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Former Big Food Execs Bake Up Veggie-Infused Bakery Line

Meagan McGinnes

In order to stay relevant to consumers, big food brands have had to take a page or two from emerging brands’ playbooks. But these startups can learn a thing or two from major CPG players as well — and that is what the cofounders of newly launched snack line Farm & Oven is betting on.

The new healthy snack company, is the brain-child of two executives who are no strangers to big CPG. CEO Mike Senackerib previously served as CMO, Senior VP of Global Brands and Chief Strategy Officer at Campbell’s Soup Company while Chief Growth Officer Kay Allison advised large food companies as CEO and founder of market research firm The Energy Infuser. Now the two are joining together to launch Farm & Oven.

The company’s first products, Bakery Bites, are mini soft bites loaded with one billion probiotics per serving and 40 percent of a person’s recommended daily vegetables. The Bites are launching with four SKUs — beet dark chocolate, zucchini lemon poppy seed, carrot cinnamon, and pumpkin maple pecan — which will retail for $11.95 for a box of 15 bites.

The inspiration for the brand came from Allison’s daughter’s picky eating habits, which are due to a sensory disorder. As Allison worked to sneak vegetables into her daughter’s food, Allison realized that adults she knew also struggled to consume their recommended daily vegetables. She then pitched Senackerib, whom she had worked with as a consultant for over 10 years, on the idea of starting a company that would bring joy — and vegetables — to healthy snacks. It took one taste of the cookies to convince Senackerib to go all in.

Thus far, Farm & Oven has been entirely self-funded by both Allison and Senackerib. Along with their own capital, the two said they also bring experience, which they believe will be key to their success.

“There is a certain set of actions that have to happen for every business to be built,” Senackerib said. “Our experience in big companies has put us at an advantage because we already know how to do all that. What is different about being small and nimble versus the big ones is that we are willing to tap into the right focus resources, but we can do that so much more quickly and efficiently.”

To do so, the company will focus on e-commerce for the near future, both through on its own website as well as with Amazon. The goal, Senackerib said, is to use this data to better understand the company’s customers and how they respond to the brand’s look, mission and taste. Delving into the data is a strategy Senackerib said he utilized while at larger companies — and one that is often overlooked by smaller brands.

“I worked for a long time and this is marketing nirvana because we can do this and know what is happening very very quickly compared to the old days when everything went out and it was a black box,” Senackerib said. “If used well, [data] is liberating, [and] doesn’t bog you down if you are able to take [it], make quick decisions and adapt.”

For now, the co-founders hypothesize that the brand’s main appeal will be to people trying to eat healthier, but who have an affinity for “junkier food.”

“What we have learned from our tiny bit of experience in food is if something isn’t enjoyable you’re not going to do it,” Allison said “[With other snacks] they get lured by the silent song of sweets or salt or something and then they feel like they are being ‘bad’ when they are eating it. What we are saying is that it doesn’t have to be that dichotomy.”

To better appeal to consumers seeking an indulgent snack, Allison said she designed the flavors to be familiar — like the cookies one could bake at home. This homespun touch, Allison believes, will give Farm & Oven an advantage over other healthy snacks that are more of a “conceptual stretch.”

Allison and Senackerib added that beyond taste, they know that what will get Farm & Oven’s products into consumers’ hands — and mouths — is their rich knowledge of the industry.

“What many [young entrepreneurs] don’t bring to their endeavor is a well-owned set of business skills, business acumen skills to be able to read market opportunity, read and gage success, and quite frankly they don’t have the network of support that Mike and I do,” Allison said. “We’ve made friends and started with people who are now in very senior positions and are very experienced. And so I think that set of accolades, skills and network give us an advantage.”

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