CHICAGO — Egglife Foods, Inc. is aiming to flip the tortilla category on its head.
Launched just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the Chicago-based company offers tortilla-style wraps made with egg whites instead of flour. Featuring 25 to 35 calories, 1 gram of carbs or less and 5 to 6 grams of protein, the wraps check the box on macro-trends like sugar-free, gluten-free, keto and paleo, said David Kroll, chief executive officer.
“From a nutritional standpoint, we are lightyears ahead of the leading flour wraps,” he said. “Coupled on top of that is our versatility. Our wraps span breakfast, lunch, snacking and dinner occasions. People also are understanding that this product doesn’t absorb moisture. You can make things in the morning, and they are portable all day without getting soggy.”
The wraps are available in southwest style, Italian style, everything bagel and rye style flavors. The original variety offers a completely neutral flavor profile.
“It’s a blank canvas for all of those budding chefs out there to experiment with,” Mr. Kroll said. “That’s a key differentiator for us, because flour-based tortillas have a very distinct flavor.”
While the product’s nutritionals and versatility caught Mr. Kroll’s attention, it was founder Peggy Johns’ story that ultimately led him to take the helm at Egglife. She spent several years developing the recipe in her kitchen after a series of health issues left her needing to cut out carbs and sugar.
“Rarely in my career have I run across a brand that has as authentic of a story with Peggy and the health challenges she went through, and the fact that she took it upon herself to figure out a way to replace flour across a whole range of products,” Mr. Kroll said.
A CPG veteran with more than 30 years of experience developing products for companies including Wrigley and MillerCoors, Mr. Kroll was eager to join a brand that could help consumers live healthier lives.
“If you look back through my 30 years of building brands, they’re all great products that filled a need in the world, but weren’t really improving the world,” he said. “I purposely left that side to help modernize nutrition for folks… In the last inning of my career, I’m doing something that is truly meaningful.”
Demand for the flour-free wraps has skyrocketed since they hit shelves in November 2019. In its first year and a half, Egglife has taken a 66% to 88% share of the better-for-you wrap market among its conventional grocery retail partners. The brand reached approximately $3.5 million in revenue in 2020 and is on track to reach $30 million to $35 million in sales this year, Mr. Kroll said.
“A key piece of our secret sauce is that we’ve been very purposeful about not going through brokers,” he said. “We’ve built every relationship with every retailer directly.”
Egglife has pitched 108 different national, regional and local retailers, with all 108 agreeing to make room on their shelves. The egg white wraps recently launched in Walmart and are slated to hit shelves in several additional retailers this summer. They also are available online through Amazon and the brand’s direct-to-consumer platform.
Mr. Kroll equated the brand’s distribution strategy to a “sun and planet” model.”
“You build relationships with marquee lighthouse retailers, then surround those retailers with very strong independent and regional grocers,” he said. “That ecosystem helps build household penetration and general awareness.”
Egglife in 2020 commissioned its first commercial manufacturing line capable of producing 200 wraps per minute to meet rising demand. A second line will be completed this year. Also on the horizon are new flavors inspired by consumer feedback.
“The immediate feedback you get online gives us the opportunity to co-create with consumers,” Mr. Kroll said. “People wish we had some sweeter flavors, so it wouldn’t surprise me if you see us getting into that territory in the not-too-distant future.”
Opportunities exist for Egglife to reinvent other flour-based foods using egg whites down the line, he added.
“We view this much more as a platform than a single product proposition,” Mr. Kroll said. “Our intellectual property isn’t just around wraps, so you’re going to see us in the future disrupting other legacy flour-based categories. If you walk around the sleepy center store you can understand that there’s a lot of opportunity there.”