KeHE, one of the largest and most respected grocery and natural distributors in the U.S. is always on the lookout for the next trend in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. Through KeHE’s Trend Finder event, Category Managers forage unique brands to add to their robust assortment. For the second year in a row, KeHE teamed up with RangeMe to source brands and streamline inbound submissions for the event. Over 100 product suppliers were given the opportunity to join one-on-one pitch meetings with KeHE’s Category Management team and from that group, a dozen suppliers were awarded “Golden Tickets” and will be added to KeHE’s assortment. Of those 12, all brands are active suppliers on RangeMe. 

In part 1, we already met six of the winners. Now, let’s meet the remaining six of KeHE’s 5th Trend Finder Golden Ticket Winners!

Get to know: Saratoga Garlic

Flavor by the clove, and Saratoga Garlic has had it for more than 20 years when Bill Higgins bought a 10-acre farm in Saratoga Springs, NY. As a passionate horse trainer, Higgins spent a lot of time at the Saratoga Race Course, where he met famed restaurant owner Jerome Brody of Gallagher’s Steak House in Manhattan, who introduced Higgins to Vito Latilla, the co-owner of the Manhattan Fruit Exchange. Vito promised to buy all the organic garlic his farm could produce and the rest was history. Today, Bill’s son, Max Higgins, runs and operates Saratoga Garlic, while Bill, a trained ecologist, spends his time in their sandy loam fields with his beloved garlic. The team is committed to sustainably producing the highest quality garlic and garlic aioli sauces. Their line consists of six different garlic-based products, five aioli sauces, and a Lemon Dill Pickled Garlic. 

Higgins tells RangeMe why he’s excited to be a 2021 Golden Ticket Winner and more. 

RangeMe: What was your experience like participating in KeHE’s Trend Finder event? 

Higgins: It was a huge honor to participate in the event. KeHE is a business we’ve been aware of for many years that we always dreamed of partnering with. The meeting was extremely exciting, and when we got the news of being chosen, we were ecstatic. 

RangeMe: How did you prepare for your pitch to KeHE Category Managers? Any helpful tips to share?

Higgins: We got our team together and told our story. We believe we have a quality product, so we let the samples do most of the work. Our brand has been around for over 20 years, so pitching the product has become second nature. Credit to our team for all being prepared. Chris Lorentz, our KeHE Category Manager, also made the conversation very enjoyable and free-flowing. My advice to other brands is to focus on your product and perfect it first. If you have a good product that tastes good, the pitch becomes very simple. The story also helps, so do your best to tell the story in a creative, passionate way. Make sure they know how important this is to you. 

RangeMe: What are you most excited about working with KeHE?

Higgins: We’re excited about the national reach of KeHE, with its distribution centers scattered all over the country. We’ve always dreamed of making Saratoga Garlic a national brand, and we believe KeHE is the perfect partner for us to move closer to that goal. They are an elite specialty food distributor in the industry, so it is always exciting to work with companies on that level.

RangeMe: How do you use RangeMe as part of your retail strategy?

Higgins: We use RangeMe to connect with buyers at distributors and retailers all over the country. In some cases, RangeMe is the only way to gain access to those buyers. It’s been an incredible tool for us. I don’t believe we have scratched the surface of utilizing all RangeMe has to offer. We’re excited to learn more about its capabilities as we go. RangeMe played a big role in us connecting with KeHE.

Get to know: Steve’s Family Foods

The catch of the day? Salmon! Steve’s Family Foods hatched when Steve Rosen took his years as a personal chef to major celebrities and a brilliant idea from his wife to create a healthy alternative to one of America’s favorite foods– the chicken nugget but made from salmon. Steve’s Family Foods brings innovation to how people enjoy salmon that tastes great and is easy to prepare, starting with how the salmon is sourced. The salmon used in their nuggets is purchased from salmon boats that fish in four Alaskan bays. The salmon is then brought to Steve’s Family Foods facilities in the Pacific Northwest where it’s blended with custom natural flavors and coated in Panko for an easy weeknight dinner the whole family can enjoy. Their line of panko-coated salmon nuggets comes in four flavors including, Original, Spicy Buffalo, Lemon Butter, and Smoked Maple.

