Back then, Matthews told delegates at Rabobank's recent FoodBytes! pitch competition in Chicago, "If you were looking for a high protein waffle, there was only our product and one [high protein] SKU of Vans Power Grain waffles. Today, there is a slew of competitors in this space, which has validated our strategy and driven a lot of consumers down the frozen breakfast aisle.
"Two years ago we built our production facility that allowed us to increase capacity and improve the quality of our product. Now that manufacturing is in place and we have a national distribution partner in KeHE, we've seen tremendous traction in our home market in St Louis where we've really invested in brand awareness and velocity, which has driven up our sales by 200% year over year.
"We started this year with 300 stores, and by the end of Q1 2020, we'll be in over 1,000."
While it might sound niche, a more nutritious breakfast waffle is a pretty mainstream product with a wide potential audience, appealing to everyone from kids to millennial moms, Rood told FoodNavigator-USA before Matthews geared up to go on stage.
"We wanted to create something easy and convenient to make in the morning for anyone that has a hectic morning schedule.
"And you know who has a hectic morning schedule? It's moms. So we've really targeted communities where moms have younger kids and want to feed them something they won't feel guilty about, but also sustains them nutritionally and the kids will eat. I've yet to find a kid that doesn't love our waffles, which is awesome."
Start Right has deployed multiple strategies to reach these consumers, partnering with a gym called Burn Boot Camp that attracts a lot of fitness-oriented millennial moms; youth athletes through the United Soccer League; and the St Louis arm of nonprofit Girls on the Run, which encourages young women to engage in activities that boost their health and wellbeing, from running to life skills.
To date, the business has been funded by cash from friends and family and one equity investor, and is now hoping to raise new capital to fuel its expansion.