Loan to Froozer Helps Bring Whole Produce to Schools, Hospitals
November 10, 2015
Obesity and diabetes rates in the United States have hit an all-time high. More than two in three American adults are considered overweight today, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a health research center. Children are no better off, reporting skyrocketing increases in new Type-2 diabetes cases; a condition previously unheard of in people under 30.
Ironically, many of the institutions tasked with keeping us healthy—hospital, schools, and nursing homes—have struggled to provide good nutrition for their stakeholders. This is particularly the case with fresh produce, where its perishability oftentimes prevents large purchases.
Enter Froozer, the grab-and-go frozen snack made from 100 percent whole fruits and vegetables. It tastes like soft-serve frozen yogurt, but contains no dairy, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. Recently, RSF Social Finance provided Froozer with a line of credit that helps the social enterprise fulfill its ever increasing orders.
“Froozer is a fantastic fit for RSF because it addresses both health and food waste concerns with its operations,” says Kate Danaher, lending manager for RSF.
Kids and fruits and veggies
When Froozer founders Arnold Zweben, David Klein, and Bruce Beutler approached Rich Naha, Froozer’s current chief executive officer, about the company, Rich had already been on a decade-long path to bring healthier food to Americans. His inspiration for this mission, interestingly enough, was found in the small Central American nation of Costa Rica.
“I lived in Costa Rica for three years when my kids were young,” says Rich. “Every day, I would watch them devour a huge plate of fresh fruit and vegetables, and was blown away with how healthy my kids wanted to eat.”
But when Rich and his family would visit the U.S., his three-year-old refused the cantaloupe and strawberries, and would turn to Goldfish crackers and Oreo cookies. When the family returned to Costa Rica, his children’s preferences reverted.
This light switch in behavior propelled Rich to learn more about where his family’s food was coming from. What he uncovered was an American food system degraded by its processing—affecting both taste and nutrition.
In response to his findings, Rich became a serial food entrepreneur, founding social enterprises like Circle Fresh Farms and the Circle Fresh Institute. Growing food the right way and getting it to the consumer quickly was the goal.
“When I met the folks at Froozer, it seemed like one step further. You can flash freeze the fruit at its peak ripeness to lock in that nutrition, taste and flavor, and store it for 15 months without any degradation to the product.”
Rich said that there are other products on the market, but repudiates those as mostly juices, concentrates and purees.
“Other fruit bars are created through a warm process, which starts the degradation and exposes the fruit to oxygen and heat,” explains Rich. “This breaks down the phytonutrients and fiber. Froozer is just whole fruit that’s been kept frozen the whole time. The fibers are intact, the phytonutrients are intact. It’s just like eating a bag of mixed frozen berries.”
Reducing food waste, increasing farmer income
Froozer was founded in 2003 with the explicit goal of recovering perfectly fine food in danger of rotting out in the fields. The price paid for “seconds” or “the ugly fruit” is sometimes so low that it is uneconomical to package and ship.
“This is the exact same fruit as the good looking fruit,” says Rich. “But a peach with an elongated bottom is worth a quarter of what its worth if it just looked better.”
Fruits and vegetables have the highest wastage rates, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
“Think of how much labor, water and energy it takes to grow fruits and vegetables,” explains Kate. “Now throw 40 percent of all that effort away. That’s what we’re currently doing with our produce.”
By freezing this excess produce, Froozer is also able to help farmers when gluts in the market drive prices downward. And for the consumer, Froozer offers a highly nutritious product that even the biggest institutional buyers can use and store.
Students in the Dallas Independent School District, for example, are now able to enjoy Froozer snacks during lunch. The district has committed to serving 350,000 Froozer sticks per month. Hospitals are another institutional buyer where Froozer has entered the market. Children’s Hospitals in both Denver and Portland now serve the tasty fruit snack.
More in store
Froozer currently carries three products. Soon though, consumers will be seeing organic or medically specific lines of the frozen snack. Athletics is another potential growth area; think Froozers naturally fortified with protein or vitamins B6 and B12.
“Over the next two years, we’ll come out with a half dozen additional lines addressing specific needs in the nutrition space,” says Rich, his mind already on the next big food idea.
Based in Boulder, CO, Froozer sets out to create a whole new way of delivering healthy nutrition that is good for you and tastes great, while being mindful of the environment by reducing food waste. Froozer produces frozen snacks that represent the pure goodness of freshly harvested fruits & veggies picked at the peak of their ripeness, flash-frozen whole and blended for optimal taste, nutrition and digestion. Served at schools and hospitals, Froozer snacks contain no dairy, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. To learn more, visit www.froozer.com