Victoria Hokes, CEO and Co-Founder of Steve’s Family Foods shares why she’s excited about working with KeHE and how RangeMe contributes to their retail success.

RangeMe: What was your experience like participating in KeHE’s Trend Finder event? 

Hokes: Several of our team members are industry veterans and feel KeHE has always been a fantastic brand partner. Joining their Trend Finder event took it to the next level. The entire KeHE team has been excited and supported us every step of the way to prepare for a successful launch in their distribution centers.

RangeMe: What are you most excited about working with KeHE?

Hokes: We’re excited about the ability to reach so many natural and specialty channel customers. KeHE works with some of the country’s most successful regional and national chains, and we’re excited about the opportunities ahead. Their internal sales team has already been so helpful and we can see how motivated they are to help us every step of the way.

RangeMe: How do you use RangeMe as part of your retail strategy?

Hokes: RangeMe has been a powerful tool in our toolbelt. Buyers can easily see all our product offerings, request samples, and ask questions. We’ve done several ECRM Programs and leveraging RangeMe for these programs has given us more of our most precious resource back–time. As a startup, we try to run as lean as possible so looking for ways to save time is essential. RangeMe has already helped us produce interest from several large chains, proving the value of the platform.

Get to know: VegoBears

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll find VegoBears unBEARably delicious. VegoBears, a brand of Candy People, was created by CEO, Jacob Youssef, who’s family has worked in the candy industry in Sweden for more than 35 years. What most people don’t know is that Swedes are the biggest consumers of candy per capita in the world and self-proclaimed candy connoisseurs. During a candy research trip in Los Angeles, CA, Youssef and Valerie Wigardt, Candy People’s U.S. Marketing Director, found themselves mesmerized by the beautiful beaches, delicious plant-based foods, and nature around them. Both Youssef and Wigardt realized they needed to create candy that is closer to nature, made of ingredients that don’t harm animals or the environment. After many months of hard work finding the most honest ingredients with outstanding flavor, the Candy People team launched the VegoBears brand, a line of vegan, naturally flavored, and colored gummy bears. The lineup? Santa Monica Sweet– Fruity Gummy Bears, Venice Beach Sour– Sour Gummy Bears, and Malibu Foam – Foamy Gummy Bear. Each SKU is free from HFCS, GMO’s, and trans fats.

Garrett Zaro, Sales Manager at Candy People, spoke with RangeMe about their drive to participate in KeHE’s Trend Finder event. 

RangeMe: What was your experience like participating in KeHE’s Trend Finder event? 

Zaro: Our experience participating in KeHE’s Trend Finder event was a pleasant one. KeHE has been on our radar for some time and with the launch of our VegoBears it all came together perfectly. We are honored to be one of the Golden Ticket Winners, and we can’t wait to get started with KeHE.

RangeMe: How did you prepare for your pitch to KeHE Category Managers? Any helpful tips to share?

Zaro: Know your brand and trust your strategy, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the product. We developed something special here at VegoBears, and whenever we get the chance to put it in someone’s hands, we get nothing but positive feedback.

RangeMe: What are you most excited about working with KeHE?

Zaro: The most exciting thing about getting started with KeHE is obtaining new business and getting our name out there. We are a small company with big ideas and a lot to prove. We believe in our team and the products we develop, and it’s exciting to show that to new retailers.

RangeMe: How do you use RangeMe as part of your retail strategy? 

Zaro: RangeMe has been a great outlet to showcase our brand and gain interest and traction with interested retailers. The North American confectionery market is fierce, and utilizing tools like RangeMe helps companies like Candy People gain new business and generate new leads.

VegoBears was not only fast-tracked into KeHE’s assortment but the brand was also added to the distributor’s incubator program, KeHE elevate™. To learn more about KeHE elevate, visit https://www.kehe.com/elevate/.

Get to know: Walker Brothers

Consumers have been looking for alternatives to wine, beer, and spirits. What are they grabbing? Kombucha. 

