got a background in finance so we know how to run the numbers, but we’ve never run a food company before, and sometimes I think early success can be a curse if you don’t plan the next 18-24 months the right way. We wanted to work with people that had been there and done that and had experience in the gluten-free market so we felt the domain knowledge and expertise that directly correlates to our space was incredible.

“But it’s about everything from financial forecasting and modeling, to margin growth and dealing with retailers.”

Chen added: “With every conversation BIGR and AccelFoods really helped sharpened our blades, helped us start thinking more outside the box. I think when it comes to planning some entrepreneurs can think very short term and some can think too long term, but we’ve realized that you need to be super flexible.”

Founded by Jordan Gaspar and Lauren Jupiter, New York based AccelFoods​ is an investment fund targeting innovative, high-growth packaged food and beverage companies including Bandar, Bear Squeeze, Brami, Harmless Harvest, Kidfresh, Koia and Jica Chips.

Founded by industry veterans Carole Buyers, Duane Primozich, and Bill Weiland, Boulder-based BIGR Ventures​ is a growth equity fund targeting early-stage natural and organic products including Hope Foods, Bonafide Provisions and Bobo’s Oat Bars.

Buyers, who has joined Soozy’s board of directors, said Soozy’s was well placed to cash in on the grain-free trend: “We see the opportunity in grain-free today as very similar to gluten- free ten years ago. Soozy's is exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on this emerging market.”

Soozys baked goods

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