Primal Kitchen is no stranger to the New Hope Network NEXTY Awards.
Since Expo East 2016, one of its products has been a finalist for an award eight times; four times, a Primal Kitchen product has won its category:
- Organic Unsweetened Ketchup—2018 Expo East Best New Condiment and Consumer Choice Food or Beverage.
- No Soy Teriyaki Organic—2019 Expo East Consumer Choice Food or Beverage.
- Buffalo Sauce—2020 Spark Change Best Food or Beverage.
Clearly, NEXTY judges and consumers have come to love and rely on Primal Kitchen's condiments, sauces, marinades and other products that feature clean, high-quality ingredients.
Mark Sisson, one of Primal Kitchen's co-founders, was once an elite athlete who over-trained and didn't eat well. Eventually, he began researching and experimenting with eating better and his health changed dramatically. He decided to share his ketogenic eating plan through a blog and several books. He and co-founder Morgan Zanotti then created Primal Kitchen, which was purchased by Kraft Heinz in 2018.
"Our partnership with an industry leader like Kraft Heinz now offers an unrivaled opportunity to reach millions more of the consumers who have been seeking products like ours for years," Sisson says. "Based on the significant time I’ve spent with the Kraft Heinz team, we share a common vision regarding the future of food and the importance of consumer choices."
As the team expanded its offerings through the years, Primal Kitchen introduced frozen bowls and skillets in the spring of 2020. Those products have been successful, but the pandemic-related supply chain challenges have made producing them increasingly difficult, Sisson says. As a result, Primal Kitchen will discontinue its line of frozen products in the middle of this year.
Sisson shared Primal Kitchen's story, the importance of winning a NEXTY Award and the future of Primal Kitchen with New Hope Network.
Why did you choose to start the business with a Keto- and Paleo-certified mayo and how did you develop it?
I started Mark’s Daily Apple blog in 2006 to document my transformation and to empower readers to similarly invest in their own health. Since then, millions of people have followed the advice in my blog and best-selling books and have experienced similar remarkable turnarounds. Most recently, even more folks have come to appreciate the power of metabolic flexibility, achieved through a Keto Reset and intermittent fasting.
That is the power of food. It can propel you to increased wellness and unlock levels of energy and vitality you didn’t know were possible. That’s why I set out to create Primal Kitchen. No processed or artificial ingredients, no added sugars, partially hydrogenated or trans fats, soybean or canola oils. No artificial flavors, colors, dyes, waxes or chemical preservatives.
Many food entrepreneurs work with local retailers to offer samples, gather consumer feedback and get a foot in the door. How did you get Primal Kitchen into its first retailer?
In 2015, the Whole Foods Market condiment buyer was a huge fan of The Primal Blueprint and the philosophy behind Mark’s Daily Apple. Making your own dressing or mayo was commonplace in the ancestral eating community, but once we perfected our Mayo made with Avocado Oil recipe and it launched on shelf, other natural products industry retailers and consumers alike saw the vision. We had a strong direct-to-consumer and Amazon business when the mayo launched in 2015. This strong digital presence, including product reviews and a vibrant social media community, helped bolster consumer confidence in the brand as we showed up on store shelves.
During your Soapbox Series episode in 2020, Morgan Zanotti mentioned that the avocado oil-based mayo was the only product Primal Kitchen offered for about a year. What was going on behind the scenes? When did you launch additional products and what were they?
We were developing the Primal Kitchen line of avocado oil dressings in conjunction with the launch of the mayonnaise. I’ve always had the philosophy that if you stick to mainly plants and high-quality protein, it's the sauces, dressings and toppings that really make a meal exciting. Anyone who has made their own mayonnaise knows that emulsification can be challenging. At a commercial scale, we spent a good bit of that first year getting our mayo perfected and also creating the dressing lineup.
As Primal Kitchen grows, how do you decide what products and flavors to offer?
Primal Kitchen has always maintained that eating real food shouldn’t mean sacrificing flavor. First, I wanted to transform conventionally “unhealthy” products like mayonnaise or salad dressing with better oil and real, delicious ingredients like avocado oil, which is high in monounsaturated fats.
As we explore new flavors or products, we often build off existing flavor profiles like Chipotle Lime, garlic or pesto to explore tastes, textures and categories that already resonate with our consumers, keeping flavor top of mind for new products. We’re excited to continue to elevate real food eating with delicious flavor and real ingredients.
You've changed some recipes to use avocado oil instead of other industrially processed oils or pumpkin seed butter to replace dairy? Why, and will you continue in this direction?
At Primal Kitchen, we’re forever students of food, so we’re always updating and improving our formulas and recipes so consumers can enjoy the classics they love without dairy, sugar, gluten, grains, or industrially processed oils. Using delicious, high-quality ingredients is our No. 1 priority when innovating. For example, our mayonnaise uses avocado oil, which contains the desirable monounsaturated fats, and our no-dairy alfredo sauces use pumpkin seed butter as a tree nut-free, dairy-free creamy replacement.
Primal Kitchen has won four NEXTY Awards. How did the company benefit from those wins? Have these benefits continued over time?
The NEXTY is an incredible badge of honor for brands in the natural products industry. Primal Kitchen Ketchup and Primal Kitchen Buffalo Sauce, two of our NEXTY winners, have gone on to be two of our top-selling items and are growing quickly. As a brand, we pride ourselves on innovation and disruption of sleepy categories, so we’re proud to receive an award that recognizes innovation, inspiration and integrity. This award is an important driver that keeps brands in the natural products industry moving the ball forward to deliver better products for all stakeholders—consumers, retail partners and the planet.
What's next for Primal Kitchen?
When Primal Kitchen launched, we set out to break the mold on categories many ingredient-conscious consumers had previously avoided. We offer classic, beloved tastes and products made with elevated ingredients, tackling family favorites like mayonnaise, dressings, and our best-selling Buffalo.
In 2022, we're excited to bring Queso and Ranch and Buffalo Ranch Dips into our lineup of cleaned-up sauce staples with truly innovative and real ingredients. You’ll also see some exciting new formats of our bestsellers coming out this spring, including Primal Kitchen Squeeze Ketchup and Squeeze Mayo to give consumers more accessibility of their beloved Primal Kitchen favorites.