Plant-based convenience foods brand RollinGreens appeared on ABC's "Shark Tank" in May 2020. We checked in with co-founder Lindsey Cunningham to find out how the pitch went and how it has influenced the brand’s growth in the three months since. Cunningham also shared another surprising source of growth for RollinGreens, and what they have in store for the rest of 2020.
This year has been big for RollinGreens. Tell us why.
Lindsey Cunningham: We’ve been filling the pipeline for 10 years now. Working 100-hour weeks, questioning how can we scale this business—how can we take our top-selling appetizer that people lined up around the corner for [in our food truck days], and bring it into the marketplace?
This year it just all changed for us. QVC was one of the pivotal points. Between us filming the "Shark Tank" episode and the air date—that was about nine months—we aired on QVC. We’ve also launched on e-commerce. We worked tirelessly; frozen fulfillment is hard and costly. Once we found a reliable fulfillment center, we got up and running on Shopify. We have scaled tremendously with being online.
And QVC, as in the home shopping network?
LC: That catapulted us. Where else in the world can you sell hundreds of thousands of dollars of product in eight minutes? It’s the greatest place on earth.
You know the feeling when you walk into Whole Foods, everything just looks amazing and healthy and great and you just want everything. It’s the same with QVC. I’ve been told that food is QVC’s No. 1 category.
I don’t know why other national food brands are not thinking about this. If they aren’t, it should be a big priority. QVC is such a great place to get your brand out there and build brand loyalty. I was always very retail-focused—and you have to be, but you also need channel diversity. If you can find a channel that supports your brand, it’s an organic relationship and it spirals your brand. RollinGreens was also nominated for a 2020 QVC Customer Choice Food Award in the "Best Plant-Based Food” category.
Tell us about your Shark Tank appearance. What was it like to pitch, and what advice can you share based on that experience?
LC: Being able to do "Shark Tank" was big for us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was nervous, but the moment you get in there, everything melts away.
We were prepared for everything they could possibly ask because we know our business. We’re in it; we’re working it every day. If this was one of our first pitches ever, I don’t know if it would have been as successful. But we were out there every day.
What impact has that appearance had on your brand and growth?
LC: "Shark Tank" really created an uptick in sales. We saw more revenue from the airing than all of Q1 sales in 2020. The day the episode aired, we were at 108,000% YoY increase in users to our site. Between then and now, it’s a 4,536% YoY increase in users to the site-sustained traffic.
Did the experience change anything about how you view your business model or growth strategy?
LC: The two biggest points that we got out of that pitch were one, understanding what going into foodservice could do to our brand in a negative way. The way Daniel Lubetzky put it, food service could kill our business. We also needed to increase our growth margin, which we had already been working on. We have made adjustments; we’ve found new manufacturers. We had already put it in motion [before Shark Tank], but it was about a nine-month process to get that margin higher.
We have now increased our gross margin by 25% since we met with the sharks. We've improved our manufacturing costs, efficiencies in our plant and have seen a decrease in costs with the amount of scale we've seen in the last six months.
Will you get a deal out of it?
LC: We are still in negotiations at this point.
What’s your distribution like now?
LC: We’re in six banners of Kroger with the Millet Tots; we’re a top brand in our category there. This summer, RollinGreens expanded nationwide distribution—debuting Teriyaki and Spicy Green Buffalo Wings at 340 Kroger-owned stores in 11 states. In mid-September, Walmart will add Mustard and Teriyaki Cauliflower Wings and Millet Tots in both Onion & Sea Salt and Garlic & Basil flavors to stores in 25 states. We’ll really be able to reach more consumers.
What else can we expect for 2020?
LC: The plan is to foster our e-commerce business, QVC and really continue building out our partnerships with retail. Those are three big initiatives for 2020.
We have more innovation that we’re working on for the end of 2020 that we’re really excited about. We have two shelf-stable products coming—I can’t say mor, except that they’re shelf-stable and filling a need. It has a lot to do with COVID.
We’ve been talking to Thrive Market for a while now. We’re having conversations about meal kits; we would love to see our products in meal kits. When we launch our shelf-stable products, we’re launching on Amazon Launchpad.