No Cow - formerly known as D’s Naturals - was founded three years ago primarily to manufacture dairy-free, low-sugar and high-protein bars.
In February last year, it received an undisclosed cash boost from Chicago-based private equity firm 2x Partners and General Mills’ venture capital arm 301 Inc.
Katz said the company has grown double-digit monthly since the investment.
“I think General Mills' ultimate goal is to invest in small companies that will one day become part of its portfolio," he said. “I wouldn’t expect it [General Mills] to invest in Kellogg or one of their competitors.
"We are happy to operate independently and grow on our own ... but we are also happy to get the resources [from General Mills],” he added. “At the end of the day, we need what’s right for the company and, most importantly, what’s right for the consumer.”
In recent years, several of the larger food companies have invested in emerging, health-focused brands to boost their own portfolios, such as Kellogg acquiring RXBar in October last year for $600m.
M&M's and Snickers owner Mars, too, bought a minority stake in KIND Snacks with the aim to launch its nutrition bars onto the global stage.
Investing in plant proteins
John Haugen, VP and general manager at 301 Inc., told BakeryandSnacks he hopes to take No Cow’s business to the next level and make it accessible to more people.
“Our goal is to be an indispensable partner and we’ve supported No Cow with the resources and expertise that General Mills has, from marketing to channel development to product and technical support,” he said.
He added the company caught 301 Inc.’s attention because plant-based proteins are gaining more consumer interest.
“With 20 grams of protein and only 1 gram of sugar, No Cow bars are very on-trend with how people are looking to get sustained energy throughout the day. The products taste great and they have potential to expand into new forms for new consumers, including performance athletes,” he said.
No Cow uses a blend of pea and rice proteins, sourced from multiple different suppliers, according to Katz.
“When I started the company, one of the investments I made personally was in the plant-based category. At the time, nobody has heard of plant-based protein, but we've [since seen] massive growth as more people are moving to veganism.
“[Plant-based] is one of those categories I don’t see stopping at any time soon, especially considering the number of lactose-intolerant people continues to growth worldwide every year,” added Katz.
‘Significant growth’ upon rebrand
Katz worked with Texas-based Ptarmak to rebrand No Cow’s packaging, changing it from “D’s Naturals” in November last year.
“We noticed what resonated with the consumer is ‘No Cow’… now they don’t have to flip [the pack] to see what’s in the product from the nutrition panel,” he said. “Creating a trusted brand was our main goal.”
The company concurrently launched a range of high-protein cookies. Each 1.77-ounce pack contains 1 g sugar and 12 g protein.
Said Katz: “One of the things we want to prove is we can play in multiple categories, and we want to be the premier source of diary free, low sugar and high protein, whether that is protein bars, cookies or a different category.”
Katz added No Cow is in “a great position going into 2018” and projects “significant growth.”
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