Be Authentic. If you don’t believe in your mission, you are sure to fail. At the heart of our brand is a parent who wanted to make positive changes in the way she and her family ate. It’s exciting to lead a brand that promises to help other families make the shift to cleaner and healthier foods. We believe in our products and the health and lifestyle benefits it can provide. We are challenging the status-quo of low-carb tortillas and are proud to offer consumers a clean-label alternative that they in turn, can be proud to consume.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Kroll, CEO of Egglife Foods.
David Kroll currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the Chicago-based food brand, Egglife Foods, Inc, a category disruptor in healthy eating. Kroll was hired in October of 2019 to spearhead the commercialization and expansion of the business, which has since experienced 600% growth in it’s total number of retail partners. Kroll joined Egglife after nearly thirty years of leading some of the world’s most iconic brands. Most recently, Kroll served as the Chief Executive Officer for COCO5 Holdings, an emerging leader in clean sports hydration. Prior to COCO5, Kroll was the Chief Marketing Officer for MillerCoors, where he led a portfolio spanning over sixty brands, reaching 11 billion dollars in sales. Before MillerCoors, Kroll served as the Vice President of Marketing for Dyson where he spearheaded the U.S. introduction of the cordless stick vacuum and the bladeless fan. Prior to his time at Dyson, Kroll held multiple leadership roles at Unilever/Alberto Culver, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, and Procter & Gamble. Kroll earned both his MBA and his BS degrees from Cornell University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the food brand you are now leading?
Peggy Johns is egglife’s founder and Director of Innovation. She is a mother of three and developed the recipe for egglife egg white wraps in her own kitchen. Peggy was having some health issues and her doctor said that she needed to cut carbs and sugar — easier said than done… as many of us can attest! But she knew that eggs were low in carbs and sugar and high in protein, so she started experimenting. After lots of trial and error, Peggy came up with some pretty great recipes. Her kids and their friends loved them.
At that moment, it occurred to her that she could really help people with these recipes. She knew that she could make a difference for people like herself who needed (or wanted) to cut carbs and sugar from their diets. And so egglife was born.
I joined the company shortly after to help Peggy bring egglife to market.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food line? What can be done to avoid those errors?
- Sacrificing quality for cost. It may sound intuitive, but in F&B… taste and ingredients truly matter. Too often, you see start-ups trying to handcuff themselves to a certain cost structure from the outset to “make money” vs. aiming to craft the best tasting, highest quality product possible. The magic happens when you can marry an amazing taste experience with superior nutritionals. This is what elevates Egglife from the competition and the graveyard of “free from” healthy products. We went through a couple thousand recipes before we launched, to ensure that consumers would be delighted by our taste, clean ingredients, and healthy nutritionals. Delivering a strong profit margin is easier once you know you have a brand and product that can scale.
- Prioritizing Co-manufacturers. Co-manufacturers clearly serve a necessary role in our industry, but I believe that if you want to be truly successful in Food, you need to make your own product. It’s the only way that you can truly control quality and taste. It’s kinda like those cookies your grandmother used to make… even though you have the recipe, they never really taste the same. There is simply too much art involved with the science of producing a great food product. This is why every wrap produced by Egglife is made in house and why every one of our employees pride themselves on making “The Perfect Wrap”.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
- Spend a year trying it out on friends and family. Truly game-changing products don’t happen overnight. They often take years of trial & error. Surround yourself with people that will give you constant and brutally candid feedback about your idea. When Peggy first started making Egglife in her kitchen, she was always asking people for their reactions. She knew she had finally cracked it (intended pun) when her local sports teams were calling her asking for more.
- Start small. Once you have your product ready, be very precise in how you go to market. Execution is and learning is everything. Partner with a couple small local retailers and test out your proposition, pricing, placement, etc. At Egglife, we spent our first year optimizing everything with a handful of Chicago retailers using a small pilot production line. That learning has proved invaluable as we’ve scaled production and are now successfully expanding nationally.
Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?
Be intensely self-aware and surround yourself with amazing people. Too often I see entrepreneurs failing to ask for help and trying to do it all themselves. They try to be masters of everything vs. focusing on their strengths and finding partners to lead the other stuff. You can have the world’s most amazing idea and even product, but if you don’t have the right team around it… it’ll fail. It is all about the people. At egglife, Peggy embraced that she was amazing in the kitchen, but knew little about the world of CPG. Today, we have a small, but world-class team leading egglife — with over 150 years of CPG & Food experience.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need to Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Identify a Need in the Market. When creating a new specialty food, you must find a demand and offer a solution. In the food industry, consumers are in search of clean and healthy ingredients and many are altering their eating habits to fall in line with a variety of regimens and diets. For the betterment of the planet and themselves, this call is being answered by plant-based protein companies, alternative dairy brands, and others. While there are many healthier options that fit different dietary lifestyles — low-carb, gluten-free, paleo, keto — there are very few products that offer all of these. With egglife® egg white wraps, consumers receive all of these benefits from one product. We were able to fill a major gap in the market by providing a replacement for traditional flour wraps. Made with cage-free egg whites, the only other ingredients in egglife egg wraps are natural flavors and spices. Very rarely can one product cater to a variety of nutritional lifestyles, but I believe that Egglife Foods has nailed it.
