WESTMINISTER, COLO. — Flapjacked, a brand of high-protein pancake and muffin mixes, began with one mother’s quest to feed her autistic son, Jace.
|Dave and Jenn Bacon, founders of Flapjacked|
“There were maybe five or six foods that he would eat,” recalled Jenn Bacon, who co-founded the company in 2012 with her husband, Dave. “He was developmentally slow, not growing. So, I started taking Dave’s protein powder and putting into Jace’s pancakes because Jace loves pancakes. We started looking at the ingredient profiles and realized we were just adding junk to more junk, so I started playing around with cleaner ingredients like coconut flour and quinoa flour and came up with an application that everyone in our family really enjoyed, and that’s how it launched into where we’re at today.”
Today, Flapjacked products are sold in more than 10,000 retail outlets, including conventional grocery stores, natural food stores and vitamin and supplement shops. The brand offers a range of gluten-free pancake and baking mixes with 20 grams of protein per serving in such flavors as buttermilk, banana hazelnut, cinnamon apple and carrot spice.
Last year, the company introduced Mighty Muffin, a line of single-serve, microwaveable muffin mixes with 20 grams of protein. Varieties include double chocolate, maple pumpkin, peanut butter, cinnamon apple, chocolate peanut butter and s’mores. The mixes are formulated with GanedenBC30, a patented probiotic that survives the baking process.
The company developed Mighty Muffin after learning consumers were making “mug cakes” in the microwave with Flapjacked pancake mixes.
“The toughest part was getting it to work and taste good,” she told Food Business News. “We really focused on flavor and inclusions and making the experience better than what consumers were used to making out of their own kitchens. That took six to eight months.
“For me, the science behind the food is the fun part, but making it taste great is the challenge when it comes to dry mixes like this.”
The products have become particularly popular in the bodybuilding and weight loss communities, as well as among active families like hers, she said.
“People love the portability of them, the different flavor profiles, different usage occasions,” Ms. Bacon said. “(My children) all have their favorite flavors, and they make them by themselves, which I love.
“Even for our autistic child, Jace, who’s 13 now, he can’t read, he can barely write his name, but he can make a Mighty Muffin. That’s cool.”
During an interview, Ms. Bacon discussed the challenges, successes and surprises behind launching Flapjacked.
Food Business News: What flavor or texture challenges have come with working with protein?
Jenn Bacon: I did a lot of experimenting through our pancake line. When we launched our pancakes, we were using quinoa flour and whey protein isolate. After about a year and a half of being on the market, we heard some backlash on the quinoa because it has a pungent smell and more of a bitter taste, and if you’re not used to quinoa, you’re not going to like it. So we reformulated our products for better taste and texture, and we got rid of the quinoa flour and added pea protein, which added a silky texture to the pancake and a slightly nutty flavor, but still very delicious, very moist, and it worked well in our applications.
I played around with 40-plus different proteins in the pancake and learned a lot about what tastes and textures do work in a baked application. So, I took that knowledge when we were moving into muffins and used the same balance of whey protein isolate and pea protein.
The toughest part was getting an item to cook in the microwave and being able to hold its flavor profile. If you taste the batter, if you lick your fork after you stir the Mighty Muffin before you cook it, you’ll notice the flavor is extremely potent, but when you eat the product, it balances out. It was a challenge, and that’s why it took six to eight months to develop it to get that flavor right.
What has been the biggest surprise in terms of consumer acceptance?
Ms. Bacon: I’m surprised by all of it, to be honest. I had a gut feeling this would be a big product for on-the-go, especially for fitness types. We’re an active, fit family, and we developed it for active, fit families with the intention of children and adults being able to quickly make breakfast and get out the door.
What surprises me the most are the dessert applications. We launched with double chocolate and cinnamon apple, and I fully expected our cinnamon apple to be our No. 1 seller because it’s a breakfast type flavor, but people were demanding peanut butter chocolate, s’mores, more dessert flavors. And we’ve noticed through our social media, which is a great research tool for us, that we have so many followers putting ice cream on their muffins at night.
What is your vision for the brand?
Ms. Bacon: Right now, we’re breakfast snacks, I would say. The opportunities are endless. If you look at the way we approach food in making everyday products families are typically used to in a rushed application, making it better tasting and better for you, then I see us playing in that space. It could be a ready-to-eat item. It could be a drink item. But right now we feel comfortable in breakfast. We feel there’s a lot of opportunity there to expand in breakfast and snacks.
What is your perspective of the competitive landscape?
Ms. Bacon: If you walk down the conventional pancake aisle, there is not a healthy option on shelf. There are healthier options; you can buy whole wheat, gluten-free, though gluten-free isn’t always healthy. What we’re trying to do is add a balance of good healthy fats, carbs and protein…
I think you’ll see a lot of larger C.P.G. companies come out with protein versions, and Cheerios is a great example of that. There’s plenty of room because of the need and the demand. And we see it opening up space for us.
What have been the biggest learnings since you started the business?
Ms. Bacon: The first year was really tough. Every day is a learning experience and it’s all different. Neither one of us comes from a food background, so learning about F.D.A. rules and regulations and gluten-free… everything has been a huge learning experience. We’ve made mistakes along the way, of course, but it’s all been for the growth of our company. We’ve been growing at least 3x year over year. We’re very happy with our rate of growth.
What’s next?Ms. Bacon: New products will be available in February. It will be two line extensions. Very close to what we’re doing right now.