The Supply Side: Lakeside Foods acquires Fayetteville startup Good Eats Food Co.

by Nancy Peevy (npeevy@nwabj.com) 631 views 

Three years after its inception, Fayetteville startup Good Eats Food Co., has a new owner. Lakeside Foods, headquartered in Manitowoc, Wis., acquired the vegetable company, founded by Trey Taylor and Matt Brown.

Lakeside is a supplier of frozen and canned foods to the retail, food service and industrial sectors and manufactures Good Eats’ canned beans, so the decision made sense, Taylor said. Terms of the agreement, made in June, were not disclosed.

Good Eats began after Taylor and Brown discovered a shared dream of entrepreneurship while working together at Sager Creek Vegetable Co. (formerly Allen’s Canning) of Siloam Springs. The co-founders started Good Eats in September 2015 as a way to bring “a dose of innovation” to the vegetable category.

The business grew quickly because the partners brought “fun, relevant, consumer-led flavors and brands to a sleepy category,” Taylor said. In just over two years the partners developed and launched two brands in two categories with 11 stock keeping units.

Products include the Serious Bean Co. brand featuring Dr Pepper Baked Beans, Buckin’ Buffalo, Chipotle Tomato and Cracked Pepper; and a frozen vegetable product line called Ruthie’s Twisted Harvest featuring Mexican Street Corn, Sweet Potato Smashers and Cauli Smashers.

INCREASED DISTRIBUTION
In April, Walmart began carrying all four flavors of canned beans in 2,600 of its stores and the frozen line in 180 stores.

“We felt like we brought them a product that addressed opportunity in the marketplace, and they were very receptive to us,” Taylor said. “Being a small startup company didn’t hurt us in the least. We had to prove our abilities and prove we had the right partners in place, but they were looking for innovation.”

The biggest challenge for the two-person company was how to support a launch of 2,600 stores. The opportunity is great, “but it is a very heavy lift,” Taylor said. “There are a lot of details in launching that large — that big of a footprint with Walmart.”

Taylor and Brown turned to their broker partner, TreeHouse Sales and Solutions in Rogers, for help with everything from new vendor set up to working with the buyer, supply chain and replenishment managers, Taylor said. In September, Good Eats’ distribution expanded to all 250 Meijer store locations and into 150 Texas-based H-E-B stores, as well as WinCo’s Southwest Division. Good Eats also has distribution in four of the largest foodservice distributors in the country.

With the rapid expansion, the scale and complexity of the business quickly surpassed the capabilities of a two-person company and the partners realized they needed help. As manufacturer of Good Eats canned bean line, Lakeside “had a vested interest in our success, so we approached them,” Taylor said. “Right off the bat they said, ‘We’d love to be involved.’”

Lakeside, a 130-year-old, family-owned company, had investment capital and operational expertise on execution, manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, Taylor said. The corporation operates 13 plants with distribution in 14 countries around the world. Taylor said Good Eats brought innovation to Lakeside “since they were 100% private label until they acquired us.”

“Innovation is the cornerstone of our strategy,” said Glen Tellock, president and chief executive officer of Lakeside. “Consumer preferences, and therefore customer needs, are evolving faster than ever. Good Eats injects a shot of entrepreneurial spirit into Lakeside, which will help us more quickly advance around this key strategic priority. Lakeside, on the other hand, provides the needed scale for Serious Bean Co. and Ruthie’s Twisted Harvest to efficiently expand.”

The acquisition frees Taylor and Brown to focus on trends, consumer insight, future sales and development of new products.

“I think everybody loves the story of a startup, a small two-man show,” Taylor said. “I think it’s a bit of the American dream. It certainly was for us. We just outpaced ourselves, and we had to get [Lakeside’s] support.”

Under the agreement, Good Eats will operate as a division of Lakeside, with Brown named vice president of sales for both companies and Taylor leading marketing and innovation efforts. Both will continue to live and office in Northwest Arkansas.

ON THE HORIZON
Innovation will continue to be the cornerstone of the Serious Bean Co. brand, and Taylor hopes to partner with Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food in Bentonville for product development in the near future.

“We’re looking at some very premium, exclusive flavors [of beans] that might not be sold at retail, potentially sold only on the online marketplace,” he said. “We’re not opposed to selling them at retail, but they’ll be so premium and exclusive and small batch that we may not be able to supply traditional brick-and-mortar retail. We’re exploring that still.

“Our belief is that Serious Bean Co. will have a lasting presence in canned beans. We believe that what we’re doing there is unique and that we have the ability to be around a very long time. It’s not one and done,” he said.

A larger can is also on the horizon.

“We call it the No. 10 can. It’s approximately 100 ounces. We can sell it in the foodservice channel,” Taylor said. “Today we’re in a 15-ounce can, and that’s not big enough for restaurants or foodservice operators.”

The company’s long-term vision for Ruthie’s Twisted Harvest is to create more products and expand distribution. Currently, the company has a bigger presence in foodservice than in retail, with only a few Walmart distribution centers.

“We believe we’re addressing an unmet need with Ruthie’s in both foodservice and retail,” Taylor said. “So our long-term vision with Ruthie’s is to expand distribution. It’s really about more products — so we need to innovate and then expand availability in foodservice and retail.

“We want to be in national distribution, and we believe that helps our business with Walmart, as well, because it helps broaden our awareness.”

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.

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