“CHUZA's focus and commitment to elevating the snack segment, demonstrated throughout the entire process, inspires us to maintain that same entrepreneurial mindset at PepsiCo as we develop food and beverage solutions that deliver on flavor, function, health, convenience and sustainability," Antonio Escalona, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Hispanic Business Unit, PepsiCo Foods North America, shared in a press release.
PepsiCo honors Hispanic startups with Greenhouse Accelerator Program: Juntos Crecemos edition
This year, PepsiCo dedicated its annual small business program to Hispanic-owned food and beverage companies and tech companies operating in the space with the first-ever Greenhouse Accelerator Program: Juntos Crecemos edition.
After an open application process, PepsiCo selects 10 brands as finalists and awards them $20,000 and access to a six-month educational program where they are partnered with mentors to address their unique business challenges, including everything from marketing to gaining retail distribution. The program is designed to be a “win-win” for the startups and PepsiCo where they learn from each other, Escalona said previously.
The finalists for Greenhouse Accelerator Program: Juntos Crecemos edition included food and beverage brands CHUZA, Date Better Snack, I Eat My Greens, Katrina Brewing Co, Pisqueya, Tia Lupita, and True Spirit Beverage Company and tech companies Dathic, Foodware, and Hyfé.
Following the six-month program, PepsiCo awarded CHUZA the grand prize of $100,000 during a ceremony at PepsiCo’s New York headquarters, which included the mentors and the finalists.
"In this year's PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator: Juntos Crecemos Edition, we have witnessed ten exceptionally skilled Hispanic-owned businesses take innovation to the next level with PepsiCo's mentorship and business resources. We congratulate CHUZA, as well as all of the participants who demonstrated true leadership in advancing the future of the food and beverage industry," Esperanza Teasdale, VP & GM of the Hispanic business unit, PepsiCo Beverages North America, shared in a press release.
CHUZA learned ‘from the best in the industry’ about growing a brand
CHUZA is a spicy snack brand that offers dried fruits and vegetables, including Spicy Mango, Strawberry Cranberry, Nopal, and Apricot snacks. Schwarz said it is differentiating itself from the better-for-you category by focusing on his Mexican heritage at a time when consumers are looking for authentic global flavors.
“Consumers are looking for authenticity, and something that differentiates us in this industry is that ... we're on this mission of sharing our flavors, culture, and flair, [and] our spices are 100% from Mexico. Our packaging represents our culture in a very positive way and in a very colorful way.”
Shwarz will use the award money to fuel further retail expansion, while also finding opportunities to share the brand at tradeshows, like California Grocers Association, where the company previously won “a golden ticket” for distribution in California grocers.
“We've been strategic in how we grow. We have a strong presence in California. We have a presence in Texas, and we recently opened distribution in Florida. So, now in Q1 of 2024, we will be launching in a retail chain in Florida, and then we're also launching with Safeway in [Northern California] in 2024 in Q1.”
Through the Greenhouse Accelerator Program, PepsiCo mentored CHUZA on launching the brand into 7-Eleven stores, Shwarz said.
“As founders, we are generalists. And when we're at you're able to work with that PepsiCo team, where they're specialists in their fields, you get to learn from the best in the industry. So that was something that our mentors and the people that the mentors connected us within the program were able to give us in order to set us up for success as we continue to grow.”