How Can Startups Stand Out in Plant-Based?

What strategies can emerging companies employ to distinguish themselves in the teeming plant-based market? FI unpacked this question with Chelsie Hodge, founder and CEO of frozen functional beverage company, Blender Bites.

Founded in 2017, the Vancouver-based food producer won a Product of the Year Canada award in 2022 for its line of one-step frozen smoothie “pucks,” which contain organic ingredients with a better-for-you boost. This week, the products launched in the U.S. at select Walmart locations nationwide.

“It’s a saturated market for plant-based products,” said Hodge. “However, there is always room for quality innovations that solve pain points for your targeted consumer.”

Cross-Channel Demand: Frozen Food

The pandemic kicked off a resurgence in frozen food, and this category continues to captivate consumers.

“From 2019 to 2022, frozen food sales increased from about $50 billion to over $72 billion,” said Jennifer Pricco Braasch, Managing Director of CNB’s Food & Beverage Group, in a recent FI Podcast. Furthermore, when the “new normal” day-to-day resumed, consumers continued to spend. “Frozen food gave us convenient options that could…provide meals or snacks in minutes.”

Currently, the global frozen food market is projected to reach a value of $312.3 billion by 2025, growing at a steady CAGR of 5.0%, per Markets and Markets. This ongoing traction creates significant opportunities for innovation.

“There is so much more information available about the benefits of eating frozen foods [post-pandemic],” said Hodge. “However, many of the offerings in the freezer aisles haven’t changed to meet consumer demands.”

Shaking Things Up

To differentiate their product from other pre-packaged smoothie offerings, Hodge and her team blended the popularity of the frozen beverages with other prevalent consumer need states to create a fresh yet simple solution. The brand’s motto is: “No mess, no prep, no waste.”

“Consumers no longer just want a frozen fruit smoothie; they want value-added ingredients: extra vitamins, healthy fats, fiber, probiotics, etc,” said Hodge. “They are seeking healthier options that are quick and easy to prepare and they won’t sacrifice health for convenience.” 

Before launching Blender Bites newest product, Frappes, Hope’s team also implemented a full packaging rebrand that incorporated bold, bright colors to reflect what’s inside.

“We also…built out clear and concise product names, the 1-Step Smoothie & 1-Step Frappe, to help better explain the ease-of-use of the products,” said Hodge. “The goal was to simplify the packaging overall and to create very clear and concise messaging that quickly showcases each products unique health benefits.”

More Ingredients for Success

Hodge also provided a few targeted recommendations to help rookie companies ensure financial gains:

  • Know your consumer and get really clear in speaking to them!”
  • Aim higher when seeking investments: “It is one of the hardest times in history to raise early-stage capital. Always raise 50% more than you think you will need as unexpected costs are almost guaranteed to pop up.”
  • Have incredibly strong margins that will get you on a path to profitability early. There is almost no lending from banks or other institutions without it.”