There’s a secret to making vegetables more appealing to consumers — make them tastier and easier to prepare.
That is the formula to the business plan behind Fayetteville startup Good Eats Food Co., founded in September 2015 by Trey Taylor and Matt Brown. They have a combined 30-plus years in the food industry, and are financially backed by Scout Retail, a portfolio company of Rogers private equity firm NewRoad Capital Partners.
“Not only are restaurants becoming more veg-centric, but consumers in general are more interested in new ways to eat vegetables,” Brown said. “Everything we do at Good Eats is focused on making it easier to eat and enjoy vegetables.”
Taylor and Brown met at Sager Creek Vegetable Co. (formerly Allen’s Canning) of Siloam Springs, where Brown was vice president of foodservice sales, and Taylor was vice president of marketing. Brown graduated from the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas in 2005 and immediately went to work for Allen’s. Taylor’s previous work experience before joining Sager Creek in 2014 included marketing roles at Sonic Drive-In, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and AdvncePierre Foods.
The two men started forging their own path in the spring of 2015, shortly after Del Monte Foods Inc. completed its $75 million acquisition of Sager Creek. During the transition of ownership, during one of several conversations about their future, Taylor and Brown discovered a shared dream of entrepreneurship, and they also agreed that the frozen vegetable category could use a dose of innovation — new brands, new flavors and new ways of eating.
“Sometimes in your gut, you just know when the opportunity is right,” Taylor said. “I just really believed in the white space that was there. I saw a place in the market where we could play.”
During the transition in ownership, Taylor and Brown were introduced to Clete Brewer, managing partner at NewRoad Capital Partners, who introduced them to the leaders of Scout Retail, led by Craig Soos (CEO) and Cade Collister (COO).
“My son always jokes that if we had been on [the television show] ‘Shark Tank’ we would’ve never been funded,” Taylor said. “We had no revenue, we had no company name. But that really speaks to NewRoad and to Scout Retail and those guys. They rallied behind the vision and the belief and the story we were presenting. We don’t ever take that for granted. We’re grateful to them for giving us the runway to develop the company.
Brown added: “We wouldn’t be in existence without them. We didn’t have a product line. We would’ve had to bootstrap, and I don’t know if we would’ve made it. The Scout Retail funding is critical to this, and that is what has set us in motion.”
The Good Eats principals declined to say how much the Scout Retail capital investment was, only that the company typically makes investments in the range of $100,000 to $500,000.
To bring their ideas to life, Good Eats partnered with two independent pilot plants and a network of best-in-class manufacturers, providing access to over 20 R&D developers and chefs, as well as their strategic sourcing partners.
Good Eats now has four product lines behind two brands — Ruthie’s Twisted Harvest and Serious Bean Co. — with a total of nine stock keeping unit (SKUs).
Cauli-Smashers is the first product the company is introducing to restaurants and grocery stores. Why cauliflower? Brown said trend watchers report cauliflower is one of the top food trends, often noted as “the next kale.” It is served as a side item like mashed potatoes.
“Consumers love it because it’s low-carb and packed with vitamins and minerals,” Brown said.
Good Eats made its first shipments in August, and the next to be distributed are a line of frozen, single-serve soups and boldly flavored corn.
“We currently have distribution in 60 foodservice locations, and our goal is to have a national presence in both foodservice and grocery retail,” Taylor said.