Ventura, who joined the firm in July 2018, taking over from Mark Rampolla (whose venture fund PowerPlant Ventures took a controlling stake in Beanfields in 2017), is exploring up to eight categories where he thinks the brand could play.
“We’re just scratching the surface, Beanfields is a brand that can go in so many places.”
‘There’s a lot of crunch, a lot of noise and big bold flavor as you bite through’
Its latest innovation – vegan cracklins in spicy nacho and chile limón flavors with 4g protein and 3g fiber – take it into the extruded puff space, but with a novel shape, crunch, and bold flavors, said Ventura, who just launched the line nationwide at Whole Foods and is expanding into other retailers from April.
“We’ve got thousands of points of distribution lined up for this year.”
As with all Beanfields products, the #1 ingredient is beans (in this case, navy beans), which deliver fiber and protein, said Ventura, followed by safflower or sunflower oil, cassava flour and chickpea protein (Outstanding Foods’ plant-based pork rinds – which contain 7g pea protein and 1g fiber - feature rice as the #1 ingredient).
“[The cracklins] are not so light and airy [as traditional extruded puffs]; there’s a lot of crunch, a lot of noise and then big bold flavor as you bite through.”
Brand was ‘struggling to stay relevant’
While the core product was strong, the Beanfields brand was “struggling to stay relevant” when he took over, said Ventura, who has stints at multinationals (PepsiCo and Nestlé), fast-growing emerging brands (Califia Farms) and startups (Cobá, which he founded) on his resumé.
“I take everything from everywhere that I’ve been… the processes and discipline from big multinationals, bringing what I call ‘structure light’ from those big companies into an entrepreneurial company… and at the same time apprenticing with Greg Steltenpohl at Califia Farms and seeing how he viewed things and trying to learn from that and apply it here…
“But what works for one brand won’t work for the next brand… so you kind of have to pivot and course correct along the way.”
179% growth in conventional accounts in 2019
At the beginning, he said, his focus was “the people and the culture, making sure we had the right people on the bus, making sure they were in the right seats, and more than anything else, making sure that we were structured with growth mindsets.
“And then quickly it was about what kind of tools and processes do they need … but then we needed to make the brand exciting again and that sent us in to the innovation camp.”
And the work is paying off, he said, with sales growth in the conventional channel surging 179% in 2019, but also strong growth in a variety of channels including on premise accounts.
Today, the brand is in around 8,000 stores, from Whole Foods, Sprouts and Gelsons to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Wegmans, H.E.B., Hy-Vee, and Fred Meyer.