- Former president of Justin’s, Michael J. Guanella, recently joined forces with the rising star startup, Brazi Bites, as CEO, reported Food Navigator.
- Founded in 2010, Brazi Bites is based off the Brazilian snack pão de queijo, which is made from tapioca flour, eggs, milk, cheese and safflower oil. Up until now, the company has only had one product in the mix, however, co-founder Junea Rocha told FoodNavigator that another product is in the works for a launch at Expo West in 2019.
- Guanella is stepping in as the company is experiencing meteoric growth – 4,554% in three years. Additionally, earlier this year, San Francisco Equity Partners acquired a majority stake in the company.
Brazi Bites are positioned ideally in today’s food industry. They are Latin-based snacks, which Food Business News reports is a growing flavor powerhouse for the category. They are gluten-free in a time where the trend toward free-from products is driving intense growth. They are also a frozen food item, which is a category that is rapidly thawing as it gains popularity.
As these frozen cheesy bites sweep the trifecta of consumer positioning, it’s unsurprising that they have seen 4,554% growth in the last three years. According to Food Navigator, company revenues skyrocketed to $12.9 million in 2017 from $8.6 million in 2016. With such growth, however, hands-on owners Junea Rocha and Cameron MacMullin decided it wise to hand the reins over to an expert who had previously guided Justin’s nut butter growth to a point where it was acquired by Hormel for $286 million.
By taking on Guanella as CEO, Brazi Bites is showing that it is poised for great things within the food industry. While there is not yet any indication that the family-owned Brazilian cheese bites company is angling for an acquisition, the sale of a majority stake to San Francisco Equity Partners and the upcoming expansion of their product line indicates that at the very least they intend to continue to grow.
It will take careful planning to continue to grow Brazi Bites. At a February presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York, Conagra President and CEO Sean Connolly noted that frozen food companies are well-positioned to capture more business in the category — as long as they pay attention to their products.
"It got sluggish not because people stopped appreciating the convenience of frozen, it got sluggish because big companies took their eye off the ball and didn't modernize their brands with changing consumer tastes," he said.
Brazi Bites, however, is on trend and is riding the wave of the expanding modern frozen food market, which in 2018 grew for the first time in five years, according to RBC Capital Markets. Thanks to millennials, it doesn’t look like this growth is going to freeze anytime soon either. Last fall, a study by sales and marketing agency Acosta found that 26% of U.S. consumers are shopping the frozen foods department more frequently than they did in 2016. All generations reported buying more frozen food, but the increase was driven in large part by millennials, 43% of whom said they bought more frozen foods compared with the prior year.
But is this growth sustainable? As consumers rely more frequently on convenience, it is unlikely that frozen foods will become passé any time soon. B&G Foods recently posted its sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in net sales of Green Giant frozen selections. At the same time, other large CPG companies like Nestlé are on the lookout to acquire healthy, modern frozen brands as they aggressively revamp their portfolio to muscle back into the frozen space. Last fall, Nestlé acquired Sweet Earth, a maker of frozen plant-based foods with about 50 products, including Harmless Ham and Benevolent Bacon.
With the landscape of the food industry the way it is, perhaps there is a target in mind for Brazi Bites and Guanella is the ideal candidate to steer the explosively popular company toward acquisition.