Disrupting categories: from yogurt to bone broth

This post was written by Nick Mares, co-founder of Kettle & Fire.

The timeline of Kettle & Fire is riddled with mistakes, great successes, even greater failures, and defining moments that changed the course of our company. I can honestly say I never expected the call from a random New York number on a Saturday morning to be one of those defining moments for the company...

The decision to start Kettle & Fire was simple. I suffered a terrible knee injury while in high school and wanted to get some bone broth to help with my recovery process. After searching online and in stores with zero luck, I figured I couldn’t be the only one with this problem. So, Kettle & Fire (originally called Bone Broths Co…count this as a naming failure on our timeline) was born with one goal in mind: get bone broth and its multitude of health benefits into as many hands as possible.

Justin, my brother and co-founder of Kettle & Fire, presenting to members of the Chobani team.

Justin, my brother and co-founder of Kettle & Fire, presenting to members of the Chobani team.

We launched in August 2015, which set the stage for that defining phone call I would receive a year later in August 2016.

We received the unexpected call from Hamdi Ulukaya and the Chobani Food Incubator early in the morning, letting us know Kettle & Fire was one of the six companies accepted into their inaugural class. We were ridiculously excited as a team because, I mean, it’s Chobani…the huge yogurt company who completely changed and revolutionized a category, and they were offering to help us do the same to our category.

With lofty expectations set, we went into the Incubator determined to work with Chobani on improving our chances of success and giving us a fighting chance to disrupt our category. As I’m writing this, I’m still a little mind-blown about how well they accomplished this. We came in as a company in 350 stores, a team of 5, and a decent chunk in revenue. By the time we left, we had gained distribution in an additional 700 stores, grew our team to 10, and doubled our run rate.

How was this accomplished? Chobani gave us access to literally the entire company, and all their respective connections and contacts. For example, when we had a question around quality and operations, we figured we might be able to dash off an email or have a quick 5-minute phone call with someone in the operations or production department. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Chobani connected us with a Senior Director in Quality, and we’ve had a combined 4 hours’ worth of discussions and meetings. Not only that, he is now personally helping us find someone to fill a QA role at Kettle & Fire.

Our exclusive tour of Chobani's original manufacturing plant in upstate New York.

Our exclusive tour of Chobani's original manufacturing plant in upstate New York.

And I didn’t have to dig deep into my memory of the Chobani Food Incubator to find an example where they went above and beyond what we could have imagined. This has happened multiple times across the board with sales, marketing, legal, and customer support.

Everything we learned at the CFI, all the connections we made within and outside Chobani, have given us at Kettle & Fire what we need to do what Chobani did to yogurt: disrupt a stale category with a better and more delicious product.

Mitch Rubin