9 Food Companies You Need To Know About

Photograph Courtesy of Bandar.
This story was originally published on May 6, 2015.
If it seems like everyone and their distant cousin is starting a food company these days, you may be right. While brands like Kraft and Kellogg’s still get the prime shelf space at supermarkets, the specialty food market continues to grow as consumers become more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.

As you read this, food-focused entrepreneurs are holed up in food incubators (the culinary equivalent of the tech incubators in which your favorite apps are hatched), fine-tuning products you might not even realize are missing from your pantry. But, once you try them, you'll wonder how you ever did without them. A growing number of innovative new food businesses are tasting success by tantalizing tastebuds. Ahead, some of our favorite standouts that ought to be on your foodie radar.
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Photo: Courtesy of Bandar.
Bandar Foods
The first company to offer squeezable, puréed chutneys in flavors like spicy mango and mint cilantro, Bandar Foods was started by two Wharton Business School grads, Dan Garblik and Lalit Kalani. Their simple goal was to make the Indian equivalent of a super-popular hot sauce. Not a bad business idea, since condiments have become a $5-billion-a-year business in the U.S. Their "monkey sauces" (bandar means monkey in Hindi) are made without artificial colors and preservatives and are based on Lalit’s mother’s recipes. They can be squeezed onto tacos, hot dogs, noodles, and sammies for kick (and we mean kick!), or used as a marinade.

Next up:
A line of snacks, including Naan Chips (the Indian version of pita chips).

Available at: Retailers including Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Target; bandarfoods.com.
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Photograph Courtesy of Craft & Mason Coffee.
Craft & Mason Roasting Co.
If you’re a coffee addict or connoisseur, then this one is for you: Owners Jeremy Mason and Eric Craft, who started their coffee business in 2013, sound a lot like wine sommeliers when describing their beans. “Coffee can hit almost any flavor notes,” Mason says, “from fruity to sweet and rich, or even savory.” He adds that getting a complex cup of joe doesn’t happen by accident; a lot depends on how and where the beans are grown. Roasting matters, too. “We do our best to showcase the flavor of the bean in the way we roast it,” Mason says. Unlike cafe chains, Craft & Mason roasts their beans fresh for each order (there’s a date and a Match.com-worthy flavor profile on every bag). Heavens be praised, they ship anywhere in the U.S.

Next up:
“We want to continue spending a lot of time in the way we source our coffee and build relationships,” Mason says.

Available at: craftandmason.com
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Photo: Courtesy of The Splendid Spoon.
The Splendid Spoon
A recent report from the CDC shows that over 60% of Americans are not consuming enough veggies. Eating the required amount every day can be difficult, and green juices are, well, not always delicious. That’s why The Splendid Spoon founder Nicole Chaszar created a soup cleanse that she refers to as “the gateway to better long-term eating habits.” Trained at the French Culinary Institute, Chaszar works with registered dietitians to create plant-based soups that have a minimum of two servings of seasonal, fresh, certified-organic seasonal veggies per bowlful. “We gently simmer the soups rather than boiling, which allows for more nutrient absorption than if the vegetables were cooked at a high heat,” she says. (The cooking method also makes the veggie nutrients easier to digest.) Of the spring and summer selection offerings — Carrot Turmeric, Cauliflower Coconut, Strawberry Rhubarb, Lentil & Kale, and Vegan Bone Broth — only the Lentil & Kale contains veggies in a recognizable form; all others are puréed.

Next up:
Launching drinkable soups in retail. (Don’t worry — you can still eat them with a spoon if you so desire!)

Available at: Retailers including Fresh Direct, Good Eggs, and Farmigo; thesplendidspoon.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of Element Snacks.
Element Snacks
A rice or corn cake dipped in chocolate doesn’t sound nearly as earth-shattering as this one tastes. Still, as founder Nadia Leonelli points out, “It’s a simple idea, but nobody really thought of it before.” Perhaps that’s because the machines she and her business partner and husband Fredrik Sundwall use to produce the product in Italy are not available stateside. The idea for the snacks, available in two-packs, six-packs, and bags of minis, was to create a healthy, low-calorie indulgence (one large snack has 80 calories and 5g sugar) that marries crunchy cakes with not-too-sweet confectionary coatings, like high-quality milk or dark chocolate or flavors like Sweet Vanilla Orange.

Next up:
“We are expanding to schools, hospitals, airports, and hotels. We want to be wherever people go for that 2 p.m. pick-me-up,” Leonelli says.

