By Alicia Cunningham | Sep 25, 2017
Park City, Utah
Founded: 2009, Renamed in 2016
Industry: Food & Beverage
Product: Green Banana Flour
Zuvii, formerly known as WEDO Gluten Free, may be located in the heart of a world-famous resort city, but its origins are very humble: kitchens in Kenya.
"One of my business partners was in Kenya, volunteering and offering micro-loans to local businesses. He teamed up with a group of women making green banana flour," explains Todd Francis, Director of Operations for Zuvii. "While there, it was all he ate. When he got home, we decided to look closely at the gluten-free market. We wanted to know what was already in this space, and we saw an opening. We did our research and entered the market, introducing green banana flour to the US food market for the first time."
Before launching, the company first had to find a quality supplier. They finally located one in South America. "The bananas are cleaned, peeled, sliced, dehydrated, and milled" says Francis. "The banana flour is then shipped to us and co-packed in our Utah location."
Organic and gluten free are the building blocks the company first built upon, going so far as to name the entire company WEDO Gluten Free. In 2016, the company was renamed Zuvii, the thinking being that the company believed has more to offer than simply being gluten-free.
"We felt the name pigeonholed us," says Francis. "We see the bigger health benefits of green banana flour, and we wanted to be a part of a bigger market. Last year we started looking at names that would allow us to launch from any angle. With Zuvii it allows for more growth in new markets."
Zuvii hits all of the popular buzz words in today's health conscious food industry: non-gmo potassium, organic, paleo, resistant starch, prebiotic fiber, gut health. But communicating those buzz words still takes consistent marketing efforts and local outreach. Zuvii has a very strong following on all social media outlets, providing recipes and health education.
For this reason, Zuvii's business model is threefold: retail, online, and wholesale. On the retail side, Zuvii is found in Whole Foods. It has an online presence through Amazon marketplace and its own website. Zuvii banana flour is also provided in bulk to bakeries, ingredient suppliers and commercial markets throughout the world.
Though its innovative origin is a world away, Francis believes that Park City, Utah is exactly the right place to grow Zuvii. "We do a lot of our product testing with athletes," Francis explains. "Park City is one big playground with Olympians and other athletes around all summer and winter. Park City is an active town, Utah is an active state. It is a great place for us to test our products. And we are all active here at Zuvii. We enjoy physical activity, and we want to feed our bodies the very best."
Challenges: Locating a supplier and finding a consistent, predictable provider. "It was hard because we were innovators in this market," says Francis. "We were bringing something new to the United States market. We went through some really tough times finding quality suppliers. We had to learn how to import from a developing country."
Opportunities: New products. "We are in the research and development stage of launching new products around the fact that Zuvii is a resistant starch, prebiotic fiber. There are a ton of health benefits for your gut and added energy. We are seeing great results, and we are excited and focused on that part of the business right now," says Francis.
Need: Education and marketing. "Zuvii strives to provide the latest research and health benefits on each of our products on our website and social reaches. Quality products is our top priority and we have teamed up with the top certifiers in the world, USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project and Resistant Starch Foundation. We are also teaming up with FitCon Expo in Utah. It will be a really good opportunity to get out there directly to the consumer and showing them our product and its benefits," says Francis.