By Eric Peterson | Nov 25, 2013
"I've been making burritos my whole life," says Anson. "I grew up in Los Angeles, immersed in Mexican cuisine. I love Mexican food and Mexican culture."
He traded California for Colorado in 1996 as an undergrad at University of Denver, then Anson went pro making burritos near his Eldorado Springs home in 2002.
"I was fresh out of college," Anso recalls. "I had the idea to make burritos and sell them to climbers coming into the canyon. The original goal was to make 500 burritos a week to support my lifestyle, answering to nobody."
But demand outstripped that goal almost immediately and Phil's Fresh Foods was born. Pretty soon, Anson's burritos were available at coffeeshops and gas stations throughout Boulder County.
Ansos says he worked "crazy hours" while "making every mistake in the book," noting, "I don't think I did anything right for the first six years."
That changed in 2009 when he connected with Brendan Synnott and Tom Spier, founders of granola-maker Bear Naked. (They sold the business to Kellogg's subsidiary Kashi in 2007.) "They taught me everything," says Anson. "I didn't know how to pull the levers to grow the business."
Namely, Synnott and Spier taught Anson the importance of the brand. Phil's Fresh Foods was relegated to the history books when Synnott conceived of EVOL later that year.
"Brendan came up with it by turning 'love' backwards," he says. "We thought there was a huge gap in the market for frozen food people would have not been ashamed to eat."
Call it TV dinner syndrome. Frozen foods earned a bad reputation over the years, and EVOL looked to turn the connotation on its head, because even foodies need convenience. "Frozen should be great," says Anson. "People should love what they eat."
The branding has paid off, as the company has more than quadrupled its staff since 2009. Today EVOL makes 1 million burritos monthly, and has moved into other frozen food such as bowls and pizzas. The company experienced 300 percent growth in 2010, 100 percent in 2011, 40 percent in 2012, and revenue is on track to grow by 75 percent in 2013. "It's going to be a huge year for us," says Anson.
With 80 employees in production, the EVOL plant has plenty of internally designed gadgets and gizmos on the line. MacGyver-like innovation include a vacuum stuffer with a guillotine to stuff burritos to tortilla-control devices on the conveyors.
Anson also strives towards zero-waste with composting, recycling, and other initiatives. "ANy chance we have to do something good for the environment, we do it," he says.
"At the end of the day this is about people. If you get the right people doing the right thing and asking the right questions, you get the right outcomes."
Challenges: "This industry is competitive, more competitive than it has been in the past," says Anson. And Colorado contractors are "super-busy. When we want to build a new refrigeration system, our guy is booked out for three months."
Opportunities: Anson points to EVOL leading a growing sector in a flat category. "With frozen foods, natural foods are the only thing that's growing, and EVOL is driving a lot of that growth," he says.
Needs: "It would always be easier if there was more support -- federally locally, whatever -- for small business," says Anson.