Farmwise moves into the appetizer market with better-for-you mozzarella bites and potato skins
Featuring organic mozzarella cheese blended with finely chopped broccoli and navy beans on the inside (accounting for around 15-20% of the filling) and a crunchy, gluten-free breading on the outside, the new mozzarella & broccoli bites contain 8g protein and 40% less sodium than the leading mozzarella bites brand.
The crispy potato skins, which blend cheddar cheese with finely chopped cauliflower or broccoli, contain 5g protein and 60% less sodium per serving than the leading potato skins brand, said CEO Dave Peters. Both will hit the frozen aisle of retailers including Harris Teeter, Lucky’s Natural Markets, Earth Fare, and independent natural and specialty stores nationwide.
“We did some concept testing on the mozzarella bites and they were off the charts in terms of purchase intent,” said Peters, who founded Farmwise with his wife Cristina in 2014.
“For us the appetizer category was a logical adjacency; the market is dominated by mozzarella sticks and potato skins, and you’ve got families looking for better-for-you versions, so it seemed like a natural opportunity to extend usage occasions for our brand."
Intellectual property and the competitive set
While Farmwise has been growing steadily, its success has inspired frozen vegetable category giants with far deeper pockets to enter the space, in the form of broccoli veggie tots from Green Giant (which aren’t quite the same as they don’t contain potatoes), and ‘veggie made’ cauliflower and broccoli fries and tots from Bird’s Eye (which are closer to the Veggie Fries products).
"For the veggie fries, tots, and rings [featuring a blend of beans, veggies and potatoes], there have been a lot of copycats we've been dealing with, so that business is still growing quite nicely," said Peters.
"But it's become a lot more competitive to get the extra shelf space in the supermarket channel for sure, and growth has slowed a bit, which is why we are broadening our umbrella."
Asked whether the company had any IP that provided any protection against competitor incursions into its territory, he said Farmwise had some trademark protection around Veggie Tots, which had “forced Green Giant to use the term in a very descriptive way,” but said it also had a patent pending on its process and some of the product parameters.
“It's still patent pending, which is so frustrating, as the US Patent and Trademark Office moves so slowly, but if we get our claims, all of the big brands would be in violation of our patents.”
Farmwise - which closed a $4.5m Series B financing round last year led by Cleveland Avenue, the venture capital firm founded by former McDonald’s president Don Thompson - is now working on a series C financing round, said Peters.
Farmwise LLC – which was founded in 2014 by Dave and Cristina Peters – makes healthier versions of frozen food staples such as fries and tater tots by blending beans and veggies with potatoes using a proprietary, patent-pending process.
It has also launched a range of chicken products (pictured left) with added beans and veggies, and is now moving into the appetizers market, said Dave Peters.
"What we do is fuel families with great-tasting and healthier alternatives to America's favorite frozen foods, powered by plants and protein."
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