Blake Sorensen grew up with a nut allergy that limited his diet long before he started the Blake’s Seed Based food brand.
“Bars, trail mix and cookies were just off limits to me,” he told PYMNTS in an interview, which was “super frustrating” because he was on-the-go and an athlete.
Sorensen took that frustration and decided to do something about it in 2017. He was in a social entrepreneurship class and tasked with solving a social need. Sorensen said he thought there was a lack of tasty, healthy snacks that didn’t have the major allergens.
The class project led him to buy a food processor, and he started making bars in his kitchen. Today, his company sells a variety of seed-based snacks and protein bars. (He always ate many seeds, as he couldn’t eat nuts when he was growing up.)
“The bars are simple,” Sorensen said.
The company uses either seeds and fruit or seeds and chocolate to make them. Sorensen said he always enjoyed the taste of seeds; they have healthy fats and a solid amount of protein. And he noted that “they go hand in hand” nutrition-wise and function-wise with nuts.
Sorensen pointed out that one in 10 adults has a food allergy, and the company is more of an adult-focused brand. Its target market is a 21- to a 40-year-old consumer who is active and willing to try a new product. The company gets the word out about the brand through trade shows, and it works with organizations such as FARE Research. Its logo is a parrot — birds eat seeds, after all — and the company features the animal prominently in its Instagram photos.
The mascot, in one case, is in a yoga position on a mat with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. Sorensen notes that, when you have an allergy, you are always on edge reading labels, so the company wanted to create a brand that is laid-back, fun and puts consumers at ease. The parrot, in a way, represents that idea.
The eCommerce Experience
The company sells its bars through its eCommerce website, where consumers can order a box of 12 or a variety pack box of nine. It allows consumers to place a one-time order or sign up for a subscription at a discounted price. The company also has products listed on Amazon, which are eligible for Prime shipping. For its website, the company uses Shopify as its back end, and it accepts credit cards as well as PayPal for payment.
Beyond its eCommerce website and Amazon, the brand has its products in some brick-and-mortar stores, such as Walmart, Jewel Osco, Hy-Vee and REI. The company’s goal, Sorensen said, is it wants to be where its customers are. It wants to be at the retail stores where they shop as well as online and in offices. The brand is in many offices throughout the country.
The company also has a wholesale section of its website, where it can sign a company up to receive preferential pricing, and they can order as much product as they want at a heavily discounted price.
When asked why the timing is right for the product, Sorensen said, “I was the consumer that was looking for this.” It began with the idea that “we’re solving a real pain point,” he said. He also noted that it’s easier now more than ever to start a food company and sell online.
He noted that 20 years ago, one couldn’t put up a website and sell a product online. Amazon and Shopify, however, have democratized the ability to create a brand. The company also believes that its early on the seed trend, but Sorensen said that the more you look into seeds — pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds — there’s a variety of seeds that are underutilized in the market when you consider the taste and nutrition profile. They are just such an excellent ingredient, he said.
The company is currently in the bar business, but it wants to look at products such as trail mix, cookies and crackers in the future. Sorensen said he sees a “portfolio” of products to round out the company’s lineup as it aims to provide seed-based foods that all consumers, including those who have allergies, can enjoy.