California-based Grounded is the brainchild of Veronica Fil and Shaun Quade, an Australian couple. “I came up with the concept for Grounded when I noticed a growing opportunity in the market for plant-based products that tasted better and used functional ingredients while appealing to a more mainstream market,” says co-founder Fil, a marketing and consumer strategist.
Fil joined forces with Quade, a fine-dining chef, to launch Grounded in January 2019. The couple, now operating from the US, developed a formulation for camembert-, gruyere and feta-style cheese and cream cheese using fermented cauliflower and hemp seeds. Products are free from nuts, soy, gluten, palm oil, and genetic modification.
“[Quade] spent his career creating wildly innovative food and shaping the sensory experience using flavour, sight, touch and smell,” comments Fil. “The only difference is that now he’s doing it on a very large scale, instead of inside a tiny restaurant,” she adds.
The start-up argues that products are dense in nutritional value, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, protein, and essential fatty acids.
“We were planning to go into full production in June, but Covid-19 delayed our plans,” says Fil. “Instead, we decided to launch [direct-to-consumer] pre-sales during the lockdown.”
Fil recognised that by June, no one in the market had heard much about Grounded or tasted its products but for taste run with cheese critics, and therefore entering the market was risky.
“We were asking [customers] to pay for orders that weren’t going to ship for another two months! But the results were pretty wild,” she says. “We sold over $5,000 of cheese in the first 48 hours, with zero marketing spend.”
Fil says demand is beyond expectations, and products tend to sell out. “We get cranky emails from people who are upset when products are sold out, which they often are, or who ask if they can personally drive to our house to buy them!” she enthuses.
For Fil, the uptake on sales is a good sign for the business and helps validate the new proposition Grounded has brought to the market. She is confident about which products will prove to be the most popular once the scale-up is ready to hit shelves.
“Our first range of cauliflower and hemp seed cheeses are about to roll out into retail and foodservice,” says Fil. “That’s just four products out of the 30-plus cheese styles and SKUs that we’ve created, so we’re just getting warmed up.”
Fil revealed that Grounded’s marinated hemp seed feta, hemp cream cheese and sauces will be the first to launch in the US. She also hinted that Grounded is in talks with a relevant player in the market and is set to announce a partnership in time for the release of Grounded burger slices and shreds.