The world is crumbling under single-use plastics. Indeed, 40% of plastic production is only used once and discarded. Customers are increasingly willing to move away from plastics…but many manufacturers, especially in the food industry, rely on them. Why? Because plastic-free packaging alternatives are expensive and difficult to set up.
Kate Flynn and her husband, Bryan Flynn, faced the same issue when they launched their healthy snacks company. After investing in their own plastic-free solution, they decided to pilot white-labeling for plastic-free packaging in the food industry – on top of selling healthy snacks.
We reached out to Kate Flynn to learn more about the ins and outs of her business.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
In your own words, how would you describe your company?
Our mission at Sun & Swell is to eliminate plastic from the packaged food industry and build a more circular food system where you can snack on delicious foods while leaving no waste behind. We offer various snacks and pantry goods – like nuts, dried fruits, and more – all made with natural, whole-food ingredients and packaged in plant-based, compostable packaging that returns to the soil when composted.
Our vision is to be a one-stop shop for healthy, plastic-free health foods. Similar to Thrive Market, but plastic-free.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
Sun & Swell was born from my desire to create a better food system. The majority of packaged foods on the market today are made with artificial ingredients that are bad for our health and then packaged in single-use plastic packaging that will sit around this earth for hundreds of years. I knew there had to be a better way.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
We’re a team of problem solvers passionate about leaving this world behind in a better place. I’m the CEO and co-founder. My background: I’m a Harvard MBA and previously worked as an ex-management consultant and a Deloitte CPA.
My co-founder, Bryan Flynn, is a 3x founder with 10+ years of sales/sales ops experience at early-stage companies. He also happens to be my husband!
Our Director of Ops is Kristen Klein – Kellogg MBA and ex-Accenture, a former colleague of mine from consulting.
We have a deep bench of savvy advisors, including the former COO at Laird Superfoods, the Head of Sales at Humm Kombucha, the former Head of Strategy at North Face, and more.
What are your different sales channels?
We sell both DTC and B2B, selling to consumers and businesses with zero-waste initiatives. Within B2B, we focus outside of the grocery store in alternative food service channels – like corporate offices (e.g., Google), hotels (e.g., Ritz Carlton), and coffee shops.
You are currently piloting your white labeling offering with two companies. What makes them interested in your compostable packaging solution, and why wouldn’t they develop this solution on their own?
We have spent several years building our supply chain that operates without plastic. We have a dedicated plastic-free packaging line (to our knowledge, the only one in the country!), a portfolio of vetted packaging suppliers, and distribution networks for products packaged plastic-free… by opening up our doors to private labels, we’re allowing other brands to just drop into this supply chain and benefit from all of the time and financial resources we put into it figuring it out.
As companies sign up for your white labeling solution, how will their packaging costs change compared to non-sustainable packaging solutions?
It will vary by size, type of product, and order quantity – but at scale, it won’t be significant. We currently estimate that it will add ~$.10 per bag.
If we speak again in 12 months, which milestones will you have achieved?
- Surpassed $5M in revenue
- A whole year of profitability
- Moved from the pilot phase to the complete launch phase for a handful of private-label clients
Sun & Swell is raising on Wefunder through October 15, 2023.