Loveland, Colorado

Founded: 2014

Privately owned:

Employees: 14

Industry: Food & Beverage

Products: Snack bars

Founders Josh and Zora Tabin are driving the growth of their snack bar manufacturer both organically and via strategic acquisition.

The Tabins didn’t plan to buy a company. After all, their maker of healthy snack bars, Wild Zora, is already on a rapid growth trajectory, tripling its revenue in 2017.

But as luck would have it, Zora met Dawn Anderson, co-founder of Paleo Meals To Go freeze-dried products, at a women’s business group she’d joined. She introduced her to Josh, thinking he may be able to help Dawn with growing her business through digital marketing.

“During that conversation, she said she was thinking about selling,” Josh says. “It just sort of fell in our laps.”

Now, Wild Zora is bringing production of Paleo Meals To Go in-house at the Loveland-based facility where they’ll modify the recipes to use only grass-fed and sustainably raised meat mixed with organic fruits and vegetables. Loveland-based Paleo Meals had been co-packing with an outside company before the deal.

“There’s a lot of synergy,” Josh says. “The companies are very similar in their market focus.”

Wild Zora and Paleo Meals were even created for similar reasons. Zora made the healthy beef and veggie snacks for the family to take on hikes. Her kids started taking them to school where they shared them with their friends and soon they were being asked to start a business to sell the snacks.

Paleo Meals got its start when Dawn’s son Ty Soukup, an avid backcountry hiker, realized he couldn’t find anything that met his dietary requirements to take with him into the wilderness and that there was an opportunity to provide other hikers with healthy, backcountry friendly products.

When they were first getting started, the Tabins met with a food scientist from Colorado State University and determined they could make a snack bar with a reasonable shelf life that didn’t have all the chemicals other bars contain, and Wild Zora was born. That was in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the business became a reality.

It was tough for the couple to find a kitchen to produce the bars. A facility has to be certified by the U.S. Department of agriculture, which is pricey, so they looked around until they found a burrito company in Loveland that was going out of business. The company’s kitchen was already certified, so the Tabins bought the business and moved Wild Zora into the facility.

In 2016, the Tabins took the next step and bought the 25,000-square-foot building. Wild Zora currently only uses part of the building, so it’s working with the city to bring the rest of it into compliance with the USDA regulations so it can produce Paleo Meals.

Because Wild Zora uses a low-heat air manufacturing process and Paleo Meals products are freeze-dried, the Tabins had to invest in new equipment, though Josh says they were already exploring that option to produce a new product line that will launch later this year.

The privately funded acquisition gives Paleo Meals To Go mother-and-son founders, Dawn Anderson and Ty Soukup, the opportunity to see their vision for their products fulfilled. Anderson will stay with Wild Zora and continue working on creating the meals.

Challenges: Josh, who handles the business side of the company, says his challenges are different than those of his wife, who runs the production end. “The majority of the staff reports to Zora,” he says. “She has to get everybody trained.”

For Josh, figuring out how to grow the company through social media and email marketing has been the most perplexing, so he and his marketing team attended the NatchCom conference focused on digital marketing for natural foods brands. “We had plateaued a bit, and we went to this conference to get new ideas,” he says. “Now we’re thinking about how we implement this. We have to figure out how to divide and conquer.”

Opportunities: With Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, where Wild Zora already sells its products, Josh says the company’s biggest opportunity is selling its products online. “It’s a little bit less expensive for us to grow online than in retail,” he says. “Retail is still viable, but it takes more investment.”

Needs: Wild Zora is always looking for good employees, and Josh says that its location in downtown Loveland should draw quality workers. “If we keep growing, I don’t think we’ll stop growing our staff,” he says.