Americans helping Americans

Breaking the fast: Campbell’s-funded start-up aims to make cereal accessible to all

Four Campbell Soup employees are helping to put a bowl of cereal on the tables of those in need. Pic: ©iStock/DorSteffen

Four Campbell’s employees secured investment to set up The Soulfull Project – a ‘buy one, give one’ cereal venture in the US. 

The Camden, New Jersey-based start-up is making nutritious food more accessible to disadvantaged communities by donating a serving of its 4 Grain Blend to a regional Food Bank for every serving purchased.

At the recent ExpoWest held in California last week, the Campbell Soup-funded Project was spreading its message to ‘Wipe Hunger off the Map’ with its multi-grain hot cereal cups.

The company’s co-founder and head of marketing, Chip Heim, told BakeryandSnacks it had reached its target of donating 5,000 cereal cups for every one sampled by a visitor during ExpoWest.

Buy one, give one

Four Campbell’s employees – Chip Heim, Megan Shea, Maria Gamble and Lisa Schipsi – left the American producer of canned soups with an undisclosed investment to launch the mission-focused concern in August 2016.

Today, The Soulfull Project operates as an independent subsidiary of its sole investor Campbell’s Soup.

Heim told us the Project decided to become a public benefit corporation to ensure its mission to feed those in need received as much attention as the company’s business development strategy.

“With our buy one, give one model, our products appeal to those who want to make a difference in their local communities,” said Heim.

“The Soulfull Project products are great for those looking for a quick, easy and healthy option for breakfast, but expect the brands they choose to do more than just satisfy their own needs,” he said.

A public benefit corporation is focused on making a profit while having a positive effect on society. Its directors operate under the same licence as they would for a traditional corporation but must consider the impact of their decision not only on shareholders but also on the community and the environment.

Verified ‘clean’ ingredients

Maria Gamble, the team’s chef, and its food scientist Lisa Schipsi, developed the Multi Grain Hot Cereals, which is sold in individual cups and multi-serve re-sealable bags.

“Using oats as the base, they explored different ways to create a nutrient-packed breakfast option. Their research resulted in the development of our multi-grain hot cereal that is made with natural ingredients such as steel cut oats, rye, quinoa, nuts, flax, chia, dried fruits and seeds,” said Heim.

He added all the products are Whole Grain Stamp-approved and made from ingredients sourced from vendors who meet non-GMO verification requirements.

The hot cereal cups are available in four variants – Cinnamon Spice, Blueberry Almond, Brown Sugar Pecan and Tart Cherry – retailing for $2.79 per cup, while the multi-serve bags come in two flavors – 4 Grain Blend and Hearty Grains & Seeds – with a RSP of $5.99 per pouch.

New offerings

“We started with breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day, and unfortunately, one that most of us still struggle with, but we are exploring new food territories to expand into in the future,” said Heim.

This fall, the Project will be launching its Multi-Grain Hot Cereal Packets with five servings in each box, including a gluten-free variety pack of three servings of Hearty Grains & Seeds and two servings of Brown Sugar Pecan.

Serial success?

The start-up began in a warehouse in Camden, New Jersey, to help people who struggled to put good food on the table. And while it is still just starting out, Heim said it is already seeing success.

“The Soulfull Project products sold well during a small regional test for the past six months. We’re now looking to grow and reach shoppers nationwide in an effort to fulfil our commitment to consistently donate to the 200 Food Banks in our network,” he said.

“We launched last year at selected Wegmans stores in the Philadelphia area with sales benefitting three local Food Banks: The Food Bank of South Jersey, Philabundance and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

“Since then, The Soulfull Project has donated more than 42,000 cereal servings,” he said , adding distribution has expanded to 64 Wegmans stores in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, with sales benefiting Food Banks along the East Coast.

“We track our sales in each region to compile the servings into impactful donations sizes and work with our Food Bank partners to organize donations when they need it most,” said Heim.

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