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88 Acres

Friday, October 27, 2017
filed under: Utilization/Trade: Confection-Non-oil

Nicole Ledoux of New England-based 88 Acres.

       Nicole Ledoux doesn’t have food allergies, but she lives with them every day.  A few years ago, Nicole met Rob Dalton.  On their fourth date, Rob almost died when his meal was cross-contaminated with nuts. The next day, Nicole got rid of all the peanuts and tree nuts from her kitchen to make Rob safe — and the way she thought about food began to change.
       The couple struggled to find healthy, convenient snacks that Rob could eat and Nicole would love as well.  So she began experimenting at home with craft seed bars.  Friends, both those with food allergies and those without, began to place orders.  Soon, 88 Acres was born.
       Nicole shared more about 88 Acres with Jody Kerzman.
Explain the idea behind 88 Acres.  What makes 88 Acres stand out?
       All of our products are made from seeds.  America has had a longstanding love affair with peanuts; but for Rob, peanuts and tree nuts are a minefield, as he is allergic.  Seeds are a nutritional powerhouse of protein, healthy fats and micronutrients. They are also a more sustainable crop than peanuts or almonds, as they consume fewer water resources.
       Seeing that there were few granola bars on the market that both tasted good and were free of nuts, I set out to make my own at home that Rob and I could both enjoy.  And that’s how 88 Acres was born.
Can you tell me a little about the history of your company?
       My food philosophy is informed by my childhood growing up on an organic farm. I grew up on an 88-acre organic farm in North Brookfield, Mass.  The first bars I created, I focused on using simple, wholesome ingredients that are nutritious and taste delicious.  I started with two New England flavors: Triple Berry and Apple Ginger.  The first tastes a bit like Grandma’s summer berry pie; the latter is a bit like apple pie with a kick of ginger.
What kinds of challenges have you faced along the way?
       So many!  Rob and I are accidental food entrepreneurs.  Neither of us comes from a food background, though I grew up on a farm and have always had a passion for healthy, whole foods.
You use sunflower seeds and sunflower oil. Why sunflower?
       They’re so healthy and tasty!  Sunflower seeds are chock full of vitamin E for healthy hair, skin and nails. They are also a great source of pure plant-based protein.
Approximately how much sunflower do you use each year?
       Last year we used around 5,000 pounds of sunflower seeds.
What market segments do you supply? Which segment uses the most sunflower products?
       We supply our foods to natural and specialty grocers, universities, K-12 schools, cafes, juice bars and hotels.  Universities and natural grocers probably consume the largest volume of our sunflower butters.
What are the latest trends in each market segment you serve?
       Consumers are looking for cleaner labels with simple ingredients they might have in their pantry.  Millennials especially are looking for healthier, convenient foods they can consume on the go.  A large segment of the population is looking to food as a cure, whether it’s for digestive troubles or another condition.  And many schools are now nut-free as the incidence of food allergies has risen.
What is your customers’ perception of sunflower?
       People love sunflower.  It reminds them of endless summer and farmer’s markets. Customers who have had sunflower seed butter before need little convincing to try our flavored seed butters; but those who have only ever had the raw seeds are sometimes not sure what the product will be like. 
Are there any new offerings, new products from 88 Acres?
       We are working on launching a locally inspired flavor. New England loves maple syrup, and this flavor will be a Roasted Sunflower Seed Butter with a hint of Maple.
Are you doing advertising, PR, social media or grassroots efforts to promote your product? If yes, what?
       Our customers find us mainly through social media and word of mouth right now. We have a very active community on Facebook and Instagram.
What does the future hold for your company?  Some new products?  New promotions or marketing strategies?
       We plan to launch new high-protein bar flavors and new formats for existing products. 2019 and beyond may see some additional new products made from seeds.
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