Right now, says New York based co-founder Kerry Roberts, you can buy a mound of fresh produce (half of which will probably end up rotting in the fridge) and start peeling and chopping; you can buy multiple bags of pre-cut frozen fruits; or you can buy sachets of smoothie powders, which don’t deliver the same sensory experience as the real thing.
Everipe shelf-stable smoothie kits - which contain a blend of freeze-dried fruits, veggies and chia seeds – make life considerably easier, says Roberts, who teamed up with Toronto-based entrepreneur Greg McMullen in 2017: “You just pour the contents into your blender, add one cup of water or milk and one cup of ice, and blend for 90 seconds.
“Greg had gone through fresh, frozen, and powders and he wanted something with all the convenience of a powder with all the joy of real foods,” she told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Them he stumbled upon freeze-dried technology, which suddenly unlocked all these benefits. It took several months to find a manufacturing partner, develop the packaging and tweak the recipes, and we launched the brand online in January 2019.”
‘We met in the lunchbreak. Within the hour they had invited us to Bentonville’
However, the big break came in June 2019 after a serendipitous meeting at a conference in New York.
“We were just there to learn, but they had a speaker from Walmart talking about how they want to work with emerging brands. We got chatting during a networking break and they took one look at the product, saw it was shelf stable but that it had no preservatives or added sugars, and within the hour they had invited us to [Walmart’s HQ in] Bentonville.”
Everipe will launch in the cereal aisle in 60 Walmart stores in late December, said Roberts, who said Walmart felt the concept had broader mainstream potential beyond the Whole-Foods-type shoppers Roberts and McMullen had originally anticipated might be their early adopters.
“It was so incredible that they took a bet on a company this tiny with an unproven product, but they believed in the concept.”
We were blown away by how collaborative they were
So what was the meeting like in Bentonville? “A complete 180 from everything I’d heard about,” said Roberts, who spent six years in marketing at Kraft Foods earlier in her career before working with scores of CPG brands looking to turn consumer insights into action.
“Whether it was we were incredibly lucky or whether their culture has really changed, I don’t know, but we were blown away but how collaborative they have been. We said to them, if you love the concept, we’ll re-engineer it to make it work at Walmart, and they helped us with everything from the packaging design to renaming a flavor.
“They also said that to be successful on a Walmart shelf we’d need to step away from being 100% organic so our pricing could come down and we could scale. We also have two new flavors that will bring us into a more family friendly space – cocoa-mojo and strawberry bananza.”
The products are debuting at $4.98/pack, a price the founders would like to see drop to $3.98 as they scale, said Roberts. “That’s the one thing we’re most concerned about as we want to be accessible to everyone.”
Freeze-drying: While freeze-drying might conjure up images of space food, or brightly colored soggy bits floating in your breakfast cereal, it’s a technology that’s beginning to attract more attention because it allows fruits to retain their nutrients and flavor, says Roberts.
“Some chefs are using freeze dried fruits and veggies for garnishes in high-end restaurants because you get that burst of intense flavor.”
Under the process, fruits and veggies are frozen immediately after harvest, and then undergo a low-pressure drying process under a vacuum in which frozen water is removed directly as vapor, bypassing the liquid state, enabling the freeze-dried fruits to retain the shape, flavor, aroma, color and most of the nutrition of fresh, whole fruit.
Where is the best place to merchandise Everipe?
As there’s nothing quite like Everipe on shelf, there’s nothing Walmart can compare it with directly when it comes to sales volumes, said Roberts, who noted that the retailer has not set hard and fast velocity targets for the new brand and says it understands that it may take time to find the right placement in store.
“Our buyer is so supportive and her perspective has been, let’s learn about placement. Hopefully this is the right department but maybe there is a better spot in store. The dried fruit section, the produce aisle, the superfoods section with powders and seeds and nuts?”
To support the launch, Everipe will be investing in geotargeted digital campaigns and influencer campaigns and is looking for ways to engage locally via everything from giveaways on radio stations to events in yoga studios.