Industry Buzz

How SKU Helped Foodboro Member Karma Nuts Scale

From fine-tuning business operations to helping bring on a marketing and sales team, SKU's accelerator was intsrumental in helping Karma Nuts scale.

How SKU Helped Foodboro Member Karma Nuts Scale

Written in partnership with SKU

The market opportunity became obvious during the decade Ganesh Nair spent in the diabetes division at one of the world’s largest healthcare companies.

“Health care professionals face a challenge,” Nair said. “They are not trained in nutrition and behavior modification.”

Awareness of that fact was particularly acute in 2009, as he helped set up a Paris-based nonprofit institute aimed at assisting health care professionals manage diabetes. It was Nair’s final project at New Jersey-headquartered Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

Among the problems confronted by those suffering from the chronic disease: “Binging on less-than-wholesome snacks, like deep-fried foods,” Nair said. “I realized how important it was to have nutritious, yet tasty snacks.”

That epiphany was the seed from which sprouted Karma Nuts — the California-headquartered cashew company that CEO Nair founded in 2014. 

A cashew company was the natural choice. Nair’s family in India has run Wenders, a cashew-processing and cashew-product exporting business, for 90 years.

Karma Nuts differentiates itself by air-roasting its nuts, and offering shelled cashews still covered by their inner skins, Nair said. Those skins contain antioxidants and fiber, supplying a more nutritious snack to customers, the CEO said.

Nair doesn’t want to compete only with other nuts, he said. The CEO’s target audience is anyone who is about to reach for a sweet or savory snack. That includes those about to eat a chocolate bar. 

“We want to be in the consideration set,” Nair said. That’s why Karma Nuts also has “cocoa dusted” and “toasted coconut” flavors. But, the CEO emphasized, its products are “minimally processed with only clean ingredients.”

Karma Nuts has doubled its annual revenue each year since participating in SKU’s fifth cohort in 2017, Nair said. The company achieved profitability in 2020. It now can be found in more than 1,000 stores, including Harris Teeter, Raleys, Albertsons Safeway Divisions, Cost Plus World Market and Thrive Market. Consumers also may purchase Karma Nuts products on Amazon.

SKU helped Nair and his team better approach the company’s sales, marketing and operations functions as they sought to scale the business.

SKU Mentor Matt Justman, in fact, served as Karma Nuts head of sales from 2017 to 2019. And, SKU Mentor Michael Hyche, Nair said, was instrumental in fine-tuning business operations — visiting the startup’s plant in India “multiple times,” Nair said.

The network provided by Austin’s only consumer packaged goods accelerator also was key in Karma Nuts’ 2019 brand redesign, which included new flavors and packaging, the CEO said. That same network also enabled the company to “make connections with the [venture capital] community in Austin,” Nair said. Karma Nuts was able to secure an undisclosed VC investment last year, he said.

A total of five full-time employees currently work at the fully remote startup. Two are based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The others are located in the Midwest and Southern California, Nair said. The CEO hopes to add two sales and marketing positions to the team in the next year.

Though Nair isn’t actively recruiting any C-suite-level additions, the CEO said he’d consider hiring an executive-team member “if it was the right fit.”

Become a Foodboro Maker Member

Learn more about SKU

Learn more about Karma Nuts

Written in partnership with SKU

The market opportunity became obvious during the decade Ganesh Nair spent in the diabetes division at one of the world’s largest healthcare companies.

“Health care professionals face a challenge,” Nair said. “They are not trained in nutrition and behavior modification.”

Awareness of that fact was particularly acute in 2009, as he helped set up a Paris-based nonprofit institute aimed at assisting health care professionals manage diabetes. It was Nair’s final project at New Jersey-headquartered Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

Among the problems confronted by those suffering from the chronic disease: “Binging on less-than-wholesome snacks, like deep-fried foods,” Nair said. “I realized how important it was to have nutritious, yet tasty snacks.”

That epiphany was the seed from which sprouted Karma Nuts — the California-headquartered cashew company that CEO Nair founded in 2014. 

A cashew company was the natural choice. Nair’s family in India has run Wenders, a cashew-processing and cashew-product exporting business, for 90 years.

Karma Nuts differentiates itself by air-roasting its nuts, and offering shelled cashews still covered by their inner skins, Nair said. Those skins contain antioxidants and fiber, supplying a more nutritious snack to customers, the CEO said.

Nair doesn’t want to compete only with other nuts, he said. The CEO’s target audience is anyone who is about to reach for a sweet or savory snack. That includes those about to eat a chocolate bar. 

