An EPIC first year
Since becoming a prized addition to the General Mills portfolio a little over a year ago, EPIC Provisions has been a whirlwind. That’s a fitting description for a brand whose 2017 mantra is “We are the storm.”
In one year, EPIC more than doubled sales, greatly expanded its channel penetration and distribution, enhanced digital consumer engagement and enlarged plant and warehouse capacity.
“We’ve been working to create the perfect trifecta for winning this race,” says EPIC co-founder Taylor Collins. “That is, producing food that creates a positive impact on the planet, enriches the lives of animals, and nourishes the end consumer.”
“We’re not only driving sales at the register, but we’re also achieving far bigger goals by helping to change the natural world’s agricultural landscape. It’s been a fast-paced, action-packed, dynamic first year of incredible growth across all fronts.”
Robby Sansom, chief financial officer and chief operating officer at EPIC, adds: “We set out to grow top line like wildfire, build our team without compromising our culture and to source more regenerative proteins and have a greater impact on the world around us. By any standard we knocked it out of the park on all three.”
The spirit of EPIC’s Whole Animal Project – an initiative that builds strong supplier relations, discourages waste, and fully honors the animals – drove the team to think differently.
It posed the question, “How do you use the entire animal?” The answer proved game changing.
Whole Foods eagerly embraced the Whole Animal Project. The grocer carries EPIC’s full portfolio of items.
“Following our core operating principle to be the category leader in everything we do, we’d already shattered expectations as a meat bar company,” says Jocelyn Upton, sales vice president, EPIC.
“This project upped our game to the next level and pushed us to a far broader offering that focused on meat, and not just snacks. That effort worked beyond our wildest expectations.”
In a highly competitive environment, EPIC maintained its lead through creative minds and speed-to-market bullishness. It launched 18 new items in one year, or 49 percent of its entire portfolio.
The move drove distribution expansion from four to seven categories. A product line that started in protein bars, bites, mixes, and bits quickly expanded into pork skins, bone broths, and animal fats. (EPIC’s Duck Fat won New Hope’s 2016 prestigious Nexty Award).
And just this year, EPIC launched a new Meat Strips segment to their “Animal Kingdom” offering. With a lower price point, these items are perfect for front check-stands that encourage new consumers to try the brand.
Even while moving fast with growth, EPIC still made time to create a new sourcing supply chain for antibiotic-free pork skins and duck fat.
The “Wolf Pack” rolled up its sleeves to secure distribution in channels such as natural, grocery, convenience store, club, drug, foodservice, military, specialty and e-commerce.
Jocelyn says the outlets included Sam’s Club, Kroger, Walmart, Whole Foods, REI, 7-Eleven, Navy, airports, Amazon, the University of Massachusetts, Vitamin Shoppe, CVS, and even the locker rooms of the Oakland Raiders and other sports teams.
“Speed and flexibility were critical factors in making that kind of growth happen, and hitting all the marks demanded a lot from every member of our company and partners – from sourcing to production to marketing and sales, we’ve been really fortunate to have every member of our EPIC and General Mills teams fully committed to a vision of success,” she says.
EPIC’s sourcing initiatives have both short- and long-term positive impacts. For example, in a recent partnership with farmers, General Mills committed to supporting the purchase of 1,300 grass-fed and pasture-raised bison calves.
For 2017, EPIC and General Mills committed to shift to a year-round supply of pastured turkey with White Oak Pastures, a Georgia farm that’s at the forefront of land stewardship and humane treatment of animals in the U.S.
“We’ve also transitioned to 100 percent organic pastured pork in our cooking oils, following, as ever, a moral compass for new product creation,” Taylor says. “These are the kinds of initiatives that simply reflect best-practices for our business, but which also appeal to consumers and meets a growing demand.”
“We believe we can be a force for positive change in the world and even within our own organizations,” Robby says. “We can’t sit around and wait for progress to happen, we have to lead it. That takes a continuous improvement mindset, a willingness to challenge convention and the trust to empower people to act boldly and move quickly in order to find new and better ways to get things done.”
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