Several Windy City-based food startups have recently achieved big-dollar acquisitions like Home Chef, RXBAR, and SkinnyPop, to name a few. The Midwestern hub has all the ingredients for food startups to thrive: talent, resources, and space.
Read on as we explore four natural food companies and the teams behind them that are worth keeping an eye on.
Kitchfix doesn’t just offer their grain-free product line in grocery stores — they also operate the Chicagoland Meals delivery service. They deliver local, sustainable meals prepared by company chefs through Chicago and the nearby suburbs. CEO Josh Katt and Executive Chef Joe Lessard want to hire team members who need a second chance or a helping hand to turn their careers around — if a promising candidate has come from a difficult background, it’s given extra consideration and weight in the hiring process.
Frönen is a sweet solution for those who want to watch what’s on their plate without giving up all the treats they love. Founded by Jessica Gartenstein and Erik Nadeau in 2017, the company got a head start when they won the $20,000 prize at University of Chicago’s yearly venture challenge. Gartenstein had to give up ice cream because of her dairy sensitivity, but when she befriended Nadeau in college, he introduced her to his family’s banana “nice cream” recipe — and eventually, Frönen was born. Today, their three-person team of certified food handlers still produces and packages their non-dairy, banana-based frozen dessert themselves. Frönen is sold in grocery stores and delivered throughout Chicago, and it can also be purchased online.
3. Simple Mills
With more people getting particular about their personal dietary choices and being selective about the products that earn space in their pantries, brands like Simple Mills are filling the demand. Simple Mills was founded by University of Chicago graduate Katlin Smith, and their almond flour-based products are free of soy, gluten, and GMOs. Smith perfected her recipes after cutting gluten and other common irritants from her own diet, and today, the team at Simple Mills prioritizes healthy living every day at their Chicago office: they enjoy access to meditation rooms, standing desks, and wellness events, and they make a habit out of “celebrating simple wins.”
4. Pre Brands
Pre Brands CEO Lenny Lebovich wanted to promote transparency and accountability in the meat industry, and he took matters into his own hands when he launched this startup. Pre Brands promises that their beef is always grass fed and grass finished, free of antibiotics and hormones, and humanely pasture-raised. Pre Brands also donates high quality beef to Chicago communities in need through their Common Threads program — hunger and malnutrition can happen anywhere, and the team at Pre Brands wants to give back to their city.
Jane Harkness is a freelance writer who provides blogging, copywriting, and proofreading services to startups, small businesses, and nonprofits. She works with clients in a variety of industries, including food and travel, and she also contributes political essays to several digital publications.