“We want to be in the consideration set,” Nair said. That’s why Karma Nuts also has “cocoa dusted” and “toasted coconut” flavors. But, the CEO emphasized, its products are “minimally processed with only clean ingredients.”

Karma Nuts has doubled its annual revenue each year since participating in SKU’s fifth cohort in 2017, Nair said. The company achieved profitability in 2020. It now can be found in more than 1,000 stores, including Harris Teeter, Raleys, Albertsons Safeway Divisions, Cost Plus World Market and Thrive Market. Consumers also may purchase Karma Nuts products on Amazon.

SKU helped Nair and his team better approach the company’s sales, marketing and operations functions as they sought to scale the business.

SKU Mentor Matt Justman, in fact, served as Karma Nuts head of sales from 2017 to 2019. And, SKU Mentor Michael Hyche, Nair said, was instrumental in fine-tuning business operations — visiting the startup’s plant in India “multiple times,” Nair said.

The network provided by Austin’s only consumer packaged goods accelerator also was key in Karma Nuts’ 2019 brand redesign, which included new flavors and packaging, the CEO said. That same network also enabled the company to “make connections with the [venture capital] community in Austin,” Nair said. Karma Nuts was able to secure an undisclosed VC investment last year, he said.

A total of five full-time employees currently work at the fully remote startup. Two are based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The others are located in the Midwest and Southern California, Nair said. The CEO hopes to add two sales and marketing positions to the team in the next year.

Though Nair isn’t actively recruiting any C-suite-level additions, the CEO said he’d consider hiring an executive-team member “if it was the right fit.”

Become a Foodboro Maker Member

Learn more about SKU

Learn more about Karma Nuts

Written in partnership with SKU

The market opportunity became obvious during the decade Ganesh Nair spent in the diabetes division at one of the world’s largest healthcare companies.

“Health care professionals face a challenge,” Nair said. “They are not trained in nutrition and behavior modification.”

Awareness of that fact was particularly acute in 2009, as he helped set up a Paris-based nonprofit institute aimed at assisting health care professionals manage diabetes. It was Nair’s final project at New Jersey-headquartered Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

Among the problems confronted by those suffering from the chronic disease: “Binging on less-than-wholesome snacks, like deep-fried foods,” Nair said. “I realized how important it was to have nutritious, yet tasty snacks.”

That epiphany was the seed from which sprouted Karma Nuts — the California-headquartered cashew company that CEO Nair founded in 2014. 

A cashew company was the natural choice. Nair’s family in India has run Wenders, a cashew-processing and cashew-product exporting business, for 90 years.

Karma Nuts differentiates itself by air-roasting its nuts, and offering shelled cashews still covered by their inner skins, Nair said. Those skins contain antioxidants and fiber, supplying a more nutritious snack to customers, the CEO said.

Nair doesn’t want to compete only with other nuts, he said. The CEO’s target audience is anyone who is about to reach for a sweet or savory snack. That includes those about to eat a chocolate bar. 

“We want to be in the consideration set,” Nair said. That’s why Karma Nuts also has “cocoa dusted” and “toasted coconut” flavors. But, the CEO emphasized, its products are “minimally processed with only clean ingredients.”

Karma Nuts has doubled its annual revenue each year since participating in SKU’s fifth cohort in 2017, Nair said. The company achieved profitability in 2020. It now can be found in more than 1,000 stores, including Harris Teeter, Raleys, Albertsons Safeway Divisions, Cost Plus World Market and Thrive Market. Consumers also may purchase Karma Nuts products on Amazon.

SKU helped Nair and his team better approach the company’s sales, marketing and operations functions as they sought to scale the business.

SKU Mentor Matt Justman, in fact, served as Karma Nuts head of sales from 2017 to 2019. And, SKU Mentor Michael Hyche, Nair said, was instrumental in fine-tuning business operations — visiting the startup’s plant in India “multiple times,” Nair said.

The network provided by Austin’s only consumer packaged goods accelerator also was key in Karma Nuts’ 2019 brand redesign, which included new flavors and packaging, the CEO said. That same network also enabled the company to “make connections with the [venture capital] community in Austin,” Nair said. Karma Nuts was able to secure an undisclosed VC investment last year, he said.

A total of five full-time employees currently work at the fully remote startup. Two are based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The others are located in the Midwest and Southern California, Nair said. The CEO hopes to add two sales and marketing positions to the team in the next year.

Though Nair isn’t actively recruiting any C-suite-level additions, the CEO said he’d consider hiring an executive-team member “if it was the right fit.”

Become a Foodboro Maker Member

Learn more about SKU

Learn more about Karma Nuts

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