The Shropshires have always had a thing for beets.
In fact, the family’s craving for the nutritious root vegetable was so intense that they purchased a small beet factory in their native England more than two decades ago. But when they created a selection of unique marinated beet recipes designed to appeal to the younger set, they ended up with a whole new business enterprise.
Their worldwide growth began when Guy Shropshire and his wife, Katherine, shared some of their recipes at the Fancy Food show in New York in 2010. People were smitten, repeatedly saying they “love beets.” That reaction inspired a move to the U.S. and the creation of a new company — Love Beets, based in Philadelphia. The firm recently opened a 100,000-square-foot plant in Rochester, N.Y.
While beets are a popular root vegetable in the United Kingdom, they’re far from the top of most consumers’ shopping lists in the U.S., says Guy’s cousin George Shropshire, who serves as vice president of marketing for Love Beets.
“There’s a divide,” he says. In the U.S., “You either love beets — or you hate them.”
It seems that more U.S. shoppers fell into the latter category than the former — for two reasons.
Many consumers associate beets with the recipes their grandmothers prepared that simply lacked flavor, Shropshire says.
And then there’s the prep problem: they’re messy, time consuming and difficult to prepare.
Love Beets managed to overcome both of those stumbling blocks, thanks to packaging and value-added technology.
The company created a ready-to-eat format that eliminates the time-consuming, sometimes messy, process of washing, slicing and preparing beets for consumption. “Our slogan is, ‘No mess, no fuss,’” Shropshire says, “just delicious beets.”
Love Beets has come up with a number of “fun flavors and marinades that make them appealing to everyone,” he says.The company prepares beets in two different ways — sous-vide cooked beets, which are steam cooked and vacuum sealed, and flavorful marinated beets.
The steam-cooked beets feature a pure beet flavor and are
highly versatile, Shropshire says. They can be roasted and used
as a salad topper or tossed into a blender for juicing – a trend that is “exploding.”
The marinated products feature baby beets that are steam cooked and marinated using the company’s unique recipes. Recently, a new use for Love Beets has sprung up. They’ve become a popular on-the-go snacking item.
The healthy-eating trend has been a boon for beets over the past five years, Shropshire says.
“That was the ‘Eureka!’ moment, being able to offer healthy, on-the-go snacking items,” he says.
Consumers who haven’t tasted them since they were kids are reading about the nutrition benefits beets offer and are giving them another try, he says. And they like what they’re tasting.
In the baby beets category, there’s Sweetfire; Honey + Ginger; Mild Vinegar; White Wine and Balsamic; and Organic Mild Vinegar. All come in 6.5-ounce packs. In the cooked beets category, you’ll find cooked beets and organic cooked beets. Both come in 8.8-ounce packages. In the salad and snacks category, there’s the 6.5-ounce Smoky-BBQ shredded beets. Finally, in the juice category, Love Beets offers organic beet juice and organic beet juice with a hint of ginger in 14-ounce glass bottles.
Watch for more varieties later this year, Shropshire says.
“Innovation is everything for a company like this,” he says. “No one else in the world has the technology to produce these.”
Love Beets can be found in 8,000 store across the U.S. and Canada, including Costco Wholesale and Whole Foods Market. The company will launch with another major retailer in January, Shropshire says.
Most Love Beets are grown in the Rochester area, but the company has growing partners in Georgia, Texas and Colorado to ensure year-round availability.
The brand also is available in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and throughout Europe.
The value-added aspect has been key to the success of Love Beets, Shropshire says.
“There was a gap between regular bunched beets and over-processed canned beets that are full of sodium,” he says.
Shropshire says Love Beets filled that gap, and the company continues to spread the word through marketing.
Social media has been especially important. The company has a major presence on Facebook — with nearly 100,000 likes — and Instagram.