MELT, a non-dairy buttery spread, is expanding. Its maker, Prosperity Organic Foods, moved April 26 from the downtown Boise’s Belgravia Building to larger quarters in the nearby Garro Building. The company hired five new employees between February and April, to 11 full-time employee positions.
Prosperity’s expected revenues of $2.5 million this year are 60 percent higher than last year’s, said President and CEO Meg Carlson.
The company secured $3.5 million from current and new investors last year in its fourth round of funding. Treasure Valley Angel Fund has invested in two rounds of funding, in 2013 and 2014. Meanwhile, Prosperity, which started in 2008 in Hailey, is using a $450,000 Small Business Administration grant to develop new products, including one aimed at reducing childhood obesity that is due to start production this year.
Prosperity’s signature MELT product, a dairy-free butter substitute, is made at ZoRoCo Packaging in Caldwell. MELT entered Whole Foods in 2012 and sales are up 50 percent at that national grocer from a year ago, said Carlson. Carlson, a veteran of the food industry who started her career at Ore-Ida in the 1980s, is now working with Costco to come up with a product size that the chain can work with. She sees growth ahead.
“There are many other smaller and natural and organic markets around the country, and we’re only in 25 percent of them,” Carlson said. “It’s time for us to be more present. We’re starting to reach that critical mass of consumers who have discovered MELT and incorporate it into their regular routine. It’s a staple and something you buy every time you go to the grocery store.”
Prosperity Organic Foods is the creation of former Sun Valley resident Cygnia Rapp, who now lives in Olympia, Wash., and is a partner in the company with the title of chief science officer and evangelist.
Carlson and Rapp promote their product heavily through social media, and have 60,000 subscribers to MELT’s e-newsletter. The product appeared on the Dr. Oz show, and Prosperity works with a product-placement company that has gotten MELT exposure on television shows such as House of Cards. MELT’s biggest direct competitor is the Boulder, Colo.-based Earth Balance, which has been around since 1998 and makes several different buttery spreads, nut butters, mayonnaise, macaroni and cheese, and crackers.
There’s plenty of room in the market for MELT, said Mike Skinner, who on May 13 joined Prosperity’s seven-member board. Skinner was president of Coinstar in Seattle before moving back to his home state of Idaho last year.
“The product fills a need in the consumer food area that’s not being filled today by the historical products in that space,” Skinner said. “As they expand retail distribution, the consumer base will expand with them.”
Prosperity is working with an obesity researcher at Columbia University on one of its new products, which Carlson hopes to start producing in the fall. Prosperity has been awarded two phases of SBA Small Business Innovation Research Grants for new products, one for $100,000 in 2012 and the other for $450,000 for 2014 to 2016. The Phase I grant was used for refinement of the initial concept and prototype. The Phase II grant is intended to help grantees move their products toward commercialization. Through the grant, Carlson participated in workshops on finding strategic partners, commercialization, and project management.
“It leverages our belief that virgin coconut oil and other healthy oils, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, the combination gives you the healthy fat that you really need in your body every day to improve your metabolism, keep your gut healthy,” Carlson said.
Prosperity worked with Power Engineers to design a custom production line for MELT, and Carlson said ZoRoCo can handle an eight-fold growth in production.
If it’s successful, Prosperity will bring success elsewhere in Idaho, Skinner said.
“Idaho is beginning to stretch and grow from a start-up, emerging-company basis,” Skinner said. “The success of companies like Prosperity will bring funding to the marketplace, and a broader employee base, and we’ll see innovation come of it as well.”