The brand, first launched as Skoop by Dr. James Rouse, ND.,with partners that included advertising guru Alex Bogusky, is based on what the founders believe to be steady year-over-year growth for the category, particularly plant-based nutrition powders. With competition on the rise, Rouse said Healthy Skoop made some strategic decisions to expedite growth in 2016, including securing an investment from Seurat Capital, a division of The Seurat Group, last summer. The funds generated from that investment have been used to support Skoop’s growing presence in retail, marketing and inventory. In addition, after the investment and evaluation of the company’s leadership, the Healthy Skoop founders, board of directors and Seurat Capital together concluded that an experienced, commercial CEO with a skill set complementing the existing leadership team was needed to develop and execute a more aggressive growth plan. So they brought on Robert Bennett, an executive with experience at P&G and Clorox as well as with natural personal care brand Burt’s Bees.
Rouse had previously founded Mix1, a whey protein shake company with Bogusky. That company was acquired by Hershey and subsequently went moribund after a major product recall. The brand was reconstituted as a public company whose stock trades in the low end of the penny stock realm.
Beyond the Boulder bubble
Rouse said his goal for the current company is to expand the vision beyond Colorado’s Boulder County, which has become a hotbed of food product innovation. Justin’s, a brand of nut butters, is one example that was acquired by Hormel in 2016 for $296 million.
That intensive atmosphere, though, can lead to a hothouse flower phenomenon, giving rise to brands that flourish within the echo chamber and wilt when exposed to the broader U.S. demographic. Rouse, who has become something of an inspirational online personality in his own right, said he’s well aware of the danger.
“Goal No. 1 is we want to do everything we can to bring plant based nutrition to everybody as opposed to just the people living in Boulder or other places where plant based nutrition is the norm,” Rouse told NutraIngredients-USA.
Some of Healthy Skoop’s products, which include pea, rice and hemp proteins, are sold as supplements, others as conventional foods, and all are made with some organic ingredients. The new line extensions include a kids-focused protein shake, a detoxification supplement based on turmeric, milk thistle and green tea and containing probiotics, an ‘energy protein’ product that includes caffeine and a greens and protein blend.
Rouse said the decision was made to produce the products via contract manufacturers as a cost-effective way to get the brand off the ground. But unlike some other companies that try to hold that detail as close to the vest as possible, Rouse said he wanted to have a company that had nothing to hide, either about how the products are made or what’s in them.
“We don’t have a curtain. Our ingredients are front and center,”he said. “I’ve learned from a lot of failures to make sure you choose ingredients you can rely and choose the contract manufacturers that have the same commitment quality that you have. I probably interviewed 14 contract manufacturers before I chose the people we are working with. It came down to one very important thing for us: Do they really get the vision of what we were trying to do?
“There are a lot of great contract manufacturers out there that can give you the same ingredients within pennies of each other. But when you are building a small brand and going through the lean days you need someone who is going to believe with you. When we found the right partner they knew we were very small and they were willing to work and grow with us,” he said.
Bennett said the brand is planning to broaden the brick and mortar retail footprint which at the moment includes stores such as Whole Foods Market and King Soopers in the Rocky Mountain Region, the West Coast and the Midwest. But the brand will also pursue a vigorous online sales strategy.
“We are building our brand in partnership with some major retail players,” Bennett said. “But it is important to keep in mind how consumers are viewing the marketplace, so we will pursue an omni-channel approach.”