Michael Pease, the founder and owner of Blackbird Foods, is on a mission to make high-quality, flavor-focused plant-based foods conveniently available nationwide. Specializing in delicious plant-based pizzas and wings, Blackbird Foods has established a significant retail presence, offering vegans, vegetarians, and anyone seeking a delicious meat-free alternative a range of satisfying options. With a focus on sustainability and ethical sourcing, Blackbird Foods is enhancing dining experiences and contributing to a healthier planet.

Funding Round Details

Blackbird Foods logo
Company: Blackbird Foods
Security Type: Equity - Common
Valuation: $15,000,000
Min Investment: $249
Platform: StartEngine
Deadline: Jul 24, 2024
$325,968
$80K
View Deal

Can you briefly describe Blackbird Foods?

Blackbird Foods specializes in selling delicious plant-based pizza and wings, which are available in grocery stores nationwide. Our commitment to quality and flavor shines through in every bite, as we artfully blend plant-based ingredients to replicate the classic taste and texture of traditional favorites. From our mouthwatering pizzas with an array of fresh toppings to our savory wings coated in flavorful sauces, Blackbird Foods offers a diverse and indulgent selection for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone seeking a delicious meat-free and dairy-free alternative. With a focus on sustainability and ethical sourcing, we provide a satisfying dining experience and contribute to a healthier planet.

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

My goal has always been to make high-quality, flavor-focused plant-based foods conveniently available to all. I began my career working at some pioneering high-end plant-based restaurants in NYC, such as Candle 79 and Blossom. In 2010, I co-founded Terri Restaurants, the first chain of plant-based fast-casual restaurants in NYC. While we were serving hundreds and sometimes even thousands of delicious plant-based meals each day, it was obvious that to really make a difference, we needed to sell our products nationwide.

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Blackbird Foods was a collaboration between my partners at Terri restaurants and the team behind Blackbird Pizza (now 20th Street Pizza) in Philadelphia. Mark Mebus was a talented chef I had worked with at Candle 79 and Blossom and had moved back to his hometown of Philadelphia to open Blackbird Pizza. He shared our vision of flavor-focused plant-based cuisine and, more importantly, was completely obsessed with pizza. While we had the food and general business experience, we lacked an understanding of the retail CPG space. We connected with Emanuel Storch, the COO of Simply Gum, and Blackbird began.

You already have a large retail presence. Can you tell us about more potential sales channels that you are looking to establish?

We’re actively exploring opportunities to introduce new product lines within our current retail channels. This strategic move caters to evolving consumer preferences and strengthens our position within established markets by offering consumers a wider range of options.

Our aim goes beyond natural retailers to include more placement in mainstream grocery chains. Securing shelf space in these high-traffic outlets represents a significant milestone in our expansion journey. It enables us to tap into a broader consumer base and increase brand visibility on a larger scale.

Beyond retail, we recognize the untapped potential within foodservice channels, including restaurants, caterers, hotels, cruise lines, and school cafeterias. These channels offer avenues for bulk sales and institutional partnerships, which can be lucrative and great for brand exposure.

We also plan to expand into international markets, with the most logical first step as Canada. Keep an eye out for our products in Canadian stores later this year. 

How did you grow to reach national distribution?

We began by selling food service products to restaurants in NYC but quickly pivoted to retail when Covid-19 hit shortly after our official launch in early 2020. We initially sold our retail products through some local and regional distributors in the northeast, and as our products gained traction, we saw distribution in that region expand quickly. We entered the national stage when the renowned high-end grocery chain Erewhon in Los Angeles added our products. Our early success there allowed us to pitch our products to other independent grocers nationwide.

What has been your biggest accomplishment since you last raised from the crowd?

Our last crowdfunding campaign gave us the funds to support and promote our launch in all Sprouts locations last year. On average, they sell 10,000 of our pizzas per month, and our performance there has opened many doors for conversations with other large retail chains, which will fuel our continued growth in the coming years. 

We managed to grow the overall business 60% year over year and improved our gross profit margins from 35% in the first four months of 2023 to over 50% in the same months this year. We’ve done this by improving and automating manufacturing processes and bulk ordering. This would not have been possible without the support of our community, which gave us the resources needed to implement these changes.

What is the most important lesson you learned as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, my journey has included both challenges and triumphs. The most important lesson I’ve learned is not to sweat the small stuff. It’s easy to get bogged down by minor setbacks, distractions, or inconveniences. But I’ve come to realize that fixating on those trivial details can hinder your progress and drain valuable energy that could be better spent on the things that really matter. So, I try to focus on the bigger picture, prioritizing tasks and decisions that have a substantial impact on the success of my venture.