C.A. Fortune’s Build Tank winners garner praise from national retailers for compelling branding, packaging

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Mac Stone
Image Credit: Mac Stone

Related tags Startup company non-alcoholic drinks walnuts plant-based milk

Walnut snack company Unbound Snacks took home the gold at C.A. Fortune's Build Tank event in Chicago, for its category innovations and eye-catching packaging, while other brands impressed buyers through unique products and branding.

On April 24, brand agency and broker C.A. Fortune hosted eight startup companies, including Top Fox, WholeMoon, Chum Fruit Bites, Uncorked Wine Infused Chocolate, Collective Arts, Milliways Natural Gum, Porta and Unbound Snacks, for its third-annual Shark Tank-styled event.  

Each brand presented eight-minute pitches to a panel of judges, consisting of buyers from Kroger, Albertsons, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Fresh Thyme.

At the end of the presentations, the judges awarded one overall winner and three individual awards. Winners for the 2024 Build Tank event included:

  • Overall best: Unbound Snacks 
  • Best packaging: Collective Arts
  • Best pitch: Whole Moon
  • Best innovation: Milliways

While no monetary or compensation was awarded, companies heard from buyers how to finetune their brands and ultimately secure shelf space at some of the largest retailers.  

Collective Arts’ cans inspire creativity

Competition judges questioned brand representatives on distribution and manufacturing to packaging design and front-of-pack claims.

Founded in 2013, Canadian craft brewery and non-alcoholic brand Collective Arts​ won the packaging award for using art to attract younger consumers to its brand. 

Collective Arts worked with roughly 100 artists on the packaging for its non-alcoholic beers and cocktails, including Hazy Pale Ale, IPA, Emerald Stout, Mellow Mojito Midday Mule and Perpetual Paloma, shared company CEO Matt Johnston.

“If you look at Gen Z and millennials, they are inspired by creativity. They are experiential. They are looking for brands and companies that stand for more than the products that actually have a purpose. And again, our brand is built to evolve along with them, not just in the artists that we feature, but also the products that we make," Johnston said.

Boosting ingredient transparency with front-of-package claims

WholeMoon’s plant-based milk blends​ roasted soybeans with either oat, almond, or pistachio. 

Despite the main plant-based protein feature on the front of each WholeMoon product, the brand could benefit from a front-of-package claim on its soy content, Fresh Thyme Category Manager Allie Cotter suggested. A front-of-pack claim provides transparency to consumers who might have concerns about soy, she explained.    

While acknowledging it was “very good feedback,” WholeMoon President Susan White noted that the brand is focusing on debunking some of the myths around soy and showcasing the health benefits of soy. 

Can packaging go too far?  

Unbound Snacks​ won the overall award for making walnuts snackable like cashews and almonds, which was why Anjali Bhatti co-founded the brand, said Jared Shipman, director of sales and marketing for Unbound. The brand features a line of snackable walnuts in Chili Lime, Butter Toffee, Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Pepper and Original flavors.

Judges were not all convinced about the packaging imagery — a walnut emerging out of Albert Einstein’s head — with some buyers recommending the brand change it. Some judges did not understand the connection between walnuts and brain food, while other buyers appreciated the uniqueness.  

Also, Shipman defended the packaging, saying that Bhatti wanted to showcase the brain-health benefits of walnuts and did not want to copy typical walnut product packaging. 

3 keys to winning a pitch: Focus on the consumer, product, what you want 

When it comes to winning a pitch, brands need to focus on three key areas to convince retailers or investors of their product, Meagen Arensdorff, VP of C.A. Build at C.A. Fortune and founder of the Build Tank event, told FoodNavigator-USA.   

“We always tell [brands]: focus on the consumer, focus on your products — what are you selling — and then what is your ask. Those are the three key components we always encourage our brands to include in their pitch. We got that feedback at last year's Build Tank. One of the judges said, 'None of you have actually sold me. None of you have actually said, ‘I want to be in your store," Arensdorff said.

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