When traveling for business to Japan, it was difficult for Ross Taylor, who follows a high fat/low carb diet, to pack oils and nut butters. “You can find good veggies and proteins anywhere you travel, but it is difficult to find healthy fats,” said Ross, who traveled to Asia and other places when he worked for Southwest Windpower.
“I bought mini Ziploc bags at Michael’s [craft store in Flagstaff] to hold oils and nut butters. But those would break, and I’d have to pack them inside Nalgene bottles in my luggage to protect my clothes. It was difficult to find portable, healthy fats. So our products were really born out of personal need and the way we eat.”
Ross, with his wife, Kara Taylor, founded Love You Foods in Flagstaff two years ago and soon became a client of NACET (Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology) business incubator. Their products offer convenient, tasty options for enjoying fats on the go and are marketed under the FBomb brand to people who live low-carb, low-carb/high-fat, ketogenic or paleo lifestyles.
Kara served as finance manager and the first employee of Gift Card Zen, an upstart business that was based in Flagstaff. “I enjoyed watching the start-up grow. It was helpful to watch the growth, and it was a good education – a good perspective,” she said. But when the company relocated to Phoenix, Kara didn’t want to leave Flagstaff. Ross had a parallel experience at Southwest Windpower. When that company left Flagstaff, he aimed to stay.
“We’ve experienced layoffs and moves, but we have a real connection to the area,” said Ross. “So we made the decision early on to set up a manufacturing facility here in Flagstaff.” The couple had researched using food packers outside the area to manufacture and package their products. “But then we would have a giant load of one product. Because we are manufacturing here, we can do smaller batches, and now we have 10 products,” he added. One of those products, “Salted Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter” was introduced just last month and has already become a best seller.
“We try to be smart and flexible,” said Kara. And that philosophy goes for anything from planning space usage to reducing labeling costs to buying new manufacturing machinery.
Being a client at NACET has afforded the start-up company flexibility with space planning. “We looked at manufacturing space in Flagstaff, but we would have been locked into a long lease. If we had gone with a big space initially, that would be a huge investment on more space than we needed at the time. But if we’d have gone for a small space, we would have already outgrown it,” explained Ross.
The couple decided to start their production facility at NACET with a 400 square-foot-space in August 2015. Soon afterward, they moved their administrative offices to NACET in an additional space. The FBomb production line subsequently outgrew the first facility and manufacturing operations were moved to a larger NACET space.
Besides offering flexibly with manufacturing space, NACET has helped accelerate the FBomb brand by offering business consultation and support. “NACET has helped us to have a platform, a nice clean space here. They’ve been a good sounding board and provide business consultation,” said Kara.
Also, NACET provides “a ‘sanity check,’” laughed Ross.
“They help us find resources. They have a network of other businesses and information,” Kara added.
The couple got their LLC in March 2015 and worked at registering their products with the FDA, getting Coconino Health Department approval, vetting suppliers, taste testing and developing packaging, labeling and logos for the first four months or so. “All the parts and pieces,” summed up Kara.
They kept to the smart and flexible philosophy when manufacturing began at their NACET facility. The couple started with the simplest and easiest products to make and market: coconut and macadamia nut fats and oils. After successfully launching those, the duo added products made from nut butters, olive oil and avocado oil.
Originally, their business plan was to sell their product via their website and then, once established, look for distributors. But in a short time, distributors started contacting them.
“Whole Foods and other distributors came to us,” said Ross. Whole Foods, Let’s Truck and another retailer showed keen interest in the FBomb line of healthy food and snacks.
Love You Foods is currently in the “on-boarding” process with Whole Foods, which includes a UL food manufacturing safety certification. Third-party UL officials will review the protocols and procedures of the Love You Foods manufacturing facility here in Flagstaff. Once the certificate is issued, Whole Foods plans to introduce the FBomb brand to the 10 Arizona Whole Foods stores and then roll out the healthy, high-fat foods from there.
“We’ve seen different groups of customers that we didn’t expect,” said Kara. Those include “Mommy Bloggers” who are looking for healthy snacks for their children and long-distance truckers seeking wholesome lifestyles. It was no surprise that people following the ketogenic diet – which is thought to improve a wide range of diseases, from Type 2 diabetes to epilepsy to Alzheimer’s and more – would be loyal customers. In addition, ultra-endurance athletes are using FBomb products and one Flagstaff long-distance runner, Andrew Lemoncello, is now sponsored by and promoting the brand.
Yet, the couple plots their growth carefully. “We don’t want to go the way of some new companies that go down because they aren’t geared up for rapid growth,” said Kara. With their current equipment, they can fill five to six packages per minute. Plans for the future include an automated filling machine that will fill 75-100 packages per minute.
The couple plans to start hiring employees this year. Their manufacturing facility has grown out of the original 400-square-foot-space into 966 square feet.
The company’s advisory board includes familiar Flagstaff names such as Steve Chatinsky, Peace Surplus; Jeff Saville, Valutek; and Way Yuhl, Coconino Small Business Development Center.
Babbitt’s Backcountry Outfitters and Absolute Bikes sell FBomb products as trail snacks. See the full line of products at dropanfbomb.com. FBN
By Stacey Wittig, FBN
Love You Foods
2225 N. Gemini Road, Suite E-10 & Suite E-11, Flagstaff
NACET – Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology
2225 N Gemini Drive, Flagstaff
Ross and Kara Taylor strive to keep up with demand for their healthy FBomb snacks at their Love You Foods manufacturing facility in Flagstaff.
Photo by Stacey Wittig