Available at: 1000 retailers nationwide; elementsnacks.com
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Photo: Courtesy of Greecologies.
As many yogurt varieties as there are on supermarket shelves these days, business partners Katerina Karagianni and Konstantinos Lentoudis thought an important one was missing. “We were unable to find authentic, unstrained Greek yogurt anywhere in the States, so we wanted to fill that void,” Karagianni explains. “I am from Greece and brought my passion and my recipes.” The two opened Greecologies, a Soho-based retail outlet, in 2014, where patrons can select from unusual toppings including thyme honey, sour cherry, and rose petals. In addition to their yogurt and smoothies (in flavor combos like carrot and mint or strawberry and walnut), which are popular with locals fortunate enough to get a taste of the Mediterranean specialty without having to get on a plane, the partners have also inadvertently gotten into the butter business. They use the thick cream that’s skimmed off the unstrained yogurt and churn it into fresh, sweet butter ($10 for 8.5 oz). Is life better with freshly churned butter? See for yourself the next time you’re in the area.

Next up:
“We are looking to expand our manufacturing capacity and get traditional Greek yogurt into more hands,” Karagianni says.

Available at: Greecologies, 379 Broome Street, New York, NY; 212-941-0100. View offerings at greecologies.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of JicaChips.
Business partners Xin Wang and Melissa Colella-Wang (who also happen to be married) loved snacking on chips a little too much. Tired of inhaling grease and empty potato-chip calories, they took to the kitchen and started baking their own chips out of various veggies with olive oil and spices. One day, they tried jicama, a vegetable native to Mexico that’s somewhat of a potato-apple hybrid. They were pleased not only with the taste but also with its nutritional value, since jicama on average has half the calories and carbs of a potato. Plus, it boasts lots of potassium, vitamin C, and iron. In a short time, they went from selling the chips at their local farmers' market in Congers, NY, to working with a food and beverage CPG accelerator that is helping them grow their business gradually.

Next up:
“We are looking to expand our presence on the East Coast, and hopefully offer the chips nationwide in the foreseeable future,” Wang says.

Available at: Retailers in the New York and Hudson Valley area; JicaChips.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of JJ's Sweets.
JJs Sweets
Cocomels are batch-cooked in copper kettles. The resulting treats are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and USDA certified organic. Cocomels are the brainchild of JJ Rademaekers, the Colorado-based company’s founder and CEO, who spent years in the kitchen testing recipes, ranging from ginseng lemon drops to lavender hard candies, before creating Cocomels. Flavors include Original, Sea Salt, Vanilla, and Espresso, and they take various forms, including dark chocolate-covered squares or mini “logs” that you don’t need to be Paul Bunyan to love. We’re obsessed.

Next up:
The new 3.5-oz pouch (containing 16 individually wrapped caramels, available in June) allows you to share the love and keep a few individually wrapped goodies for yourself.

Available at: 1200 retailers nationwide (email info@cocomel.com for a complete list); jjsweets.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of KomBrewCha.
Talk about a random encounter: After a day of trekking in a remote area of southwest China, Barry Nalebuff, co-founder of Honest Tea, and former financial analyst Ariel Glazer got to talking on the long bus ride back to the nearest town. After bonding over a shared love of wholesome, delicious food, the two set out to create an entirely new beverage category — a brew that provides a healthy buzz. But, it proved tougher than they thought. “Neither of us had any experience in launching an alcoholic beverage company,” Glazer admits. “We had to learn everything from scratch.”

It took two years to perfect the recipe, and the Brooklyn-based company launched in 2014. Rather than being made from hops, KomBrewCha is crafted from fermented tea, so it has all the antioxidants and health benefits of tea, as well as live probiotics. With 2% alcohol by volume (ABV), "the beverage’s alcohol content is just below ultra-light beers such as Miller 64," Glazer explains. It’s also significantly lower in calories than beer, which ranges from 140 calories to over 300 for a 12-oz bottle. KomBrewCha has 65 to 75, depending on the flavor. And, speaking of flavors, the Lemongrass Lime, Royal Ginger and Blackberry Hibiscus are all spot-on — refreshing without the bitterness of many kombuchas or cloying sweetness of fruity alcoholic beverages.

Next up:
“We’re looking at expanding distribution, and introducing more interesting and innovative brews,” Glazer says. (Sounds like another trip to southeast Asia may be in order!)

Available at: Fairway and Whole Foods in NY and CT (visit kombrewcha.com for additional retailers and restaurants);
delivery available in the tri-state area via instacart.com or triborobeverage.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of LuliTonix.
And, about those green drinks: While the market is saturated with options, what makes Lianna Sugarman’s LuliTonix different is that they actually taste good. Sugarman started LuliTonix in 2013 (Luli is her childhood nickname) when she couldn’t find a green juice that she wanted to drink every day. “I set out to create something totally badass and nutritionally complete, perfect for hard-core juice fanatics and newbies alike.” The company was a pioneer in the blended greens category, and was the first to incorporate avocado into a creamy grab-and-go drink. Another first: Distributing nut milks with fiber-rich chia. (The Chia Joe, which contains chia-cashew milk and cold brew organic coffee is far healthier than a Starbucks Frappuccino, but just as delish.)

Next up:
A green blend with olive oil, Himalayan salt, and no fruit at all, as well as more avocado blends.

Available at:
Select retailers; shipping nationwide and delivery in NYC and Brooklyn several mornings per week; lulitonix.com.