Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Mission
Critical

Gregory Struck is the Founder and CEO of Noops, a plant-based, planet-forward organic oatmilk pudding made with purposeful ingredients. He is also the founder of Hungryroot, the first online grocery aggregator devoted to healthy, better-for-you recipes and meal planning.

The startup CPG world is built on innovation and creativity; embracing great new products that disrupt the category and engage consumers always seeking the next/best food, beverage, personal care product, etc. I’m pretty confident that just about everyone reading this has come up with at least one breakthrough idea that filled a need or a gap, delivered a better experience or did a better job of meeting shopper expectations than what was already out there.

These people are amazing, and I’m glad & lucky to call them my peers. That said, I think a tougher startup challenge for us all to embrace is becoming a living business and getting & staying relevant in a world that continues to spin out of control for many.

How We See it at Noops

An inventor develops a product, a consumable that satisfies shoppers’ appetites and hopefully delights their senses for as little or as long as the experience lasts.

An entrepreneur crafts a brand aligned with a mission and core values that reinforce its enduring worth/contribution via the product’s unique and meaningful benefits and differentiators.

Case in point: I developed Noops not because I am obsessed with oatmilk, but because my passion for the way people eat is personal. When I was a young, I immigrated from a developing African nation to America. I was grateful to live in the wealthiest and most advanced country in the world. However, I wasn’t able to reconcile America’s resources and prosperity with the fact that heart disease was (and is) the number one cause of death among Americans. Why couldn’t we fix that?

Years later, in early 2018, I faced the question head-on, when I was diagnosed with cancer and a rare genetic disease, as a father of three young children. I found studies on the power of food and adopted a plant-based lifestyle that played a large role in navigating my way back to good health. Healthy eating helped me survive cancer & fight my disease, giving me a second chance at life.

I found myself preoccupied by the disparity between people like me and Americans who didn’t know how or what to eat to thrive, and who didn’t have the financial resources to make healthy choices. Too many don’t have the luxury of deciding what they want to eat and are instead wondering if they or their families will eat at all that day. Heart disease is disproportionately higher among those below the poverty line & many lack access to fresh produce and nutritious food.

This challenge inspired me to step up and start Noops. Our mission is to make nutritious, planet-friendly, plant-based real food with more taste & flavor than less-healthy alternatives. We’re motivated by people across all economic levels looking to change how they feed themselves and their loved ones, without compromising food enjoyment.

Like many, if not most better-for-you foods made with clean, organic ingredients, Noops is a premium brand. It’s not inexpensive to make and often costs more than the (less healthy) products it sits next to on the grocery store shelf. Our mission grew out of the reconciliation of that reality with our vision of truly equitable nourishment. In fact, the financial disconnect heightened our core commitment to building a healthier future together, with food that is insanely delicious—and accessible to everyone.

All of the above made Noops’ purpose clear:

It’s our responsibility—and honor—to give back by serving the delicious, nutritious food we make to those who need it most and are least able to secure it.

As Noops grows, our community footprint will expand across the U.S. The unfortunate fact that hunger, particularly among children, is growing rather than diminishing sets Noops up for an enduring brand mission that will remain relevant for too long.

For now, however, we’ve got a clear path forward to grow community outreach at least as quickly as we broaden Noops’ retail & online distribution. We launched a QR code initiative that facilitates partnerships with organizations working to end food insecurity and childhood hunger. We’re supporting the efforts of non-profit and community organizations that teach children and their families about nutrition and healthy eating while encouraging and facilitating good health from the garden to the table. Current partners include Whole Kids Foundation, WellFare and FoodCorps, and we’re actively enlisting customers to help us build the list to represent local food banks, schools & pantries.

As the personal beneficiary of a lifestyle change, I’ll continue to question the inequity in our country that often limits healthy eating to the affluent. I’ll never feel good about living in a world where so many people don’t have the resources to choose a heart-healthy diet. That’s why, at least for this startup founder, it’s an honor to be even a small part of a significant movement to help ALL people live their best, and healthiest lives. As for making a really amazing oatmilk pudding that people love…well, we feel pretty good about that too!

Lessons Learned

As far as lessons learned go, they’ve been simple but meaningful. Solve a problem that you are passionate about and, in doing so, seek to understand if the problem represents a business opportunity or not. Let your mission always guide you and be in it for the long run. Never stop learning and stay humble and focused. If you’re already a founder, you know this, and you’ve got this. There are no failures, only learnings. If you’re considering becoming a founder, learn from those who’ve gone before you, strap in and take the leap – you’ve got this too!
See you around.

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