Leveraging an Ancient "Superfood" for Profits
Cool Beans aims to disrupt the fast-growing market for plant-based foods.
It’s created a line of frozen, minimally-processed, plant-based wraps. Using the bean as its primary ingredient — an ancient “superfood” — these wraps are healthy, tasty, and convenient.
This company is led by experts in the food & beverage industry. Co-founder Tyler Mayoras co-managed a $155 million food and agriculture investment fund, and was involved in growing Boca Burger, a food startup acquired by Kraft Foods.
Co-founder Mike Brennan spent nearly twenty years with Peapod, a grocery delivery service, including serving as Senior Vice President. He helped grow the company from seven million dollars in sales to nearly one billion dollars.
Now, Tyler and Mike are targeting the market for plant-based foods. As of 2021, the market for plant-based meat alternatives was twenty billion dollars. And in 2020, sales of plant-based frozen meals reached $520 million, a nearly thirty-percent increase from 2019.
As consumers have increasingly turned to plant-based options, M&A activity in this sector has exploded:
• In 2017, Nestle acquired Sweet Earth, makers of frozen meals and burritos.
• A few years earlier, Pinnacle Foods acquired Gardein, a meatless frozen product company, for $154 million.
• And in 2022, PlantPlus Foods acquired vegan food manufacturer Sol Cuisine for around $100 million. At the time, Sol Cuisine’s annual revenues were just four-and-a-half million dollars.
Despite the boom in this market, consumers still have trouble finding plant-based foods — at least ones that are affordable, convenient, and actually healthy. Many plant-based products can be sneakily high in saturated fat and calories.
That’s why Cool Beans decided to take a different approach. It looked to the plant world — not just plant-based, but actual plants — to see how it could create a fast, convenient way to bring more whole-food ingredients to consumers…
And it found the answer in the humble bean.
Beans provide substantial energy. They’re also heart-healthy, low in sodium and fat, rich in Omega-6 and Omega-3, and can help with blood-sugar management.
With beans as a base, Cool Beans then added more than two dozen plant-based ingredients to its wraps, giving them flavor and a wealth of nutritional benefits.
The company’s wraps feature flavors inspired by global cuisines. Current offerings include Tikka Masala, Spicy Chipotle, Sesame Ginger, and Moroccan Gold.
Cool Beans retails its wraps for around four dollars. In its first two years, sales reached $412,000. And the projected run rate for 2022 is more than one million dollars.
Wraps are available at more than 1,500 stores, including Sprouts, Whole Foods NE, and Wegman’s. They’ve become the No. 2 alternative frozen hand-held option at leading natural foods retailers.
Early consumers have been extremely satisfied, as eighty-three percent would recommend the products.
“My co-workers asked what I made because it smelled so good,” said one consumer. “A delight of flavor,” said another.
In addition to individual consumers, Cool Beans aims to target college students and school cafeterias, groups that often have trouble finding affordable, plant-based options. Notably, Sodexo, one of the leading food service companies in the U.S. to schools, is increasing its plant-based meal offerings by forty-two percent by 2025.
Moving forward, Cool Beans aims to offer frozen bowls, frozen breakfast wraps, and frozen family-style meals. It projects to surpass five million dollars in annual sales by 2024.
In addition to his role with Cool Beans, Mike is an advisor to food companies including Farmers Fridge and Farmstead.
Previously, he spent nearly two decades with Peapod, a grocery delivery service. He served as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, helping the company grow from seven million dollars in sales to nearly one billion dollars.
Earlier in his career, he worked for A.T. Kearney, a management consulting firm, focusing on business and marketing strategies. Before that, he worked for Procter and Gamble, a consumer packaged goods company.
Mike earned degrees from the University of Illinois and Northwestern.
Tyler has more than twenty years of private equity investing experience, including co-managing a $155 million food- and agriculture-focused investment fund, Advantage Capital.
In addition to his role with Cool Beans, he is a board member to several food and beverage companies, including Shenandoah Growers, Farmhouse Culture, and Snaxsational Brands. Previously, he was affiliated with food startups including Boca Burger, a company acquired by Kraft Foods.
Tyler began his career in finance, working as an accountant with Ernst & Young, a professional services firm. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Eric has nearly twenty years of experience in sales and marketing.
He co-founded Steaz, a healthy beverage company, that was acquired in 2016. Additionally, he co-founded Good Catch Foods, an eco-friendly food company focused on seafood.
More recently, he co-founded mood33, a company selling cannabis-infused beverages. He also founded BeyondBrands, a collective of leaders and entrepreneurs focused on elevating consumer brands.
Eric earned a degree from Northeastern University.
Caryn has leadership experience across e-commerce, consumer packaged goods, and manufacturing.
Early in her career, she spent twelve years with Hewitt Associates, a financial services company, serving as Global Leader of Marketing. After that, she was an advisor to River’s End Trading Co., a clothing company with brands including Columbia, Brooks Brothers, and Lacoste.
More recently, she spent eleven years as an advisor with Peapod, a grocery delivery service. From there, she was on the Board of Directors with YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.
Caryn holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.