- With $14 million in new investment from Encore Consumer Capital, Veggie Noodle Co. plans to expand its production capacity with a custom-built facility, increase its 200-member staff by 25% and develop more innovative products to encourage customers to increasingly incorporate vegetables into their diets, according to an article in Project NOSH.
- Company founder Mason Arnold told Project NOSH that the new plant will be three times the size of its current retrofitted facility in Austin, Texas and will fit Veggie Noodle's exact specifications for manufacturing its ready-to-eat spiralized vegetable-based products.
- Veggie Noodle now sells its products in 30 to 40 retail chains and has developed several patent-pending machines to improve noodle production, along with quality and taste. “We’re having to create our own machines to make the perfect noodle, but we think that’s going to give us long term competitive advantage," Arnold told Project NOSH.
Veggie Noodle also could benefit from Encore Consumer Capital's experience with fresh food firms such as California Splendor, FreshKO and Juice Tyme to bolster its purchasing, operations, food safety and marketing expertise.
Encore's managing director Scott Sellers told Project NOSH, “You can’t be weak in any of those areas. We feel that we can leverage our experience in those four areas to guide the company through its current growth phase.”
Veggie Noodle may have an additional reason for wanting a new facility. It voluntarily recalled some of its Butternut Spirals in February due to potential contamination with listeria, which was identified through routine product testing. The recalled product was distributed to Whole Foods Markets and other retailers in the Midwest. The company noted that no illnesses had been reported in connection with the recall.
Listeria is commonly found in food-processing facilities — frequently in floor drains, walls, ceilings, food contact surfaces, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems — and is notoriously difficult to eradicate. Unlike most foodborne pathogens, it can grow in refrigerated temperatures and can remain viable in food products until the end of their shelf life.
Along with its new plant, additional employees and expanded product line, Arnold hinted that Veggie Noodle could launch into manufacturing other food items, which could prompt a name change or brand repositioning.
Vegetables are showing up on Americans' plates more often for a variety of reasons. People want to cut calories by swapping out carbohydrates for healthier alternatives. They also want to save time by reaching for ready-to-eat products that are both tasty and better for them.
“We’re seeing that consumers are not only looking for healthy alternatives to starchy dishes, but they’re also preparing and eating vegetables in different ways than their parents did — they’re looking for both fresh and convenient. We also found that mothers are especially interested in how to introduce vegetables into their children’s diets in ways that they will find appealing as well as healthy," Jordan Greenberg, vice president and general manager at Green Giant, told Food Dive last fall.
In response to consumer demand and their own market research, brands like Green Giant, Archer Daniels Midland, Del Monte Fresh, Sprout Foods have been busy rolling out innovative products featuring vegetables. And it's been just in time. A 2015 Produce for Better Health Foundation study found per capita vegetable consumption declined 7% between 2009 and 2014, in part because fewer side dishes were being served at home.
Veggie Noodle isn't the only company to introduce this kind of product. Del Monte debuted a new line of vegetable "pasta" earlier this year, but the jury is still out about how popular these items typically found in refrigerated produce sections really are with consumers.