We’ve all been in that moment when hunger has our stomachs grumbling and our mood plummeting, but putting together a nutritious meal or snack in a hurry isn’t always an option. So what do you do? Ride out the hunger until mealtime or reach for a nutrient-dense snack that’s ready in less than a minute? It’s a no-brainer!
Christina Appleton of Appleton’s Market gives us the low-down on how she developed her Power Veggie Bites, a perfect blend of healthy fats, hearty greens, fiber and protein that can be steamed in the microwave and served as a mini-meal whenever. Read more on how Christina, who’s based in Los Angeles, got her start, what it’s been like launching a business during Covid-19, and what she’s planning next!
Growing up in your family’s market and having seen the ins and outs, ups and downs, of the food retail business, what inspired you to branch out to making your own product?
I grew up in a family of small business entrepreneurs, which to be honest actually scared me away from doing that for a little while. I only saw the downside – no vacation was actually time off, the pressures of payroll, etc. It was only after working at a couple F500 companies (General Mills/FOX) that I realized big corporations were never going to care about, and that if I really wanted to make a difference/my mark I’d have to branch out of my comfort zone.
I started out working for others in startups until I came to my second realization – I had to create something of my own to truly feel like I was charting my own course. So it took me a little while to get here, but I can’t imagine it any other way.
When did you decide to start selling your product?
That’s a tricky question! I knew in 2016 that I wanted to start my own business, but didn’t know what it was. I wanted to create a truly unique product, and knew that it would come to me if I just kept my eyes open. I had my “A ha” moment around 18 months ago, and started selling the product in late March 2020.
How did you decide on Power Veggie Bites?
Power Veggie Bites grew out of a personal need. It was late afternoon. I was running from one meeting to the next, thinking about all the emails I had to send and all I could focus on was how hungry I was. So hungry I couldn’t even think about what I wanted to eat—I just knew I wanted something tasty, something nutrient-dense, and something NOW.
I looked around my desk at the sad bag of almonds and my dry protein bar and thought, “There has to be something better, right?” NOPE. There was nothing that could give me the satisfaction of a meal (greens, protein, fiber, healthy fats and delicious savory flavors) quickly and in a fulfilling way. So I headed to my kitchen to make it myself. After months of testing I knew I had the perfect mini-meal—and the perfect way to make it. Microwaving in a BPA-free steamer bag for less than a minute, these veggie bites made for the ultimate hunger solution.
Can you tell us a bit more about where you source the ingredients for Power Veggie Bites?
I use ingredients from local farmers here in the abundant valleys of Southern California – from crisp Swiss chard to crunchy broccoli . Eggs are cage-free, and labels are clean. Everything comes in fresh before we make our Bites. Naturally grain-free, dairy-free, Paleo- and Keto-friendly, if it’s something you can’t find in your kitchen it’s not going into my Power Veggie Bites. My unique patented steamer bag means each bite comes out perfectly steamed, locking in the delicious flavors and providing the most amazing texture.
Do you manufacture in-house or do you have a co-manufacturer?
I work with a great manufacturer just outside of LA. I knew before I even got started with this that making the product was not something I wanted to do personally, nor did I want to manage a kitchen. I knew that the manufacturing expertise of a strong partner would go far in making the best product possible
What have the early days of business been like?
It’s an incredibly weird thing to launch a business during a worldwide pandemic/quarantine but it has forced me to be really critical and make some tough strategic decisions that I believe will ultimately be good for the business long term. It’s a lot of juggling what I can do vs. what would actually be better for others to do and doing my best to recognize the differences.
The hardest part about launching has been the unique challenges of COVID. I had spent the past year building relationships and sales channels through offices, co-working spaces, events, and small shops – 100% of which went away two weeks before I launched. This meant a QUICK pivot to a plan b, and then a plan c. Still working on plan d 🙂 Beyond this unique challenge, being a solo founder is a challenge – sometimes I feel like I am operating in an echo chamber/silo. To combat this, I’ve worked hard to create a community of other early stage CPG founders here in LA to be each other’s support system.
There are a lot of folks who are working from home and who want to order their groceries online now, and I know that my mini-meals are perfect for their needs. Just a matter of finding them and shipping them out!
What has been your proudest moment as a founder?
My proudest moment of being a founder has been to see the amazing reception that my product has received from my customers. It has really helped people save time, eat healthier, satisfy hunger – whatever they use their Power Veggie Bites for. I’ve even had some customers so fervent that they blasted their own networks to help me expand. This is why I started this company and it feels incredible to see my products make their mark.
What can we expect next?
Expansion! Right now I am focused on the California market, but stay tuned as we work to get Power Veggie Bites everywhere! In terms of product, there may be a few tricks up our sleeves for additions.
As a founder, how do you maintain balance?
Balance is always tricky, especially as a solo founder. I have found that the best way to stay sane is to try to carve as much weekend time out to not think about the business – scheduled tennis, activities, getting out the house – all extremely important especially during the quarantine.
What advice do you have for other early-stage food and beverage entrepreneurs?
Create a network/community for yourself. It is incredibly important to have a support system when you are branching off and doing something new, and being able to learn and commiserate with others is invaluable.