“In the beginning of this year, we really took off like a rocket ship and got into a lot of new stores,” said founder and CEO Jeanne David, who sells her low-carb, keto-friendly wares in the refrigerated aisle at around 7,000 locations from Whole Foods to Kroger and Sprouts.
“We've grown 200% year over year this first half of this year, and velocity on shelf is very strong,” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “We're also continuing to grow in the cauliflower pizza crust category, while some of our competition is waning in that category.”
David explained: “We started out in a shared kitchen, then we moved into a 5,000 square foot building with 3,000 square feet of production space in Goleta [in 2016], and we quickly outgrew that.
“We then built the 37,000 square foot facility in Ventura, where we are today, and we just signed a lease for our new 117,000 square feet plant in Texas.”
‘Our ingredient panel is fresh cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, eggs and nutritional yeast’
Unlike many gluten-free bread substitutes, Outer Aisle Gourmet products do not contain vegetable powders with gums, starches, rice flour, and oils, but instead combine fresh cauliflower with parmesan cheese, eggs, and nutritional yeast to create a baked, but moist, low-carb product that is shipped frozen and stocked in the refrigerator, said David, who co-founded the business with her husband in 2013.
“Our target consumer is low carb, gluten free, keto, low glycemic, anybody who's looking to take the empty carbs out of their diet and replace them with a clean, fresh product. Our ingredient panel is fresh cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and nutritional yeast, no filler flours whatsoever, which is what makes us different from all the other products in the market at this point.”
‘A great vote of confidence’
After testing out the products on friends and family, David attracted the attention of a local forager for Whole Foods, who helped her secure listings in a handful of Whole Foods stores in southern California in early 2015 before expanding into 58 stores in the southern pacific region a year later, which was a turning point for the brand, she said.
“I think the moment we really felt like the business was viable was after our first year in Whole Foods stores, when they moved us to the whole region because our velocities were so good, so that was a great vote of confidence.”
‘The best advice I would give [to other entrepreneurs] is have really good legal counsel’
While the company has enjoyed rapid growth, it hasn’t all been plain-sailing, said David, who is gearing up to launch a new product in January: “I would say one of our most challenging times was when we were raising the money for this facility in Ventura in 2019, and we decided to walk away from the first deal.
“We had already started construction, so it was pretty stressful. We continued to raise money from family and friends on contingency with the next round coming in, but it's quite stressful to be building out a facility when the funding should have been in place, but we decided to walk away.
“The best advice I would give [to other entrepreneurs] is have really good legal counsel, that really understands the covenants that are involved in those terms.”
The pros and cons of running a family business
Running a business with your spouse, meanwhile, has its pros and cons, said David: “Running a family business has its challenges, but definitely some great benefits. So the trust that's involved, you know that you always have each other's back.
“But the biggest challenge for us has been, how do you turn the business conversations off? When can we just be a family? But setting up good boundaries has really worked well for us. So now, after six o'clock, we've got pretty much a deadline that if you call me after six o'clock, I can answer the phone, knowing that you're calling me as my son or my husband, not about business.”