At a time when the CPG industry is facing extraordinary challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas-Fort Worth is welcoming the “nation’s first consumer products accelerator.”
Kicking off this fall is a niche, eight-week program that’s tailored to later-stage startups focused on consumer packaged goods (CPG). It’s called SKU, and it combines in-person and virtual programming to give founders access to industry experts, investors, and serial entrepreneurs.
The local expansion is being supported by DFW CPG, an organization founded last year by Rick Jordan, Dallas-based shareholder at the Am Law 100 law firm Polsinelli, and food veteran Richard Riccardi. The first-ever Dallas-Fort Worth track will be known as SKU DFW, and the five inaugural companies chosen to participate have just been announced.
“By bringing this nationally recognized CPG accelerator to the dynamically growing DFW CPG community, we hope to provide more opportunities for companies in the sector to learn from industry experts with an established track record of success,” Riccardi, who is a longtime mentor of SKU’s Austin program, said in a statement.
Jordan echoes the sentiment. As “local ecosystem builders,” SKU aligns strongly with DFW CPG’s mission, he said. Both are based on “supporting ambitious local CPG brands and helping them to scale while sharing best practices and knowledge with one another.”
The five later-stage startups represent a range of categories, from gluten-free cookie dough to sustainable pet products. Starting Sept. 10, each will receive best-in-class curriculum taught by top CPG leaders, kicking off with a presentation from Walter Robb, the former co-CEO of Whole Foods.
Founders will also be guided by a team of mentors—dubbed a “who’s who” in the CPG industry—who are all laser-focused on helping them grow their businesses. Some of the most successful consumer product companies in the state (and beyond) are involved, according to SKU. The program concludes with a showcase pitch event on Nov. 11.
Meet the SKU DFW participants
According to the accelerator, each company was selected based on the innovation of their product, market traction, and founder’s strength. Sienna Sauce, a 16-year-old founder, will audit the program.
“We are thrilled with the passionate founders and unique products participating in DFW’s first cohort,” SKU Managing Director Kirstin Ross said in a statement. “Each founder was driven by a desire to create a brand that brings something new to the marketplace—products developed out of their personal experiences.”
Here are the companies, with descriptions provided by SKU DFW:
All Y’alls Foods
All Y’alls Foods was born from Brett Christoffel’s love of cows. After spending over 40 years consuming them, he realized he loved all animals—from dogs and cats to bovines—and decided to stop eating them. He decided to support this lifestyle change by launching All Y’alls Foods in May 2018. The first products are It’s Jerky Y’all and It’s Big Crunchy Bacony Bits Y’all.
It’s Jerky Y’all is available in a traditional Black Pepper & Sea Salt, Prickly Pear Teriyaki and Prickly Pear Chipotle. Barely two years after launching, the product is available in retailers nationwide, including grocery stores like H-E-B and specialty natural foods stores as well as on Amazon and the company site.
Griffin and Shannon Ross grew up in a family of inventors. Their father, Gary Ross, invented the first travel mug with a drink-through top.
Now, Griffin and Shannon are creating a line of sustainable pet products that solve pain points for the modern dog parent. Their first product is the AutoDogMug, a one-handed, spill-proof hydration system that fits in a cup holder.
Meli’s Monster Cookies
While baking monster cookies, a family recipe passed down from generation to generation, it dawned on best friends Melissa Mehall and Melissa Blue that there was a market for these delicious gluten-free cookies. Meli’s Monster Cookies are higher in protein and fiber than your typical cookie on the market.
While flour and sugar are the first two ingredients in most cookies, Meli’s first two ingredients are gluten-free rolled oats and nut butter. Meli’s are available at a range of retailers, including Walmart, H-E-B and Whole Foods.
mmmpanadas is the creation of husband-and-wife team Cody and Kristen Fields. Cody fell in love with empanadas while working in Costa Rica. Then, on a trip to Austin in 2006, Cody met Kristen and fell in love with her, too. Together, they began making a variety of empanadas for local bars and coffee shops.
Soon they were slinging their gourmet empanadas out of a big red truck. Now they have 18 different sweet and savory flavors available in the freezer aisles of stores such as Whole Foods, Albertson’s and H-E-B.
Re:THINK Ice Cream
Re:THINK Ice Cream is the first and only collagen-infused lactose-free A2/A2 Dairy ice cream. Re:THINK is the indulgent ice cream that’s better-for-you, diabetic and keto-friendly, gluten free with no sugar alcohol. Available in 12 flavors like Chocolate Majesty and Cardamom Pistachio, Re:THINK is infused with whey isolate protein and collagen and made with lactose-free A2/A2 Dairy for a happy tummy.
The name Re:THINK was born out of founder George Haymaker’s addiction to pain pills and alcohol. In recovery, he was forced to rethink everything in his life and the brand was born.
Sienna Sauce (auditing the program)
When she was 8—an age when most kids are playing with toys—Tyla-Simone Crayton was concocting a sauce for wings. The sauce officially launched in 2017, and the teenage CEO has become known as the “Sauce Boss.” The home-based business now sells three flavors: Tangy, Lemon Pepper and Spicy.
The brand, available in 70 stores and online, won “Best Sauce” in the 2018 and 2019 Sauce-A-Holic Fest, competing against 15 competitive brands. Tyla-Simone also won $25,000 in capital on “Good Morning America’s Side Hustle Showdown” series as well as another $10,000 from the Revolt Pitch. She was the runner-up in a $100,000 pitch competition hosted by the Grammy Award-winning rapper Chamillionaire.
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