Four Food Startups Are Influencing the Marketplace

Fledgling companies succeed by sticking with their objectives and meeting consumers’ needs.

November 19, 2018

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Four young companies are challenging traditional ways of doing business and succeeding at the checkout counter, according to a report at

Last year, Halo Top became the leading pint of ice cream in the country, surpassing long-time favorites, such as Ben & Jerry’s. The new brand promised fewer calories, less sugar and higher protein—but it almost never made it to the retail market.

Three years ago, the company was drowning in debt, the packaging was unexciting and the product’s consistency was not getting rave reviews from customers. Halo Top executives were ready to throw in the proverbial towel.

After the second and final round of financing from friends and family, the company reduced the chalkiness of the ice cream; overhauled the packaging, going for a more aesthetically pleasing look, and prominently displayed the calorie count on the label. Two news articles in early 2016 garnered welcomed publicity, and soon, sales began to double each month. Today, Halo Top has nearly $350 million in sales annually across 35,000 stores. Competitors have responded by introducing their own low-calorie versions.

JUST is a San Francisco-based company that produces plant-based foods that are sold globally. Founder John Tetrick​ wanted to give people access to a cheap, nutritious and sustainable food supply, while using less land and water and without harming animals. 

The seven-year-old company has worked with protein isolates to create vegan mayonnaise, salad dressing, cookies and egg-like products, and its latest food science venture is lab-grown chicken and beef. Despite some hiccups along the way, JUST has been wildly successful, commanding a value of $1 billion today and selling in more than 15,000 stores. (Sales of plant-based foods jumped 20% in the past year to more than $3.3 billion, according to data from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association.)

The Chobani Greek yogurt company was founded in 2005 by Hamdi Ulukaya with a loan from the Small Business Administration. His goal was to make the same product he grew up eating at home in Turkey.

His challenge was that Greek yogurt, now the dominant seller at grocery stores, commanded a 0.8% market share compared to sugary varieties that had stocked shelves for years.

Although financial advisors discouraged Ulukaya from moving into an area that appeared to have no room for growth, he saw a product that was high in protein, low in sugar, nutritious and a great snack, giving him faith that it would eventually catch on with shoppers. Today, Chobani leads in the $9 billion yogurt space.

Beyond Meat produces plant-based products that look and taste like meat. The company didn’t get a break until 2016 when its hamburger product hit Whole Foods shelves, making it the first plant-based burger sold in the supermarket meat section.

Although some chains initially wanted to put Beyond Burger in the frozen or produce sections where veggie products have long resided, the company stuck by its belief that placing its product, which sizzles and oozes fats while cooking, away from the real thing would restrict visibility and diminish the similarities it has with meat. Today, the product is carried by virtually all major retailers in the meat section next to traditional beef products.