Each year, new food trends hit the market. With those trends come hundreds of hungry entrepreneurs chomping at the bit to get their innovative products in front of the public and into retail stores. But what exactly is the process from kitchen to shelf? How do you know when your product is ready? Most importantly, does it fit the criteria of the store or supermarket you envision your creation in?
Brittany Chibe, CEO of Within/Without — a product line of seriously delicious Paleo granola– has successfully made the journey. She is ready to take the helm as we navigate the ever-evolving road to retail. In just a few short years, this determined entrepreneur took a product that was created to solve a problem and developed it into a major brand. So major, it’s about to increase its presence to over 1100 stores. So, grab your coffee and your notepad and settle in for an inside-look at this amazing ride.
Brittany, tell us how Within/Without got started.
I started Within/Without in 2014 after transitioning to a Paleo-lifestyle to heal a running injury that was resistant to traditional healing methods. After learning about Paleo and following the diet for two weeks, my injury healed and I felt better than I ever had. I found myself having lasting energy, sounder sleep and a newfound mental clarity. But, the snack options at the grocery store did not meet the requirements of my new lifestyle. So, I began making the granola as a snack to have on-the-go. I started to wonder if other people knew how good they could feel by cutting processed foods and added sugars from their diets. So, I began taking the granola to farmers markets to share my experience. People loved the granola and kept coming back week after week for more, and that’s when I knew I had a business!
What does the Within/Without product line consist of?
Within/Without makes six varieties of soft baked, grain-free granolas. Our flavors include: Maple Pecan, Blueberry, Cherry, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Original and our seasonal Pumpkin. Each flavor is made with nine ingredients or less, contain nuts ( including almonds and walnuts) and are naturally sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Our recipes are also filled with healthy fat from coconut oil. We never use any filler-ingredients such as oats or syrups which is normally found in traditional granola.
What retailers currently carry your products?
Today, we’re in approximately 500 stores including: Jewel-Osco, Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, Market Street and Central Market ( just to name a few). This summer we’re launching in another 600 stores with Hannaford and Stop and Shop.
Tell me about your process from kitchen to market. How did Within/Without go from a delicious idea to a full-blown business?
When I began selling at farmers markets, I made the granola in my home-kitchen. Once I saw there was a demand for what I was making, I quickly moved to a commercial kitchen so that I could make larger batches. This allowed me to begin selling online and to grocery stores. As sales grew and the granola began selling in more stores, I outsourced the production to a contract manufacturer. This way, I could focus on building the business.
Who was the first retailer to carry your product and how did you go about approaching them?
The first retailer to carry Within/Without was Plenty, an independent retailer in Chicago (that unfortunately is no longer in business). I walked into the store with a sample and asked to speak to the owner. To my surprise, he ordered a case on the spot. That’s how I sold the granola into the first 50 or so stores.
I’m sure you had quite the checklist of criteria to meet before getting your product in stores, what are retailers looking for when choosing a product to go on their shelves?
At Within/Without, we only use real, whole-food ingredients. This way, we always meet the requirements set by retailers. Some retailers are stricter than others when it comes to ingredients not allowed in the products they carry in store. Whole Foods and Fresh Thyme, for example, publish a “unacceptable ingredient list ” and live by it. These retailers will not allow any products on their shelves that contain an ingredient on that list.
What advice would you give a new entrepreneur entering the food industry wanting to get their product into retail stores?
My advice would be to just take your product to stores to get it in front of grocery buyers and consumers. Do this even if you don’t think your product is “retail ready.” I’ve changed my packaging four times since first launching it, and it will never be perfect. Don’t wait until you think your product is “ready” before taking it to retailers, or you’ll lose time in the market when you could be getting valuable consumer feedback.
As you can see, success requires the right ingredients. A dash of creativity mixed with a significant amount of research, topped with determination and a fearless attitude and you have the perfect recipe for bringing your product from kitchen to shelf!
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