Kelly And Brian,The Power Couple Behind A Renowned Food Brand

By Stephen J Brooner

This sentiment was inspired in part by their daughter, who became a vegetarian in high school, leading to the whole family eating more plant-based food.

 “We had turned our diet around and found that as satisfying as it is personally, it’s a little bit challenging to make, because there’s a lot of chopping and cutting and a lot more complexity involved in trying to get healthy food that’s also delicious,” Kelly says. “So, it seemed to me that there was an opportunity to combine my passion and interest in cooking with sustainability.”

Opportunity struck when a trademark for Sweet Earth Natural Foods went on the market. They purchased the trademark and then built a company with a product line of healthy and convenient frozen vegetarian and vegan foods.

About five years later, in 2017, the husband and wife team sold the company to Nestle for an undisclosed sum. It was a notable investment in plant-based foods, which the food giant estimates will become a $5 billion market by 2020.

“[Nestle is] interested in our point of view on organic, sustainability, nutrient density and all these things that we’re talking about,” Kelly Swette tells Entrepreneur.

Kelly and Brian — who remain in their positions of CEO and president of Sweet Earth Foods, respectively — continue to control day-to-day operations of the company. Along with serving as CMO at PepsiCo, Brian was the director of Jamba Juice, a board member at Burger King and COO at eBay. Kelly was a director of marketing and then director of national sales at PepsiCo and global VP of marketing at Calvin Klein.

“Everything I have done has prepared me for this job,” Kelly Swette says. “All of those steps were absolutely essential.”

Sweet Earth Foods’ currently sells about 60 products, including burritos, sandwiches, veggie burgers, bowls and most recently, pizza. Many of its products feature seitan, a meat replacement made of wheat gluten. The brand is sold in more than 10,000 stores, including Whole Foods and Target.

 What did you do after acquiring the trademark?The first thing was I developed a mission statement and what I wanted the company to be. Then I created a brief that I used to find an agency that I felt would share and bring these values to life in a logo and packaging.

What can entrepreneurs learn from your experiences in getting into retailers?

The first thing is the quality of your product must be extraordinary. You need to make great food, and it needs to be something that stores don’t already have. You need to have a clear market niche and know who your customer is. There has to be alignment on who your customer is, and that has to make sense for the retailer.

How did the Nestle acquisition happen, and why was the company appealing as a partner?


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