Privately owned (by Fresca Foods)
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Healthy cookies
As any child will tell you, a good cookie can make you happy. Spreading that simple joy -- in an all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free, Paleo, vegan, and kosher form -- is what Sejoyia Foods created its healthy snacks to do.
Founded in 2011 as Wonderfully Raw Gourmet Delights by Sequoia Cheney, a California grandmother who wanted to share her comforting yet healthy treats with others, the company was acquired by Colorado's Fresca Foods in 2015. In addition to moving manufacturing from California to their 330,000-square-foot facility in Louisville, Fresca Foods renamed the company Sejoyia, which means 'See Joy in All.'
"Fresca Foods' passion is like Sequoia's," Lee-Ashley explains. Both parties recognized that the food industry had evolved to such an extent that consumers could no longer recognize the ingredients listed on many products' packaging.
"We all saw a real need for delicious, simple food," he continues. "Our goals aligned to use Fresca's expertise to bring Sequoia's better-for-you snack to a broader group of people who wouldn't just love how it tastes but feel joy in the whole experience."
Coco-Thins, which won a NEXTY award in the Best New Sweet Snack category at the 2018 Natural Product Expo West, are Sejoyia Foods' newest product. Each cookie variety -- from vanilla and chocolate to lemon zest and salted caramel -- is made with five to seven simple ingredients including organic coconut and coconut sugar, cashews, cassava flour, and sea salt. Cassava, a root vegetable popular in Latin American, Asian, and African cuisines, is ideal for gluten- and grain-free baking.
"The Coco-Thins are really new to market," Lee-Ashley says. "They were but an idea less than one year ago and are now on store shelves. I think that's part of what Fresca does well that nobody else can do."
Lee-Ashley credits Fresca Foods' vertical integration for this rapid development capability. "We have a great R&D team and we can ideate on a product, do some samples, put them on the line, and test them even the same day," he says. "That's incredibly powerful and a lot of fun."
Along with Coco-Thins, six varieties of Sejoyia Foods' Coco-Roons are available nationwide in Kroger, Walmart, and Whole Foods, as well as on Amazon and Thrive. In Colorado, consumers can also find the healthy cookie snacks at Safeway, Lucky's Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Alfalfa's, and some independent grocers.
"Our mission is getting high-quality, tasty, better-for-you products to everyone," Lee-Ashley adds. "We feel really good about the price point we're bringing it at and about how broadly we're distributed."
He notes that while consumers appreciate the products' certifications, they're particularly excited about the ingredients. "We're talking to people who eat our food a lot through our customer service interactions, on social media, and when we're in stores," he says. "They are really energized around the notion that they can look right at the front of the bag and understand exactly what is in it. They don't have to use a magnifying glass and a dictionary to figure it out."
Challenges: Lee-Ashley says choosing new ideas to bring to market is the company's biggest challenge. "We can bring pretty much any product to market quickly with our vertical integration, skilled R&D, and production teams," he explains. "But we need to make sure we're bringing the products that people really want. We need to continue to have those conversations with the people who eat our food and let that drive what we bring to market next."
Opportunities: As Sejoyia Foods continues to spread the message to consumers that they can have a great tasting cookie without compromising on nutrition, Lee-Ashley expects to see a good deal of growth as a result. "We're going to grow a lot this year," he says. "Our phones are ringing off the hook with people who have heard about Coco-Thins and Coco-Roons and want to know where they can get them."
Needs: Like any manufacturing company, Lee-Ashley says Sejoyia Foods -- and Fresca Foods -- will always have needs. With unemployment in the Colorado economy quite low, talent can be hard to come by. However, the professionals who join their organizations tend to stick around.
"It's an incredibly fun place to work," he says. "If you're on the production floor, you have opportunities to become a supervisor and grow with support and professional development. There are opportunities to see the entire business from manufacturing all the way through sales. Our greatest need is attracting great people into a really fun working environment."