Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after closing a Series B $15m funding round led by Manna Tree, Burke said, "We very much see ourselves as a clean eating platform brand at this point. And to be completely candid, I never envisioned that to begin with," noting that September 2021 will mark his ninth year of building the brand.
"We’ve mostly gone at it alone, and most of what we’ve learned is like drinking water from a fire hose," Burke told FoodNavigator-USA.
"We have 33 products with national distribution across 6,000 to 7,000 stores, and it’s great foundation that we’ve built, but to have a value-added partner with a proven track record of growing brands that can see a little further over the mountaintop and can join us on the journey, we think is invaluable at this point."
"Starting with its signature meat snack products, The New Primal has proven that it can expand across categories with the same, fresh flair that has made its sauces, seasoning, and condiments a success in the sector," said Pam Shepherd, managing director, Manna Tree.
From three to 33 products
The New Primal has gone from selling three to 33 products over the past three years, 12 of which were launched last year in the middle of the pandemic including a carrot ketchup, a dijon mustard, smoky BBQ sauce, three varieties of ranch dressing, two additional kids snacks (Snack Mates Bites), and four dry seasonings.
Perhaps the company's biggest a-ha moment that it could extend into other categories happened when one of Burke's colleagues took home a gallon-sized jug of its marinades used for R&D purposes to flavor its jerky products.
"It turned out that the marinade we were making was a really great base recipe for an all-purpose marinade and cooking sauce you could use at home," said Burke, who sent it out to a regional Whole Foods buyer to try.
"He loved it, and essentially the first three products we launched on a national scale were those three marinades," said Burke, who was asked by Whole Foods if the brand had any other category-adjacent product launches in the works in its innovation pipeline.
"Our go-to-market strategy has been asking, ‘Where is the consumer being underserved?’ and let’s launch first with Whole Foods because that’s where our consumer shops. And then we rinse and repeat that," he said.
Jason Burke founded The New Primal nine years ago.
'It can get boring eating clean'
Burke attributes much of the success of its growing portfolio of sauces, marinades, dressings, and seasonings, to consumers craving variety and flavor in their meals.
"Variety is what we all run up against. It can get boring eating clean," he said. "What we've heard from consumer is, we’re making healthy eating less boring and more flavorful, and just easier. You can use the staples as the night before and just sauce it differently or season it differently."
Among the brand's most popular product launches with consumers has been its dry seasonings line introduced in the fall of 2020, noted Burke.
"Those have performed really well, and we’re really excited about our entry into that category and our ability to extend further," he said.
Kids snacks: 'There's significant traction'
Since launching its Snack Mates line roughly two years ago, in response to consumer feedback from parents who were asking for a kids-sized version of its original meat snacks products, The New Primal has seen strong growth and demand for kids line.
"Those [Snack Mates] have gained significant traction. Our turkey meat snack is our No. 1 selling item at Whole Foods, and it’s also a top seller at Kroger," said Burke, who is excited to get a do-over of its latest two product innovations for the kids line, Snack Mates Bites.
"We’re going to get a redo on that launch because we didn’t gain that trial and awareness that we were hoping for in last year's back-to-school season," he said.
"We’re excited about the future to extend on the kids snack line."
'Everyone performs multiple jobs on our team right now'
With product innovation and a renewed focus on establishing itself as a clean-eating platform brand, Burke said that the most immediate use of funds from its Series B funding round will go towards building its core team to support all areas of the business from accounting and back office management to sales and marketing, Burke said.
"Everyone performs multiple jobs on our team right now, so adding more people is the absolute first priority. We’ve actually hired five people in that last 10 days in anticipation of this deal," he said.
"We're going to build out our accounting and internal sales teams. We have a very under-resourced sales team and a lot of products in a lot of retail accounts that we think deserve better account management and a bit more nurturing and attention."