Strong Roots wants a seat at the main table of frozen food, says founder

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Strong Roots wants a seat at the main table of frozen food, says founder

Related tags: Frozen food

After completing a $18.3m Series A round led by New York-based private equity firm Goode Partners LLC, plant-based brand Strong Roots is ready to take a seat at "the main table of frozen [food]" replacing conventional brands for consumers, founder Sam Dennigan said.

"The objective is to be a major player in a relatively short space of time,"​ Dennigan told FoodNavigator-USA. 

Strong Roots​ will generate $50m in sales this year and is on track to hit $300m by 2023, the company said. 

The company was founded in 2015 when it was first launched in Ireland and later the UK market. The brand has expanded its global presence to the US, Singapore, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar. To date, Strong Roots has sold over 8 million products worldwide. 

In the US, the brand is available in about 1,500 stores including Target, Wegmans, and Whole Foods Market and will enter another 1,500 by the end of Q1 2020, according to Dennigan.

“In an impressively short amount of time, Sam has built an exciting brand that resonates with consumers’ increasing preferences towards healthful and environmentally sustainable foods,” ​said Dan Bonoff, a partner at Goode. Goode Partners has previously invested in multiple 'disruptive' food brands including Dave's Killer Bread and La Colombe.

'The hard work starts now'

Despite gaining significant growth in a short amount of time, Strong Roots is still in its infancy with a lot of runway ahead of it, Dennigan said. 

Kale  Quinoa Burger_StrongRoots
The kate & quinoa burger has become the brand's top-selling SKU in the US.

"The hard work starts now really,"​ said Dennigan. 

The company will use the $18.3m investment to fuel its next stage of growth, which includes becoming a nationally-recognized frozen food brand.

"We want to make sure everybody knows who we are and where we are, and making sure we can back up retailers' efforts,"​ Dennigan said. "The most important thing for us is that when we get on the shelf, and it keeps moving off the shelf."

According to Dennigan, retailers of all sizes have been expanded their assortment of Strong Roots products from one or two SKUs to five, six, and seven SKUs.

"In some cases, we’ve actually extended the existing range for next year already with NPD (new product development) because of the appetite for the product,"​ said Dennigan.

Speaking to the consumer

Strong Roots has ambitions of being a nationally-recognized frozen food brand in the US while wanting to maintain its "thrifty, startup mindset"​ to take on some of the biggest names in the frozen food category.

"We want a seat at the main table of frozen because that’s occupied by some of the biggest food companies in the market. If you look at the likes of Birdseye, Green Giant, and Morningstar Farms, those brands aren't always speaking to a new generation of shoppers that are coming through,"​ he said. 

Spinach-Bites

The "new type of consumer"​ Dennigan is referring has responded strongly to Strong Roots' "simple, real food"​ brand messaging. In addition, Strong Roots' nascent status within the category is working in the brand's favor, said Dennigan, because the company is much closer to its consumer audience and is able to tap into their wants and needs.

According to AFFI's Frozen Food Report, consumers are frequenting the frozen food aisle more than ever viewing it as an area to try new things and experience different taste profiles. While entrees still account for the largest segment of the frozen foods category, appetizers/snacks (+5.8%) and breakfast food (+5.7%) have registered the most dollar growth within the past year, 

The top sellers

These trends work in Strong Roots' favor as the brand's portfolio includes breakfast as well as main and side dish options including cauliflower hashbrowns, kale & quinoa and beetroot & bean burgers, and mixed root vegetable fries. 

Strong Roots' top-selling SKUs in the US market have been its kale & quinoa burger (#1), the beetroot and bean burger (#2), and cauliflower hashbrowns. Even its veggie burgers are being used by consumers as both a main and side dish, according to Dennigan. 

While Strong Roots is seeking to make a name for itself within the frozen food category, it is exploring other categories as well. 

"Now we're looking outside of even frozen, to see where the brand can fit the consumer. There's also opportunity within chilled, ambient, snacking, the lunchtime convenience market. We'll be looking at it all,"​ said Dennigan. 

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