After inheriting a SCOBY (which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) from their aunt, Luke and Sam Walker took to creating a better-for-you craft beverage that makes space for moments of connection while also being conducive to a healthy lifestyle. The two brothers experimented with brewing kombucha at home using that SCOBY and eventually landed on the recipe and flavor combinations they brought to market under the Walker Brothers brand, alongside co-founder Caroline Howard. Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Walker Brothers makes thoughtfully brewed hard kombucha. Each batch starts with their house family yeast and bacteria culture. Their brews are open-fermented, unpasteurized, and made with organic ingredients. These traditional brewing practices provide a more sustainable approach to production and lend to light, refreshing, probiotic-filled beverages with nuanced and crisp flavor profiles like ginger, watermelon lime, and hops. 

Howard shares her thoughts on the KeHE event, and being part of the RangeMe community. 

RangeMe: What was your experience like participating in KeHE’s Trend Finder event? 

Howard: When we received the email from KeHE inviting us to pitch at the Trend Finder event, we were absolutely thrilled. Onboarding with a major natural foods distributor was one of our 2021 business goals, and the opportunity to showcase our brand to KeHE felt like a monumental step toward achieving that goal. Beyond that, we had an incredibly positive experience during the event itself. Our Category Manager, Jennifer, brought great energy to the session, making the pitch process feel natural–less like Shark Tank and more like a conversation with an interested friend. When we found out that Walker Brothers was selected as one of the 12 winners, the prevailing emotion among the team was gratitude. We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with KeHE, to grow our brand, and are excited for all that is to come!

RangeMe: How did you prepare for your pitch to KeHE Category Managers? Any helpful tips to share?

Howard: KeHE provided clear guidelines for what they expected in the presentation. Using that as our template, we crafted a branded deck that provided all of the necessary information while also telling our brand story authentically. Our biggest recommendation for other brands is to avoid memorizing a specific pitch. Just know what information you want to convey and do so naturally.

RangeMe: How do you use RangeMe as part of your retail strategy? 

Howard: Beyond using RangeMe to apply for the KeHE event, we also use RangeMe to connect with store-specific buyers from retailers we are interested in.

Get to know: Eat to Live

The wait is over–finally, bread alternatives that you live to eat. Diana Alek was an artisan baker turned personal trainer for many years before launching Eat to Live. Her knowledge and experience in these two fields allowed her to understand what she wanted to create and her mission of helping others be the best, healthy versions of themselves. She knew what bread alternatives on the market existed and knew they weren’t always healthier, so she set out to make a healthy, smart, and convenient choice: the buckwheat cake. Eat to Live’s line of buckwheat cakes includes, Original, No Added Salt, Plant Omegas, Flaxseeds, and Hemp Seeds. Get crunching! 

Get to know: Little Green Cyclo

Bay Area-born Little Green Cyclo took to the road in 2010 as one gourmet food truck serving up healthy and delicious Vietnamese meals. Since then, the business has added two more food trucks to their fleet, built their headquarters featuring a 5,000-square-ft commercial kitchen and opened their first brick-and-mortar location serving breakfast, lunch, and happy hour along the Marina in Brisbane, California. The business’s success encouraged the Little Green Cyclo team to package their most loved products as an easy grab-and-go option for their customers. They recently introduced their single-origin specialty Vietnamese coffee in cans that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. Little Green Cyclo believes in supporting local businesses, knowing where their ingredients come from, serving as much organic and sustainably grown or raised food as possible, reducing their carbon footprint, and respecting the environment. 

KeHE and RangeMe: The perfect pairing

“Innovation is one of our core principles and KeHE is always looking to partner with up-and-coming brands that are pioneering their category,” said Rachelle Radcliffe, Director of Brand Development at KeHE. “We know how much this opportunity means to a small business, which makes the selection process extremely difficult; however, we are excited to work with each of these deserving brands to help them reach their maximum potential in the marketplace.”

Outside of the Trend Finder event, the KeHE team is active on RangeMe (since 2018!) and is constantly searching for brands that showcase their creativity, innovation, and diversity within their category. KeHE also hosts DIVERSEtrade™, KeHE elevate™, and Next Generation Innovation. Not to mention, their Growth Solutions team, which works closely with large retailers like Albertsons and Sprouts, supports product discovery and leverages RangeMe. 

Ready to be KeHE’s next Golden Ticket Winner? Join RangeMe today and never miss out on these exclusive retail opportunities. 

If you missed part 1, meet the first half of KeHE’s 2021 Golden Ticket Winners here

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