In late October, Naturally Boulder, a non-profit economic development group that fosters local businesses dedicated to organic, natural products, hosted its 16th annual Pitch Slam. (Think: a natural company-focused Shark Tank.) Apart from providing an excellent boost for Colorado-based start-ups, the event is also a great way for consumers to learn about new products—and this year’s winners are especially delicious.
Grüvi, a Denver-based line of non-alcoholic beers and wines, took home first place and the People’s Choice Award. It was followed by Mortal Kombucha and Bloombox Foods artisan dressings, in second and third places, respectively. The three companies will split a prize package geared toward ensuring that customers will hear a lot more from these brands going forward, including strategy consulting from marketing agencies, packaging design, and free financial and legal advice. Additionally, for first place, Grüvi wins a booth at the Natural Products Expo East 2021, something founder Niki Sawni is very excited about.
“That allows us to be exposed to an entirely new market,” Sawni says. “Since we’re a beer and wine [brand], we typically get lumped into the alcohol category, but this trade show allows us to be exposed to the natural food and organic channel. It’s a unique opportunity.”
Here, a bit more about these award-winning natural companies and how you can get your hands on them.
Feeling conflicted between being healthy and being social, Sawni decided to start his own line of non-alcoholic beers and wines. The Canada native selected Colorado as his launchpad for Grüvi in 2019 because of our stellar craft brewery scene and outdoorsy, active lifestyle. “Colorado has a taste for high-quality beer and likes to opt for natural products, so I thought it was the perfect place to start the brand. There’s nothing on the market like that here already,” he says.
Grüvi’s line of non-alcoholic beers include an IPA, a stout, a pale ale, and a few seasonal varieties, like a sour and special peach beer. They also make an alcohol-free prosecco and rosé. Sawni says he’s looking into opening a non-alcoholic taproom next year, but for now, grab a hangover-free taste at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and major liquor stores.
Mortal Kombucha started as a joke. Becca Schepps, a creative director at an advertising firm, was reading the hippy-dippy ingredients in a kombucha she was drinking and started joking about making “an aggressive kombucha, one without ‘purified love’ as an ingredient.” Based on the Mortal Kombat video game series, she created a website for her imaginary brand and brainstormed cleverly named flavors. (Napalmegranate, anyone?) “It was completely fake, but then my husband was like, ‘let’s just make it,’” Schepps says.
That was in 2017, and now Boulder-based Mortal Kombucha’s eight flavors are available in 250 stores in a dozen states, including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Lucky’s Market, and Leevers Locavore. The former joke is getting even more serious, as Schepps just launched four “totally crushable” 5.2% ABV hard kombuchas last month, which are slowly rolling out to area liquor stores and Whole Foods. “What I’ve learned is that I’m bad at having light hobbies and taking things halfway,” she says. “So I made it into a full-fledged business.”
Former chef Shawn Edmonds was looking to spend less time in professional kitchens and more time with his daughter, Liv, now 17. So, after a detour back to school for architecture and design, he and Liv started Broomfield-based Bloombox Foods three years ago, a line of lettuce-specific dressings that complement greens like kale, arugula, and spinach—instead of covering them up. “I worked in a lot of kitchens where it was farm-to-table. Farmers would come to the door and they always had greens. I thought that would be a good way to start, to create a product that could have an effect on local agriculture,” Edmonds says.
Liv works right alongside her dad, coming up with the recipes, hustling at the farmers’ markets, and filling the bottles. “The project is about her,” Edmonds says. “I do it all with my daughter.” Find Bloombox products in the local section or salad dressing aisle at King Soopers, Whole Foods, Lucky’s Market, Leevers Locavore, and the Isabelle Farm general store.