August 21, 2023
At Natural Products Expo East, eight regional Naturally Network Pitch Slam winners will take the stage for a shot to win the grand prize: a free booth at Expo East 2024 and more than $30,000 in New Hope Network services. The regional winners will exhibit in the Hot Products section of the trade show floor, near booth 4097. During the coming weeks, NewHope.com introduces the event's competitors.
AcreMade founder Jake Achterhoff says most entrepreneurs' journeys have taken different paths than his experience.
“A lot of the brands have really inspiring, heartfelt stories about how they started in their kitchen,” Achterhoff says. “Ours is a bit different.”
While working at PURIS Foods, a non-GMO ingredients company, Achterhoff saw a chance to disrupt the marketplace with a plant-based egg substitute made with yellow field peas. In 2022, AcreMade launched its Plant-Based Egg Substitute, a shelf-stable powder product,—free of the top nine allergens—that can be mixed with water to create an egglike scramble in a skillet. This summer, the brand added Plant-Based Protein Scramble Cups and a Frozen Plant-Based Egg Patty to its lineup.
“We were developing really cool stuff with pea protein,” says Achterhoff, executive director of AcreMade, a PURIS Holdings subsidiary that operates as a small, fully dedicated operating team. “Unfortunately, some of the best ideas we had would sit on the shelf and weren't being pulled off.”
Achterhoff, who recently won Naturally Minnesota’s Pitch Slam, will compete on Sept. 20 for the grand prize at Natural Products Expo East Pitch Slam competition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Find out more about this exciting new brand.
There’s a lot that can be done with plant protein. Why did you focus on eggs?
Jake Achterhoff: Eggs are a trillion-unit industry worldwide. It’s mind-boggling when you think about it. And yet eggs are bringing up the rear in terms of plant-based consumption. There’s a lot of white space in the market.
Why hasn’t there been much innovation?
JA: Eggs are a miracle food. They are a staple of an American diet. To try and re-create that, to capture the taste, texture, functionality and nutritional content of eggs in meaningful ways, is a pretty insane undertaking. I think that’s why there weren’t more brands in the space.
Why pursue such a big undertaking?
JA: I felt like the team we have was so uniquely suited to pursue it because of that familiarity and understanding of plant proteins that we had from working at the ingredients company.
What were some of the considerations when developing the company framework?
JA: We have a mandate that we’re always going to be making things without the top nine allergens, with non-GMO ingredients.
There are a million reasons why one might find their way to plant-based solutions. Some of them might be ethical reasons or environmental, or health reasons. Our objective is just to make it accessible.
What has your timeline to launch been like?
JA: As a small team, we kind of bubble-gum and duct-taped our way to Expo West to show off some prototype ideas in early 2022. We weren't really sure how it was going to be received. We hacked it all together in pretty short order and had a really warm reception that told us we're on something.
What has surprised you the most about this journey?
JA: We’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible with plants.
What channels did you use when you launched in 2022?
JA: We did direct-to-consumer to start, but we really consider ourselves a food service brand. The food service world provides a ton of opportunities to get out there and serve large groups of people. That helps us further learn how our products are best used and apply those learnings to our retail customers.
What’s your retail footprint like?
JA: We are launching locally in Minnesota and starting to fill in our Upper Midwest store accounts. We’re in Fresh Thyme and Lakewinds Food Co-op.
Retail is a difficult channel. We are taking a really thoughtful approach. We want to learn from our mistakes before we lean in too heavily.
What’s something a lot of people don’t know about your company?
JA: We think this is a cool opportunity to design our products with the highest quality ingredients that are grown, processed and packed in the U.S. and Canada. That’s very unique in the plant protein world.
Most folks don't have as clear of a supply chain. They’re taking a couple of trips around the world, but the quality and transparency is a bit cloudy. That’s not the case with ours, which I think gives us a leg up.
What was it like to win Naturally Minnesota?
JA: It was an honor. Minnesota is a hotbed. It’s got some of the biggest and best food companies in the world. To be considered alongside people that are making and doing remarkable things is amazing.
We take it as our duty to try and make it two in a row, on the heels of our friend, Yasameen Sajady, the CEO of Maazah Chutney, who won the Expo West 2023 Pitch Slam. She came from Naturally Minnesota. We have to represent Minnesota well.
Natural Products Expo East Pitch Slam, in partnership with Naturally Network, is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. ET Sept. 20, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. In addition to education sessions and the trade show, New Hope's Innovation Experience debuts this year. Learn more about Expo East's agenda, exhibitors, retail buyers and registration.
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