Future Fit Foods is a woman-and-minority-owned food startup out of Boulder, Colorado, bringing people diverse plant-based foods that prioritize the wellbeing and happiness of people and communities. They are also the winners of the 2021 Trout Tank CPG Pitch Event.
Paloma Lopez, founder of Future Fit Foods realized the change people were making was incremental because the business models, brands, and products had not been designed with today’s sustainability and nutrition needs in mind.
After spending nearly two decades working in CPG Corporate Brand Management, Product Innovation, and Sustainability, and as a social intrapreneur pushing for greater sustainability and nutrition value for customers and communities, Paloma took a breather after 15 years working in leadership roles for a global food company. Paloma decided the next 15 years of her career would focus on transformative business models of change while designing and enabling food products that are healthy for customers and the planet. This is the spark for change that created Future Fit Foods in 2020.
One thing that was clear from the start, is that building a business and creating foods with a team of food developers and chefs during the COVID-19 pandemic is not what they had anticipated. Future Fit Foods had to cut their teeth quick and fast. Business development was slowed down due to health and safety requirements, as well as significant supply chain and market disruptions as they faced go-to-market delays and mounting expenses. On a positive note, the pandemic provided a wonderful white space for reflection and possibility, new opportunities for online learning (e.g., Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute), and incredible support from so many talented and generous people offering to help and more quality time as a new business to simmer on important business and food design decisions. In that sense, Paloma feels very fortunate because she created Future Fit Foods during a historic moment of great change in our lifetime, a time of new possibilities, and a time where many entrepreneurs and consumers have gained greater courage to reframe their lives to what matters.
Paloma can say with full certainty that the last two years of her life, she has experienced exponential personal and professional growth because she had to step up to learn new skills, unlearn old behaviors, ask for support, get scrappy, get creative, and build thicker skin while doubling up on her optimism.
When asked what lessons she has learned, Paloma told the Denver Metro SBDC, “The lesson I’ve learned from building an ambitious business from scratch is that no matter how many years you’ve been in the industry, starting a new business means you must be ready to learn and unlearn fast, tackle problems head-on, and surround yourself with great people.”
As is with most food businesses, the biggest challenge was finding the right co-manufacturing partner. Paloma engaged with at least 20 different freeze-drying co-manufacturers across the U.S. and even hired a consultant to help. Paloma explained that the three largest challenges when finding manufacture were:
Covid 19 drove freeze-drying business demand off the roof so there was extremely limited capacity left for new emerging food brands
Current food systems and co-manufacturing are designed to serve large volumes, therefore large companies, so it’s very difficult to find a co-manufacturer that will want to work with a startup at a competitive price
Many of these exploratory conversations were very transactional and we found very little flexibility to work around our unique needs to build a new kind of value for customers.
In the end, Future Fit Foods found a great partner in an impressive state-of-the-art Food Innovation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. They were interested in Future Fit Foods’ proposition, helping the company grow and learning with Paloma. Paloma told us, “It has been an amazing partnership and they have even invested in a bigger freeze dryer that will help Future Fit Foods scale. We are learning together as -as far as we are aware- our process for SUPPAS is unique in the industry and many traditional co-packers were not willing to take our project on.”
The Future Fit Food’s team discovered the Denver Metro SBDC through the Denver Startup week events and Trout Tank CPG pitching process. Paloma told us, “I have been very impressed with the accelerated pitch training received as part of the Trout Tank cohort of companies, in particular, the quality of the people involved in the training and the valuable follow-ups I’ve had with three of the experts I met during the training panels in just two weeks and how they’ve also referred me to a few other people so the learning that started with Trout Tank continues to grow.”
Paloma is looking forward to Future Fit Foods and their SUPPAS brand to demonstrate – in a big way – that designing foods, brands and, businesses with the genuine intent to restore the health of people and the planet while delivering great taste and convenience, is not only doable but also smart business. They aim to inspire the food industry to drive positive change ‘by designing and doing’ towards the change that we all need to see.
You can find Future Fit Foods SUPPAS freeze-dried soups at their online store at www.getsuppas.com. They also have their products at BRICKS Retail in Longmont, Organic Sandwich Shop in Boulder, and across the Denver Metro area soon.