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UV50 Fastest-Growing Companies: No. 4 BetterBody Foods

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HEALTHY HABITS Stephen Richards (left) and Steve Birt have been business partners since 2003. Since founding BetterBody Foods in 2007, the two have worked nonstop and grown the company to the healthiest of heights. They boil down their stellar leadership to good old-fashioned example. “We don’t expect anyone to work harder than we do,” Richards says.

HEALTHY HABITS
Stephen Richards (left) and Steve Birt have been business partners since 2003. Since founding BetterBody Foods in 2007, the two have worked nonstop and grown the company to the healthiest of heights. They boil down their stellar leadership to good old-fashioned example. “We don’t expect anyone to work harder than we do,” Richards says.

It doesn’t get better than BetterBody Foods. The company that did $52 million in 2015 has exploded onto the scene as the picture of health. From agave to chia to quinoa to PBfit (a peanut butter powder), its “better for you” products — manufactured right here in Utah Valley — are flying off the shelves of titans like Costco, Winco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, HEB, Kroeger, Smith’s and Associated Food stores.


BetterBody Foods GrowthI come from a family of diabetics. And in 2007, I became interested in agave nectar. I love to cook, so I started developing some recipes. My business partner, Steve Birt, and I had been looking for new opportunities, and we thought this low-glycemic sugar replacement sure tasted great. We jumped in.

We looked at several different business models. We live in the MLM capital of the world, but we decided that wasn’t quite the right approach. I’m a salesman at heart. So I took the product and started selling at local grocery and cooking stores.

It worked. They wanted the product. So we bought equipment to manufacture in-house. Steve headed up production, and I started doing demonstrations in Bosch cooking stores. We’ve been going non-stop ever since.

There was instant demand. I started traveling all over the Intermountain West doing cooking demonstrations, and we were selling tens of thousands worth of product at local shows. We did a few trade shows, and at a fancy food show in New York, Amazon approached us. Later, the past president of Kroeger approached us. And then we connected with Costco, and they asked us to participate in their Roadshow program.

It was a breakthrough. Now we’re in Costco, Kroeger, Albertsons, BJ’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Winco, and the U.S. Military Commissaries. We’re growing and believe there is a lot more opportunity for continued growth. The one chain noticeably missing is Whole Foods, and it’s simply because we’re geared toward the mainstream customer. For us it’s all about the efficient bulk buy.

Expansion happened naturally. We knew we wanted BetterBody Foods to be all about “better for you” products. We started working with coconut oil and peanut butter powder. Two years ago we introduced PBfit, and we are the No. 1 brand in the peanut butter powder category. PBfit is our company’s No. 1 bestseller.

We’ve also launched a product line called LIVfit. It’s all about the blending market, and we coined the phrase “blending is the new baking.” The blending market will double in the next five years, and we’re constantly developing ideas to make blending simpler.

“I used to be an agave peddler! Now we run a world-class operation. What could be more fun than that?” — Stephen Richards, BetterBody Foods co-founder 

We started out in a 2,000-square-foot building. Now we’re in 110,000 square feet. We bottle and package all of our own products. It was a decision we made early on — despite the fact that we were advised not to. But we wanted the flexibility and control, and it’s served us well to this day.

We have a lot of competitors, but we don’t have one competitor who does everything we do. And that diversification has been key. There is not a healthy, trending product that we would not investigate to see whether we should get into it or not. If there is a “better for you” product we think can go to the masses, we’ll take it there.

There are peaks and valleys every day. There are times where you’re hanging on by your nails. But we can’t imagine anything more rewarding. We employ 100 people. There are very few things more satisfying than that.

We’ve adopted a saying: It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems. I always know that if three bad things happen, something great is going to happen. If you get up and do the right thing, you will win the day — no matter what. Setbacks will come, but keep pushing. Success boils down to sheer grit.

You have to be willing to pivot. There was a time we thought agave was the whole future! And if we hadn’t pivoted where necessary, it would have altered the whole trajectory of the company.

We take pride in delivering on our promises. When dealing with the world’s foremost retailers, you do whatever it takes to deliver every order on time. And because of that trust, we get calls from those big names saying they’re thinking about a product and they want us to source it for them. Now that’s pretty cool.

I wouldn’t recommend growing this fast. But sometimes you don’t have a choice. You just gotta take the opportunity when it comes. We’re in a more controlled growth now. We’re doing it right, and we’re doing it well.

It’s incredible to walk through our warehouses and manufacturing facilities. The scope and magnitude of it all really makes me smile. I mean, I used to be an agave peddler! Now we run a world-class operation. What could be more fun than that? The best part is we’re not done. The best is yet to come.

See all the 2016 Fastest-Growing Companies HERE, and all the 2016 UV50 winners HERE.

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