Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Coconut-oil frosting
Jessica Hamel's tasty coconut oil snack has conscientious consumers eating frosting right out of the jar.
"I've always known I was going to be an entrepreneur," says Jessica Hamel, founder of FROST'D. Hamel launched a social media company in 2013, but she says, "I still wanted to create a tangible product and put my mark on the world."
Finding the right product took some running around -- literally. "I'm an ultra-runner," Hamel explains. She's partial to 100-mile events, and usually competes in the mountains.
"At races, the aid stations are filled with garbage," says Hamel, pointing to goods with chemicals and artificial ingredients. Hamel developed her product as an all-natural alternative to grab-and-go, energy-boosting sweets such as frosting.
Just to be clear, Hamel wouldn't characterize her concoction as a health food. It's still a "guilty pleasure," she says, and it has sugar, but it doesn't contain any artificial ingredients.
Hamel sources her main ingredients -- organic coconut oil, organic confectioners' sugar – through Golden Organics, a local wholesaler. "That's most of the product," says Hamel, noting that flavor is added in with spices and vanilla extract.
"Those come from providers across the country, and I call to make sure there are no fillers or added ingredients or GMO products," Hamel says. Her frostings are also gluten-free and -- except for the Honey Lavender Lemon variety -- vegan.
"We're the only frosting company that doesn't use palm oil," Hamel adds, explaining that palm oil destroys rainforests. "It's a cheap ingredient" -- which is why so many big food suppliers manufacture with it.
Coconut oil, by contrast, is not cheap. "But it does great things for the body," says Hamel. "It's great for your skin, your brain, and digestion."
Hamel developed FROST'D. in her kitchen, packaged it in mason jars, and tested the product in May 2015, at TheBigWonderful, a fashion, art, food, and beverage bazaar in Denver. Buyers immediately began approaching Hamel about wholesale opportunities.
"Went directly to a commissary," she says, noting that she still makes and packages the product herself. "It's not a very interesting process. I do everything by hand, and my fanciest piece of equipment is a 60-quart Hobart mixer."
Finished batches of frosting are hand-filled in 10-ounce hand-labeled jars with a sausage stuffer, of all things, purchased new online as a clever alternative to a $5,000 filling machine.
The company tripled its sales in 2016. "We're still a small company, and the growing -- that has all been me," says Hamel.
After hearing horror stories about distributors and brokers, Hamel decided she'd do that herself. "Every store we're in now is me stopping into the store and getting face-time with a buyer," Hamel notes.
You'll find the product in some Rocky Mountain Region Whole Foods Markets, Lucky's Market, Alfalfa's Market, and specialty stores in New York and California. "We also do online retail," says Hamel, including UncommonGoods.
Challenges: Time, or lack thereof, is Hamel's biggest one. "I have the skills to make the company grow," she says. But the demands of her social-media company make it tricky for Hamel to give her company the attention it needs.
Opportunities: Hamel wants to get on the shelves of more Whole Foods Markets locations. "We're already in the system in the Rocky Mountain Region, so there are a good number of stores we could get into in the near future," she says, adding, "That's what I'm thinking about at this moment: Going to the stores, and meeting with the buyers."
Needs: "I would love an operations partner," says Hamel, noting that it has been hard to find somebody with the right skill set who is willing to devote the hours required.