Natural Products Expo West

Goodles adds gluten-free SKUs to rainbow of flavors, aims to ‘out weird the competition’

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags mac and cheese Startup company Gluten-free

Goodles is shaking up the mac and cheese shelf with colorful branding, playful product names and better-for-you options, including a new gluten-free option sampled at the recent Natural Products Expo West event.

Goodles showcased its roughly two-and-a-half years of product innovation at its Expo West booth, which also featured a sample conveyor belt, a stack of plush bowls of mac and cheese, and the Co-founder and CEO Jen Zezsut on roller skates. 

Goodles initially launched with four SKUs, including Cheddy Mac, Twist My Parm, Mover & Shaker (cacio e pepe flavor), and Shella Good, and then expanded with Vegan Be Heroes, Down the Hatch (a hatch-chile flavor), Here Comes Truffle, and Hey Hey Elote varieties.

“When we launched two years and a couple of months ago, we only had four flavors, and therefore, we only had four colors [of packages], and we said, ‘Someday we are going to have so many flavors that it's going to make a whole rainbow,'” she said. “Mac and cheese is not just for kids, so there [are] a couple of the tried-and true-nostalgic favorites, but then we also have some really crazy flavors mixed in,” Zezsut told FoodNavigator-USA.

Making mac and cheese 'gooder' for everyone

Last month, Goodles expanded its portfolio with a gluten-free offering​, available in Cheddy Mac and Vegan Be Heroes varieties. Each version contains 4g of fiber and between 11-13g of protein and can be purchased online on Amazon or the company site or at Whole Foods for an SRP of $4.19 per box. 

“Our tagline is ‘Noodles, gooder.’ And if you are going to say that you are making noodles gooder, you need to make it better for everyone, not just people who can eat wheat,” said Zezsut. “People who suffer from Celiac are a very small percentage of the population, but it is 25-30% of ... US adults who are trying to limit their gluten intake. ... So, it's actually a huge market.” 

Goodles worked on the gluten-free product for more than two and a half years, as it worked out various taste and texture challenges, Zezsut said. The mac and cheese brand also saw an opening in the market to provide a better and healthier taste experience, Molly Michet, chief product officer and founding team member at Goodles, explained in the same interview. 

“A lot of the gluten-free products that are out there are mushy or beanie, or they are not great. So, it took a long time to get the right mix of products and ingredients within the noodle itself. ... I kept trying different grains and different ratios of grains and different types of protein and finally ended up with [the product],” Michet said. 

Goodles focuses on the weird to win in the market

With competition from legacy mac and cheese brands, like Kraft, and other better-for-you brands, like Annie's, Goodles relies on its colorful branding and embraces the "weird" to differentiate from the competition, which has been a recipe for market success, Zezsut said.

“We are just scrappy, and that's a really big reason why people are rooting for us because we're that little scrappy, underdog brand that films our stuff in the parking lot ... and so, we just love that this is resonating with our consumers because it is all we can afford to do, and all we know how to do is to be creative and out weird the competition.” 

While many startups have returned to a back-to-basics approach to running a business — focusing on profitability over growth — Goodles has always focused on growing sustainably and using its budget efficiently, she added. Last fall, the company raised $13m in a Series A round​, which went to hiring executive team members and increasing US production.

“We've been basics from the very beginning. We are an elite team with arms locked, having fun and doing the best work of our lives to create a legendary business, and a legendary brand, and a legendary product in order to generate these legendary business results. And it's been our mission and it's been our tagline since day one. So yes, you can have a creative and fun and weird company, and that is the means to an end, and the end is generating legendary business results.”                                                                                                                                        

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