Brazi Bites appoints Mike Guanella as CEO, gears up for new product launch in 2019

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Junea Rocha: 'The last three years have been crazy...'
Junea Rocha: 'The last three years have been crazy...'
Brazi Bites – which launched in 2010, hit the big time after an appearance on Shark Tank in late 2015, and sold a majority stake to a private equity firm in July – has appointed former Justin’s president Mike Guanella as CEO, and will launch a new product line in 2019 as it builds a “platform brand for Latin snacking foods.”

Inspired by a savory cheese bread popular in Brazil called pão de queijo, ready to bake Brazi Bites​ are made from tapioca flour, eggs, milk, cheese, and safflower oil, and sold in the frozen snacks or frozen breads categories in 7,000+ stores across the US and Canada, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Costco, Sprouts and Target.

Consumed in Brazil for breakfast or midday snack, they are more typically consumed in the US as dinner rolls, appetizers, afterschool snacks or party food, said Junea Rocha, who cofounded Brazi Bites in Portland, Oregon, 2010 with her husband Cameron MacMullin, and sold a majority stake to San Francisco Equity Partners (SFEP) in July 2018.

The last three years have been crazy​,” said Rocha, who confirmed that revenues in calendar year 2017 had shot up to $12.9m vs $8.6m in 2016, and said 2018 revenues would also demonstrate strong growth.

'The last three years have been crazy'

She told FoodNavigator-USA: "The product is not seasonal, but we do particularly well in holiday season and at any time where people have family or other gatherings, such as the Superbowl, so we're going to have a huge push with our partner retailers around that. There are multiple times during the year where our product can be featured, including the back to school events in September, and celiac awareness month in May."

She added: “We’re at a real inflection point now​. We felt like bringing in a qualified CEO of Mike’s caliber made sense at this stage of our growth, but Cameron and I will continue to be very involved. I’m moving to the CMO position and Cameron will continue to be the company’s COO​. We’ll also be adding to our sales team moving forward.”

Guanella: 'I see a lot of parallels with Justin’s'

Asked what attracted him to Brazi Bites, Guanella said: “I saw Junea and Cameron on Shark Tank and thought they had an awesome product and went out and bought it the next day... By trade I’m a brand guy, and the brand is great and the product is phenomenal.

Mike Guanella Headshot
Mike Guanella: 'The brand is great and the product is phenomenal...'

“You also have founders that have stayed with the business after taking investment, and I see a lot of parallels with Justin’s ​[in which founder Justin Gold remained with the business after selling it to Hormel Foods].”

We’ll be launching at Expo West... it’s a product that’s wildly popular in Latin America

Looking ahead, he said, “There is still distribution headspace for the core product line, but we’re also looking to build a platform brand for better for you Latin snacking foods in the freezer section.”

Rocha added: “We’re going to stay true to the foundation, which is clean label ingredients, delicious, easy and convenient products. Our next product will also be naturally gluten-free and in the freezer section, and is one of my favorite staples also from Brazil and south America. We’ll be launching at Expo West and it’s a product that’s wildly popular in Latin America and in some ways more popular than the cheese bread.

"We've begun showing prototypes and concepts to our key accounts and they are very excited."

Advice to entrepreneurs: Stay laser-focused

Asked what advice she would give other entrepreneurs, Rocha said: "It's a jungle out there, you have to show up to work every day and face the beast, so it's important to stay laser-focused. ​We've been in business for almost eight years with only one product line, but now we're ready to branch out and expand."  

Brazi bites cooked
Ready to bake Brazi Bites are made from tapioca flour, eggs, milk, cheese, and safflower oil
Brazi Bites soft focus


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1 comment

Great article

Posted by Mark Brandt,

As a food marketing major in college and gluten and lactose intolerant adult. Please come out with vegan gluten free products as wel. Best wishes for continued success!

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