In a world filled with technological innovation, sometimes it’s better to go back to the simple things in life. Like a great snack. Meet Junkless Foods. Junkless is taking the fake ingredients out of granola bars and making sure you know and understand exactly what you’re eating, with truth and transparency at the core of its mission. Junkless bars are kid-tested and mom-approved.
Junkless was founded by CEO Ernie Pang. His story started when he was grocery shopping with his young son. Ernie’s son picked up a frozen TV dinner and after looking at the ingredients, asked whether certain ingredients were foods. Even after working in marketing at large food companies like Kellogg, Ernie didn’t know.
Ernie spent time in innovation while he was at Kellogg. He bore witness to the implementation of supply chain optimization and leading food science in order to drive savings. For example, sugar was replaced with high fructose corn syrup, and instead of real strawberries, companies were infusing inexpensive apple pieces with strawberry flavor. Ernie realized that over the last 30 to 40 years, large companies had been corrupting the food system to drive addictive taste while cheapening the actual food. And so, with a mission of transparency and simplicity, Junkless was born.
The Junkless team is made up of experts in the food and snack fields. Jeff Grogg, Junkless’ resident “Food Magician,” is a partner in the company. He previously spent nine years in R&D on Kashi’s brand and has his own food development firm. Both Ernie and Jeff wanted to take the junk out of granola bars. Ernie affectionately describes it as “retrovation”-- bringing food back to a time when it was clean.
Junkless’ CFO is Larry Beyer. Larry was previously the CFO for Kellogg’s largest division, the US Retail Cereal Business. His focus is on operations and finance, and he brings institutional skill sets and knowledge to the team. Jim Swiboda is Junkless’ resident Sales Guru; he used to be a cereal buyer and therefore brings a deep understanding of the sales side of the snack food and cereal business.
Ernie quickly realized that there was a real market for Junkless’ products. The company targets mainstream moms who are tired of the fake and addictive ingredients, not to mention the high levels of sugar, in other leading granola bars. However, Junkless does not advertise itself as a superfood. Rather, they’ve made everyday great-tasting kid (and family) loved foods better for you.
Junkless was originally called Simply Eight (a reference to the fact that Junkless bars have 8 or few ingredients). However, after traveling to a women’s expo and realizing that the name was unclear, Junkless pivoted its brand name in January 2017 and changed its design completely. It didn’t want to look like any major granola bar on the market. Its sleek and simple packaging reflects the brand’s rogue personality and the fact that it is a top choice for millennials.
Currently, Junkless is mostly in two major retail outlets: Wakefern (Shoprite) and select Kroger stores in the mid-Atlantic. Its third channel is Amazon, and Amazon sales have been ramping up this past year. Junkless went from selling $400 per month last year to $6,000 per month as of February 2018. And the company is the only company with cinnamon roll granola bars. Trust us, they taste amazing.
Through Quake’s accelerator, the Junkless team is hoping to build the company’s network. Currently, they are located in Michigan but recognize that they need to be connected in larger cities like New York as well. They are also looking for functional expertise in areas like manufacturing and social media. They are hoping to bring elements of the “new world” into the “old” industry of food, and believe that Quake’s accelerator is a great way to explore those options. They are also looking to make their business more digital instead of solely relying on brick-and-mortar to grow the business.
Ernie’s hope for Junkless in one year is to have the brand be a household name. He also hopes to keep food simple, emphasizing the fact that food doesn’t have to be complicated and should never be confusing. Junkless is Quake-tested and Quake-approved, and we can’t wait to see how it revolutionizes the food industry.