LOS ANGELES — Millennials are the target market for Nomva, a new product from Phenomenal Foods that is a pureed fruit and vegetable blend featuring probiotics, packaged in a pouch and marketed as a “super smoothie.” Behind the new line is a team of eight millennials with an average age of 22, which brings a unique set of advantages as well as challenges, said Caroline Beckman, co-founder and chief executive officer.
|Caroline Beckman, co-founder and c.e.o. of Nomva|
“They’re so close to the problem, and they are the consumers,” she said of her team. “Yet they’re learning how to compete with a 40-year-old salesperson for Coke or Pepsi or Campbell’s.”
Ms. Beckman began the business with co-founder Nina Church in May 2015 to address a personal need for a nutritious, portable, functional food product. The two met while working at cold-pressed juice company Suja Juice; Ms. Beckman had dropped out of college and joined Suja as a founding member and vice-president of special projects, and Ms. Church was an executive intern while on a break from studying at Stanford University.
“We both had a phenomenal experience there learning the ins and outs of a food company and one that was pretty complex,” Ms. Beckman told Food Business News. “We connected and realized as we looked from left to right in the industry there were still a few really big gaps in the market…
“We looked at the products we were consuming every day and took the best attributes of each of those. Specifically with Nomva, it’s something that has fresh vegetables and fruits with fiber, which keeps you fuller than a beverage, and with probiotics to give that functional benefit.”
Made using high-pressure processing, Nomva organic smoothies are packaged in transparent pouches and are available in such varieties as Strawnana (strawberry banana), Tropicarrot (pineapple, carrot, pear and mango) and Kale Yeah (apple, pineapple, spinach and kale).
|Nina Church, co-founder and c.o.o. of Nomva|
“Millennials are much more conscious of daily choices, and so I think for us, that means catering to the fact that millennials just want everything upgraded,” said Ms. Church, chief operating officer of Nomva. “We are looking at all sorts of products that millennials are eating every day or desiring to eat and not eating because of health compromises, and really upgrading them.”
The pouch packaging also was inspired by the behaviors of the millennial generation, which grew up with products packaged in tubes and pouches, such as Capri-Sun beverages and Go-Gurt yogurt, Ms. Church noted.
“We were seeing our friends of college age, young working professionals and a lot of millennial moms eating these heat-pasteurized baby food pouches because it’s just so convenient and so easy,” Ms. Church said. “They are craving the convenience of this, and they also like the texture. They’re enjoying the mouthfeel.”
Plus, she added, the smoothies are too thick and clumpy to be served in a bottle.
“With juice, which we both love and still drink regularly, we didn‘t feel full afterwards; it didn’t give us that satiety,” she said. “A big part of the Nomva smoothies is it has the natural fibers in there, so you do feel full after having one of these smoothies, but that consistency doesn’t play very well in a bottle.”
Seed investors for the concept included Zico Coconut Water founders Mark and Maura Rampolla and Suja Juice c.e.o. Jeff Church (who is also Ms. Church’s father). Earlier this year, the company raised $3 million in a Series A funding round, co-led by Taylor Farms, the world’s largest producer of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. With 13 facilities worldwide, Taylor Farms is positioned to help Nomva with organic produce sourcing, perishable logistics and distribution.
Today, Nomva smoothies are available in about 600 retail outlets, including select Target, Ralphs and Sprouts stores. In the year ahead, the company plans to grow distribution.
“I think our biggest learning has been that building and executing on a product isn’t the hardest part,” Ms. Church said. “It’s definitely learning how to create a team, a system, and build the foundation for a strong long-term company that’s capable of innovation, that’s capable of creating community. That is the part that is most critical and special when it comes to building in particular a food company because of the way that food is moving and what people are looking to get from their food nowadays. They’re looking for community, experience, trust.”
In the future, the company plans to expand into other product categories and formats with an eye toward health and wellness, convenience and transparency.
“Nothing is off limits for us as we think about expanding in the future,” Ms. Church said. “We really just want to make our way around the grocery store and upgrade different products to be ‘zero compromise’ as we call it, which means additive-free, preservative-free and as functional as possible.”
She added, “We’ve leaned into the fact that we are 22-year-olds, so we aren’t necessarily going to be good at this, but we are great at this, so how do we then cover the middle ground? How do we make sure we are creating value and leaning on our talent versus trying to be someone else?“Where we try to be a Coca-Cola, we’re going to fail, but where we try to be a millennial Nomva is where we’ve really succeeded.”