As its fifth investment in a woman-owned company, Equilibra said it will work closely with the company's founders to grow it into a global brand and rollout further product innovation, said Equilibra managing director Elle Lanning.
"Instead of adhering to tried-and-true playbooks, Belgian Boys is writing its own rules and changing the entire game," said Lanning.
Launched in 2014 and now run by husband and wife team Anouck Gotlib and Greg Galel, who both grew up in Europe but are now based in Brooklyn, New York City, Belgian Boys was born out of the idea of bringing small indulgent treats to American consumers tapping into the trend of permissible indulgence.
With a portfolio now spanning everything from shelf-stable cookies, mini almond loafs, and caramel stroopwafels to fresh breakfast favorites including crêpes, pancakes, and most recently French toast, Gotlib said the investment and partnership with Equilibra Ventures will unlock an accelerated path of growth for the brand, which is currently distributed to more than 5,000 stores at major retail chains including Costco, Target, and Walmart.
"We grew up with so many indulgent treats -- our motto is when you indulge, indulge well. And we see our consumer in the US really reacting well to that," Gotlib told FoodNavigator-USA.
Packaged in individual wrappers, many of Belgian Boys products are meant to serve as a pre-portioned pick-me-up alongside a cup of coffee or tea or after a hard day at work.
The other pillar of its portfolio, fresh breakfast and dessert items, serves a similar purpose but with a focus on increasing the convenience and optionality of the typical fresh American breakfast of eggs and bacon.
Its latest product launch, brioche French toast, comes in a ready-to-heat (either in the toaster or oven) format without all the mess of dipping bread into an eggy mixture and then transferring it to a pan.
Fighting for fresh placement
For its perishable items of pancakes, crêpes, and French toast, Gotlib noted how the company has had to work hard reorienting consumers and retailers to look for and merchandise the products in the fresh section of the store alongside refrigerated dough in some cases and eggs in others.
"We've been on a mission to introduce fresh breakfast to the American consumer. Buyers told us frozen breakfast is where we need to be. In Europe, we buy pancakes and crêpes in the fresh aisle," said Gotlib. Demonstrating its success so far, the company began working with Walmart in 2018 distributing its fresh breakfast items to 65 stores (a logistical nightmare at first, she said) but then grew its store count to 300 Walmart locations the following year and then to approximately 785 stores in 2021.
"Next to eggs we found our best success, that’s where we’re seeing 300-500% growth above our velocities in frozen for the same item," said Gotlib adding that its revenue has doubled in the past two years amid the pandemic when consumers were searching for quick and easy breakfast items and permissibly indulgent products.
"In 2021, we garnered enough learnings to take that growth to the next level," added Gotlib.
"Belgian Boys is a bootstrap business, and we became extremely capital efficient. It was really important for us, before we look for a partner, to understand where we see this brand going and I can’t say I knew that a few years ago," said Gotlib
But now with a clear target and trajectory of expanding the fresh breakfast mindset of US consumers, Gotlib said the brand is ready to go full speed ahead, propelled by Equilibra's CPG expertise and know how.
"They’re our partner for the next few years, and it’s what’s going to put Belgian Boys in that full speed gear for the next decade ahead," said Gotlib.