Naturally Boulder, an economic development organization whose mission is to nurture community, leadership and innovation in the Colorado natural products industry, honored business and individual achievement in the local natural products industry at its 2014 Autumn Awards and Pitch Slam Party at the St. Julien Hotel. A sold-out crowd of 500 people enjoyed an evening of networking, dining, celebration and business recognition.
Appleooz, a brand of crunchy dried apple chips, was named the first-place winner of Naturally Boulder’s Entrepreneurial Pitch Slam, walking away not only with bragging rights but also with a prize package of business services from Naturally Boulder supporters. Included for the first time is a booth at Natural Products Expo West 2015, a springboard for many natural products companies. Also included: consulting on brand, trademark, corporate structure and financing from Holland & Hart; winner featured for three months on Makeena, a location-enabled web and mobile platform for the natural products industry; one-on-one consultation with the senior executive team at Boulder Brands; relevant category data for the natural channel from SPINS; a one- to two-minute brand video from Take One Creative; and data analytics from InstiLLytics.
Noble Savage, a brand of complete grab-and-go Paleo meals, took second-place Pitch Slam honors, earning a prize package including legal services from Polsinelli; set-up and production of custom labels from Primeflex Labels; and relevant category data for the natural channel from SPINS.
Taking third place in the Pitch Slam was Zaza Raw, makers of indulgent raw, vegan, gluten-free desserts like cheesecakes and chocolate ganache. Zaza Raw will receive a prize package including Print services for point-of-sale materials or packaging, from Print Experts; three sessions to develop or evaluate a go-to-market strategy, from Alliance Sales & Marketing; consultation in food labeling, advertising, food safety or trademark/copyright, from Fox Rothschild LLP; any gift card on LocalGiftCards.com; and relevant category data for the natural channel from SPINS.
Twenty-five emerging natural products companies vied for the title during preliminary pitching on Wednesday afternoon. Entrepreneurs from emerging companies had two minutes to pitch their business start-up ideas to a panel of judges comprised entirely of previous Pitch Slam winners: Phil Anson, founder and CEO of EVOL Foods, 2006 Pitch Slam winner; Nova Covington, founder and CEO of Goddess Garden, 2009 Pitch Slam winner; Julie Nirvelli, founder and head honcho, White Girl Salsa, 2010 Pitch Slam winner; and Kerry Gilmartin, founder, Bamboobies, 2011 Pitch Slam Winner.
Five companies advanced to a final round of pitching on Wednesday night before a capacity crowd at the St. Julien, including Appleooz; Noble Savage; Zaza Raw; Birch Benders, a micro-pancakery offering natural and organic add-water pancake mixes; and Flap Jacked, a brand of high-protein pancake mix made with whole grains and no added sugar.
“This is Naturally Boulder’s 10th Anniversary, so we wanted to do something really special for our Pitch Slam this year,” said Bill Capsalis, Naturally Boulder president. “Tapping as our judges four previous Pitch Slam winners is a powerful way to demonstrate this event’s potential to catapult emerging companies to accelerated business success. Offering a booth at Expo West for the first time will provide Appleooz with an opportunity to engage with buyers at our industry’s largest trade show.”
The Naturally Boulder annual awards presentation followed the Pitch Slam finals. Members of the community nominated candidates for recognition in three categories: the Lance Gentry Breakthrough Innovation Award, for an inventive product, service or process that provides purposeful health and wellness benefits to consumers; Best Young Business (in business fewer than five years); Company of the Year (in business five or more years); and Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Company of the Year Award was won by Boulder Brands. The Best Young Business Award was presented to Noosa Yoghurt. Quinn Popcorn was this year’s winner of the Lance Gentry Breakthrough Innovation Award.
The award for Lifetime Achievement in the natural products industry was presented to Joan Boykin, a veteran natural products branding and marketing leader, former executive director of The Organic Center a and powerful advocate for the benefits of organic agriculture for people and the planet. A founding member of Naturally Boulder, a long-time board member and advisor and the recipient of Naturally Boulder’s Local Hero Award in 2012, Boykin is the first female natural products executive to receive the award.
“To be recognized for doing what I love makes this an incredible honor for me,” Boykin said. “I feel a profound sense of good fortune to have been a part of the natural products industry for so long, particularly this special microcosm of it here in Boulder.”