- Be Authentic. If you don’t believe in your mission, you are sure to fail. At the heart of our brand is a parent who wanted to make positive changes in the way she and her family ate. It’s exciting to lead a brand that promises to help other families make the shift to cleaner and healthier foods. We believe in our products and the health and lifestyle benefits it can provide. We are challenging the status-quo of low-carb tortillas and are proud to offer consumers a clean-label alternative that they in turn, can be proud to consume.
- Innovate. Once you find a need, you must be innovative in creating the solution. If consumers are not satisfied with the end product, it opens the doors for other companies to come in and make it even better. Ask yourself, what are the features that customers require? How can we take these features a step further and truly delight customers? At Egglife Foods, we are committed to harnessing the transformative power of eggs to reimagine traditionally carbohydrate and calorie laden foods. Utilizing a patented technology for converting liquid egg to solid matter, we were able to develop a line of simple, delicious, fresh foods that are high in protein, but free of sugar, fat and gluten. It was important that we delivered 100% on taste with zero compromise. It’s a delicious answer to a growing demand and consumers and retailers are taking note.
- Secure Distribution. You don’t really have a product until you sell it! Therefore, distribution is key to finding success as a specialty food business. Selling your product online is always a good idea, but in order to sell your products in mass and scale your business, getting product into retail stores and onto retailer shelves is imperative. It’s not easy and it can take a lot of time. Consider working with a wholesaler who can help you make inroads with exciting new sales opportunities. Make sure your product is 100 percent ready for market and understand the cost and retail price point of your product, how to package it, market it and supply it. Through our wholesale efforts, Egglife Foods is proud to partner with Fresh Thyme, Sprouts™ Farmers Market, select Safeway® stores, Piggly Wiggly® Festival Foods®, Sendik’s in Shaw’s®, Star Market®, Cub Foods®, Coborn’s and Hornbacher’s®.
- Prepare for Growing Demand. New retail markets for your product will mean a whole new volume of production for you. Both you and the retail buyers need to know — and believe — that you’re prepared to ramp up the numbers quickly. You also need to know that your manufacturer can handle increased volume while maintaining quality. Egglife Foods experienced 600% growth in the number of retail partners and over 740% growth in the number of retail locations in nine short months. egglife wraps were the #1 new product in dairy across many national, regional and independent grocers, and the #1 new product launched at Fresh Thyme Market across all categories in 2020.
It was a good problem to have, but also stressful, as you can imagine! To meet the growing demand, we completed a 32,000 square foot expansion to our manufacturing facility and commissioned our first commercial production line that can produce 200 wraps per minute.
Getting production and delivery running smoothly isn’t only essential to customer relations, but to your business’s bottom line as well. So, it’s important to think ahead.
We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place? If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Egglife. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. I’ve spent the bulk of my career building leading brands across categories like beer, chewing gum, and shampoo…and each of them served a clear role in people’s lives, but none of them really made the world a better place. I purposely left the corporate world to apply what I’ve learned and help modernize how people eat. The pursuit of something better was why we founded Egglife. The world’s understanding of health & nutrition has evolved, and yet so many foods remained stuck in the past — full of carbs/gluten, sugars, fats, and artificial ingredients. As experts in wellness, we knew that better nutrition comes from nature… not a lab. So we went back to the simplicity of where life begins… the egg… and are now systematically disrupting legacy grain-based categories. Egglife is truly transforming the future of food and I’m proud to be a part of it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Fun question. I have always wished that I had a chance to spend time with Anthony Bourdain. Chefs today have become incredibly influential, shaping the way people create, connect, and communicate through Food. Anthony Bourdain was a true pioneer in making that happen and set the table (intended pun) for some of today’s most prominent chefs like Gabriela Cámara and Jamie Oliver. Chefs who continue to show how food can have an impact far beyond the walls of a restaurant kitchen. They recognize that the appreciation of great food transcends borders, cultures, and politics. Through food, you can actually bring people together… and in today’s divisive world, I think learning more about that positive philosophy can help me shape the future of Egglife.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.