Walking through the aisles of your local grocery store you are likely to find countless options for quick, handheld, easy-to-make meals. You may not, however, find many options that are made from plant-based whole food ingredients. A growing number of consumers are seeking out plant-based meals, but they still want the convenience of easy-to-prepare frozen foods.

Cool Beans is answering this need with its vegan, gluten-free wraps. The company’s wraps are made primarily from beans while featuring globally-inspired flavors. We reached out to co-founder and co-CEO Tyler Mayoras to learn more about his team, competition, and future goals.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Funding Round Details

Cool Beans logo
Company: Cool Beans
Security Type: SAFE
Valuation: $6,000,000
Min Investment: $100
Platform: Republic
Deadline: Dec 29, 2022
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What inspired you to take the leap and start Cool Beans?

I went vegan in early 2017 because of what I was learning as a food and agriculture investor about the climate impact of animal agriculture. However, I was also learning about the health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet from vegan documentaries like Forks over Knives and Eating You Alive. While I cooked a lot of my meals, I didn’t always have time, and I was very frustrated that most of the frozen prepared foods in the grocery stores were vegan junk food. I kept asking myself, why aren’t there any vegan products made from whole food ingredients instead of all the fake meat and fake cheese on the market? It is from that question that Cool Beans was born.

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

While I have the founder’s story and have a deep knowledge of marketing a branded food product from my days as a food VC, it is the other members of the team that are the real brains of the operation!

Mike Brennan is our co-CEO and my co-founder when I first had an idea. Mike spent 20 years at Peapod climbing to chief operations officer of the company, and during his time there they grew from $7 million to more than $800 million in revenue. Mike knows how to get things done. He has put great systems in place for us to evaluate opportunities, create our strategy, and execute on that strategy.

Mike brought in Caryn Rowe Africk very early as another co-founder. She has a deep marketing background with several entities but had most recently been involved with developing and launching Peapods prepared meals business.

The fourth member of the team is Mark Doskow, a long-time vegan who has been involved in the branded food and vegan restaurant industry for many years. He wears a lot of hats for Cool Beans from operations to trade show management.

Which of your professional experiences are helping you build your company?

I spent more than 20 years as a private equity investor with more than 10 of those years focused on food and agriculture. As a VC investor, I was lucky enough to see some big successes in the food industry, including Boca Burger (sold to Kraft) and Simple Mills. However, I also had a front row seat for a few failures as well. I learned the most from the failures in the industry, and we are using that experience to create a roadmap to avoid the major pitfalls that derail other brands. Some of those include trying to expand into conventional grocery too soon, adding too many people and a high burn rate early in the company’s life, and not allocating enough money to the marketing expenses needed to generate trials of the products.

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

There are many competitors in the plant-based handheld market. We are focused on using whole food ingredients that are minimally processed, and that makes us unique against all of our other competitors. All of the other competitors have fake meat and fake cheese in most of their products — those products are highly processed and usually have oil added. A couple competitors, like Amy’s, have a few items that use real ingredients, but they often cook their product as stew before wrapping it into burritos so the product comes out quite mushy inside. Our products are frozen separately and then cold rolled together before flash freezing. As such, they are much less processed than all our other competitors. Also, the two biggest competitors are Amy’s and Sweet Earth Foods (Nestlé), but neither of those companies are 100% vegan products as they both have real cheese in many of their products. The other competitors include Alpha Foods and Daiya which both offer highly processed vegan junk food.

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

The capital from this raise will go to four main uses: marketing programs to build brand awareness and generate product trial, working capital costs to build inventory/accounts receivable, product development to create a second product line, and finally general corporate overhead.

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

We would like to build Cool Beans to a $10 million to $20 million revenue company before entertaining offers from strategic acquirers. To do that we will need to add several additional product lines initially in the frozen aisle, and we are working on the second product line right now that we hope to launch by Expo West next March. Our brand guardrails will remain consistent — we make delicious, convenient plant-based foods from whole food ingredients that are minimally processed.

We look forward to seeing where Tyler and his team take the company. Cool Beans is currently raising on Republic.