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Food Founders: Adapting And Pivoting In The COVID-19 Era

Food Founders: Adapting And Pivoting In The COVID-19 Era How COVID-19 has impacted food founders and small businesses

Erica here! Back in March, I shared a blog about How a Global Pandemic Impacts My Food Business. More recently, I reached out to other food founders to find out how they are coping with the effects of COVID-19, so that we can collectively share insight on how we are moving forward.

My question: How has COVID-19 impacted your business (for better and/or for worse), and what changes or pivots are you making to succeed in this new era?

Kaitlin Mogentale, Pulp Pantry

Kaitlin Mogentale, Pulp Pantry

“COVID has made life a little more uncertain, but it's nothing we're not used to as founders. Retailer launches have been delayed or it's altogether uncertain whether they'll move forward. But we're keeping resilient by adopting more conservative cash flow policies, and investing in e-commerce to grow brand awareness and stay LOUD even when the rest of the world is a bit quieter.” -Kaitlin Mogentale, Pulp Pantry

Mark Samuel, IWON Organics

Mark Samuel, IWON Organics

“We saw a 20% to 25% hit at retail during the last week of March and through April. In May we started to see some normalizing and hope to see our continued growth, as it was pre Covid, as the months go on. Our DTC has grown month over month and we expect that to continue. We aren’t making too many changes to our overall growth and distribution strategy but we are definitely watching our cash even closer, putting more focus on DTC and changing our timing on some specific distribution launches.” -Mark Samuel, IWON Organics

Denise Woodward, Partake Foods

Denise Woodward, Partake Foods

“Thankfully, our planned retail launches have still occurred/are still occurring, but our marketing strategy is typically built around in-person engagement, such as demos and consumer facing trade shows, so we've had to pivot that to subscription boxes, "live" social media events, and paid digital. Additionally, we'd planned for a strong launch into foodservice, but as many alternative channel locations, such as workplace, travel, and schools are closed, we've focused those efforts on our e-commerce business.” -Denise Woodward, Partake Foods

Jordan Buckner, TeaSquares

Jordan Buckner, TeaSquares - Focus Bites

“At the beginning of 2020, TeaSquares was doing well. Our primary customers were corporate offices buying snacks for employees, and we just landed 3 big new accounts. Business took a huge downturn when stay-at-home orders took effect across the country and offices were closed. I knew we had to pivot, so we focused our sales efforts towards e-commerce. We’re experiencing an increase in business there, but it’s still not making up for what we lost from our office customers.” -Jordan Buckner, TeaSquares

Ibraheem Basir, A Dozen Cousins

Ibraheem Basir, A Dozen Cousins

“We have been very fortunate that our product has met a few different consumer needs during this crisis. In the early days when people were looking to stock up on emergency food, our beans were a great choice for natural protein with an extended shelf life. As things have progressed and people are looking for an easy way to prepare meals at home, we come in handy there as well. 

For us, the main changes we have had to make have been around our supply chain. The initial surge in demand caught us by surprise and it took us a little while to get healthy on inventory. On the bright side, we have emerged with better processes around volume forecasting and material planning, so hopefully that will serve us well in the coming months.” -Ibraheem Basir, A Dozen Cousins

Anouck Gotlib, Belgian Boys

Anouck Gotlib, Belgian Boys

“Our first priority was to make sure our team is safe and that we are able to continue and support each other in a remote work environment. I'm super proud as every one in our family really stepped up. Working from home, our team has been creating strong relationships and listening to many webinars as well as attending zoom mixers - it’s something we find very engaging and are learning everyday!

If there is one thing COVID has forced Belgian Boys to do is to pivot! It has pushed us to be even more creative and think outside the box at a level we have never done before. We had to look at our business in a completely different way, as overnight our foodservice accounts practically dried up. Belgian Boys is a popular treat in airports, on flight, and in the offices of Twitter, Zillow, etc, but when COVID started those opportunities to enjoy our products were eliminated. We are very grateful that our company has a balanced business so that our different revenues are spread over different channels and have been working to grow the channels that are still thriving during this time.” -Anouck Gotlib, Belgian Boys

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