Boulder's 1908 Brands umbrella expands in natural products market- Daily Camera

When 1908 announces the rollout of homegrown oat snack brand Three Bears in early April, Savage will have reached his goal. But he has no plans to rest and bask in the glory of what he’s created.

There’s a new goal for 2017: Growing each of 1908’s eight brands to eight-figure revenues with nationwide name recognition.

“We want to be the next Boulder Brands,” Savage said, reiterating the vision he laid out more than a year ago. “We’ve proven we can buy companies, we’ve proven we can rebrand them, we’ve proven buyers have a lot of interest. But we haven’t proven we can make them national brands yet.”

Savage isn’t alone in his goal. The natural foods landscape is more crowded than ever as big food companies cotton on to millennials’ changing tastes and savvy entrepreneurs launch business after business to sate them.

Expo West, the natural products industry’s premier gathering, boasted its largest audience ever this year: more than 80,000 attendees and 3,100 exhibiting companies in Anaheim, Calif., earlier this month.

“In one respect, the timing’s never been better” to grow a natural brand, Savage said. “But on the other hand, it’s never been harder to compete.”

Steve Hughes thinks the 1908 model will give its brands a distinct advantage. And if there’s one person qualified to judge the viability of Boulder Brands 2.0, it’s Hughes — the founder of Boulder Brands’ original recipe.

“The advantage of bundling (brands) under one umbrella is you can share expenses, spread them out and have more capacity and resources to attract talent,” Hughes said. “I think there’s going to be a next generation of companies like 1908 that use that synergy to great success.”

Hughes started his own venture, Sunrise Strategic Partners, right around the time 1908 began aggressively acquiring companies. The $200 million fund makes minority investments in multi-million dollar natural product companies and provides growth expertise.

Now is the time for young brands to start positioning themselves for massive growth, Hughes said — and for smart investors to push capital toward promising companies.

“Retailers are much more aggressively looking to reset: 99 percent of things on the shelves are brands that baby boomers bought,” he said. “The reality is that young consumers are not going to buy the same brands their parents did.

“They’re never going to call a cab or stay in a hotel on the weekend, and they ain’t going to buy Yoplait or Aunt Jemima’s pancakes.”

Learn more at the Daily Camera.