NORWICH, N.Y. -- The inaugural class of Chobani’s Food Incubator program graduated this month. The six food startups selected for the six-month program achieved increased distribution and expanded product offerings.
The program aims to mentor and support food entrepreneurs, with a focus on innovation. The six participants—Banza, Chops Snacks, Cisse Cocoa Co., Jar Goods, Kettle & Fire and Misfit Juicery—were selected from a pool of more than 450 applicants. They began the program in October 2016.
Under the guidance of Chobani employees, the startups increased distribution by 60% during the program while also expanding their product portfolios, securing relationships with retailers and growing staff, according to Chobani.
The companies have registered a combined total revenue of $3 million so far this year.
Brian Rudolph, who co-founded Banza, a pasta company, at age 23, said his team is small and had no prior experience in food.
“Chobani was integral in helping us to not only avoid mistakes but also to think proactively about how we can be better as a business,” Rudolph said in a statement. During the program, Banza secured national distribution with a leading retailer and hired a new head of field marketing.
Norwich, N.Y.-based Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said he has dreamed about starting the incubator program for a long time.
“I believe so much in these six companies and our only interest is their success and helping them make a difference,” Ulukaya said in a statement. “In their ways, they're shaping the future of food."
Other achievements during the program:
- Chops Snacks, which makes jerky snacks with all-natural ingredients, received product-launch requests from four national grocery chains and became the top-rated beef jerky on several large e-commerce platforms in the United States.
- Organic chocolate maker Cisse Cocoa Co. more than doubled its store count from 2,000 to 4,500 stores and launched in Hudson News retail stores.
- Jar Goods, which makes specialty foods in jars, grew its store count by 50% and began interviews for its first hire.
- Kettle & Fire, which makes all-natural, organic bone broth, quadrupled its distribution and improved same-store sales by more than 150%.
- Misfit Juicery, which makes cold-pressed juices with produce otherwise bound for scrap, was Nexty’s Editors' Choice for best new beverage at Natural Products Expo West. It also entered a partnership with fast-casual chain Dig Inn with the goal of making a better orange juice.
The next incubator class is scheduled to begin in the fall. Companies can apply starting in May.