With a new distribution deal in hand, a local pancake company is aiming to take on the giants of the breakfast business.
Edgewater-based pancake mix maker Birch Benders recently scored a national distribution deal that will put its just-add-water mixes on the shelf of every Whole Foods nationwide.
Company co-owner Matt LaCasse said his products are already in most Whole Foods grocery stores, but they’ve had to work with several regional offices to get their products on the shelves.
Now, Birch Benders will only need to arrange distribution with a central contact at the Whole Foods headquarters in Texas.
“We’d have to fly all around the country for 11 different regions,” LaCasse said. “And as you can imagine, that was a real pain.”
Birch Benders launched in Boulder four years ago and is now based on 25th Avenue in Edgewater. The company makes organic and all-natural pancake mixes in flavors including six grain, buttermilk, extra protein, chocolate chip and paleo. Birch Benders is stocked in about 5,500 grocery stores nationwide.
LaCasse launched Birch Benders in 2012 with wife Lizzi Ackerman. He said they came up with the idea after struggling to find a healthier alternative to the Bisquicks and Aunt Jemimas of the breakfast world.
Their products were first sold at the Lucky’s Market in Boulder. At first, the pancake powders sold in a jar designed for buyers to fill up with water and shake up before pouring onto the skillet.
Birch Benders then switched to 16- and 12-ounce pouches. The company’s most popular item is its Paleo mix, which LaCasse said has become the best-selling natural pancake mix on the market by turning about six packages per week in each store its stocked.
The mix is manufactured in California.
But while they’ve found success in the organic, all-natural focused grocers like Whole Foods, Birch Benders is working on finding its way into the mainstream grocers like King Soopers and Safeway with a new line of less expensive products.
The “All Natural” line, which Birch Benders rolled out in the last year, includes a handful of non-GMO pancakes that come in 24-ounce packets priced at $3.99. LaCasse said they use a few different ingredients from their organic products to get the price down to within a dollar of the biggest pancake companies.
“We developed that product specifically to get into the conventional grocery channels,” he said. “It’s designed essentially to be a very easy trade up from an Aunt Jemima.”
Birch Benders is already in Target and Safeway, as well as Whole Foods, Alfalfa’s, Sprouts and other high-end grocers.
And as Birch Benders targets the biggest grocery chains in the country, the company is also looking for a little extra space for itself in Denver. LaCasse said he’s keeping an eye out for a new office for his five-employee shop.
While he said they’re in no immediate hurry to find a new spot, LaCasse would like a building with its own kitchen somewhere west of Interstate 25.