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Sycamore High grad lands multi-million dollar Kroger account at age 22

Daniel Katz expects $20M in 2019 sales from No Cow bar
Posted at 12:28 PM, Jun 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-19 21:55:40-04

Chalk up another win for No Cow know how: Sycamore High School graduate Daniel Katz has landed a multi-million dollar account with the Kroger Co.

Katz, who turns 23 on Friday, launched his own line of dairy-free protein bars at the age of 18. He expects the new deal with Kroger to boost revenue 20 percent to more than $20 million.

“We’ve got an awesome buyer at Kroger that believed in the product,” Katz said. “She loves the product and thinks that it’s going to be a huge home run and decided to take a shot on us and put it in stores nationwide.”

Kristal Howard, head of communications for Kroger, said the product participated in a Natural Food Innovation Summit sponsored by the company last year. This year, Kroger customers are all about flexible eating styles. The No Cow Bar, which is launching this week nationwide at most U.S. Kroger stores, is a great choice for those with keto lifestyles. That's one of the reasons it appealed to the grocery giant.

The No Cow bar is a plant-based health-food snack with no dairy products, gluten, soy or genetically modified organisms. Body builders, Katz included, like the product because it delivers lots of protein with low amounts of sugar. Katz started the company in a Blue Ash warehouse and moved to Denver when the venture capital arm of General Mills Inc. bought a minority stake in his company.

“This is a growth strategy, not an investment strategy,” John Haugen told WCPO in 2017. He is the general manager of 301 Inc., which invests in new product ideas for the Minneapolis-based food company. “Our strategy is to find these early-stage gems and combine that investment capital with really being that indispensible partner for growth.”

Katz said General Mills "created this category with Nature Valley" granola bars. "They're awesome partners of ours. They're kind of the type of people that help whenever they can but stay out of it when it's not needed."

Another venture-capital investor in Katz’s business said No Cow is “a top seller and among the fastest growers” in the retail outlets that stocked the product so far. Andy Whitman, managing director of Chicago-based 2X Consumer Products Growth Partners, said the brand is building on long-term trends toward healthier eating habits. So its growth potential is huge.

“This could be a several hundred million dollar business one day,” he said.

Formerly known as D's Naturals, Katz's company now has 15 employees and a product lineup that includes 10 flavors of protein bars, including blueberry cobbler, carrot cake and its best seller since the company's inception, peanut butter chocolate chip.

"We manufacture in the Midwest," said Katz, who declined to reveal an exact location for competitive reasons.

"We have a couple of different warehouses across the country," he added.

Katz chose Denver as its headquarters because it's known as a mecca for natural-food companies.

“There’s a big food scene out here for this industry," he said. "When hiring new people, it's easy for us to move them and relocate them to Denver because a lot of people want to live here just given how outdoorsy it is."

The Kroger deal isn't Katz' first retail account. He's already in 7,000 CVS stores and 4,500 Walgreen’s, along with grocery chains Meijer and Wegmans. But he sees the Kroger deal as an important validation of his young company’s staying power.

“This is by far the biggest account we could possibly imagine getting,” he said. “I put blood, sweat and tears into this one and everything we have. I told Kroger if the product doesn’t sell I’ll drive store to store and pick it up myself to take it back for a free return.”