By Angela Rose | Jun 15, 2017
San Jose, California / Boulder, Colorado
San Jose, California / Boulder, Colorado
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Healthy snacks
A little competitive rivalry among siblings is not unusual. But it's not all that often that such competition leads to the creation of a company as it did for Oscamou and his brother, Nate.
"We were both working really hard as well as backpacking, doing triathlons and seeking adventure in our off hours," Oscamou recalls. "As a result, we were always eating a number of energy bars that were on the market. But one day, Nate called me and said, 'Hey, let's see who can come up with a cleaner, healthier bar alternative.' We were both avid home cooks, so we launched into a baking competition between the two of us."
The rules were simple: the bar must have less than 10 ingredients, be gluten- and dairy-free, and minimally processed so any samplers could easily see and taste each ingredient.
"Nate won the competition," Oscamou says. "He brought an almond, blueberry, and lemon bar to the taste-off. We tinkered around with his recipe to come up with different flavor combinations and test them out on our friends and family. After a lot of great feedback, we decided to take it to market as Frontier Snacks."
Tragedy struck when Nate was killed in a river rafting accident four months after they began putting the pieces of the business together.
"It was a really hard, challenging time," Oscamou confides. "But about six months after Nate passed away, I decided my mission was to finish what he and I had started. I quit my job as a civil engineer and bootstrapped Frontier Bites as a solo entrepreneur. It took me two years to grow the business and get it to the point where I could raise some capital to build something bigger."
The brothers' fruit and nut bites are now available in 2,500 stores nationwide as well as online. Each variety -- ranging from the original almond blueberry lemon to cashew cranberry orange, pumpkin seed apple vanilla bean, macadamia pineapple coconut, and pecan cherry cinnamon -- is made with eight simple ingredients. All are packed with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids and free of refined sugar, gluten, soy, dairy, and preservatives.
While Frontier Bites is headquartered in San Jose, California, two of the team work out of Boulder, Colorado. Manufacturing is outsourced to a partner in Battle Creek, Michigan, and Oscamou uses consultants to help with sales, accounting, and operations.
"We considered quality control as paramount when choosing our manufacturer," Oscamou says. "You can test for gluten, rancidity, and other elements within the product, but the things that are really difficult to test are texture and taste. We needed a partner with a strong level of accountability and understanding of the organoleptic profile for the product. I feel fortunate that we found a manufacturer with a lot of experience, who understands the process well, and has helped us put together really clean, clear documentation on it."
He expects to sell well over 1 million units this year, and eventually plans to move the company's headquarters to Boulder as he continues to grow his team.
Challenges: "There's a lot of competition in the market," Oscamou muses. "We have to make sure we clearly differentiate ourselves and drive consumers to try our product, whether that's by giving away free samples, doing demos in the store, or pricing stretches that are appealing to people. Once people try the product they tend to love it and keep buying it over and over again."
Opportunities: Bringing more clean, innovative snacks to market is Oscamou's biggest opportunity. "Back in March, we launched Frontier Coconut Bites," he says. "They'll be available in stores around August and are like a vacation in every bite. You can take five seconds, close your eyes and pretend you're at the beach. Not only that, but we use freshly harvested coconut from Thailand. It's a phenomenal source that gives us the nutritional qualities of top-quality coconut but with a crunchy, buttery texture unlike anything I've ever had before."
Needs: "We're working on hiring a couple more people. We're also fundraising to help accelerate this process," Oscamou says. "Our needs right now are focused on how we get to the next level, and that's through people, dollars, and exposure."