Slate Milk chocolate milk brand raises an additional $ 3.3 million in seed round, expands distribution to 4,000 stores

Slate milk has grown 300% in the past year and has grown its workforce from three to 30 employees, said co-founder Manny Lubin, who says millennials love chocolate milk, but want something with more protein and less of sugar in a “” formata little more trendy than this bottle of YooHoo. “

The Slate brand is still learning what resonates with shoppers, but top use occasions include breakfast, 3pm pickup, post-workout, and late-night treats.,said Lubin, who founded the company with college friend Josh Belinsky in 2018.

The heaviest users are “Active millennials and sane parents, usually between the ages of 20 and 44, who exercise every week, trying to increase protein and decrease sugar in their or their children’s diets.” Lubin told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Our repeat online shopping rate over the past 30 days is double what it was in 2020, and we believe this is due not only to improved taste. [the brand recently went from 17g protein and 9g added sugar to 20g protein and 0g added sugar], but also the nutritional composition of the products.

“The product has been very well received by the fitness and sport communities”

Retail partners include Harris Teeter, Giant Food, Giant Martin’s, Wakefern, Hannaford, Bristol Farms, Central Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans and Publix, said Lubin, who says the brand is now sold in around 4,000 stores. as well as online at slatemilk. .com and Amazon.

We are now sold to dozens of gyms and fitness centers across the country, and we now also sell to a handful of professional sports teams. This is a channel that we are starting to focus more on as the product has been very well received by the fitness and sports communities due to its high protein and sugar content.

As for in-store placement, he says, “Our consumer stores for other single-serve drinks. While we are successful in dairy coolers, we have found that being marketed alongside other single serve coffees and functional drinks has allowed us to grow our brand in grocery stores the fastest. While our products are chocolate milk, we really do sell indulgent strength and energy – and offer both caffeinated and non-caffeinated options.

There are three flavors of slate: Dark chocolate, Chocolate and Espresso Chocolate (the latter contains 150 mg of caffeine)

Ingredients(Chocolate milk): mixture of ultrafiltered skimmed milk (ultrafiltered skimmed milk, water), allulose, natural flavors, chicory root fiber, cocoa (treated with an alkali), salt, pectin, tripotassium citrate, monk fruit, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, lactase enzyme, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3

The process: Slate milk uses ultrafiltration on his milk to concentrate proteins, remove lactose / sugar from the milk (he also adds the enzyme lactase which breaks down any residual lactose) and remove some water. He then adds allulose and monk fruit for sweetness and vitamins A and D, Lubin said.

“We really think allulose is the future of sugary foods and drinks. We’ve experimented with a lot of options, and allulose – on taste, texture, and nutrition – we think it’s all about. the best option, especially when combined with monk fruit. The crystalline market is tight at the moment, but we are fortunate to have a great relationship with our supplier. It leaves no aftertaste, contains 1 / 10th of the calories of sugar and tastes the same as sugar. “

In order to create a long-lasting product, the cans go through the retort process (think a large pressure cooker).

Nutritional: Each 11-ounce can contains 20g of protein, 0g of added sugar (1g of total sugar), 3-5g of chicory root fiber, and 110-120 calories. For comparison, 11 ounces of TruMoo Chocolate Whole Milk contains 11g of protein, 32g of sugar, and 275 calories.

We rely heavily on social media to grow our brand online

The e-commerce side of the business, meanwhile, has grown rapidly since the new, higher-protein, sugar-free version launched in the spring, he said.

“We rely heavily on social media to grow our brand online – as we’ve tried a multitude of different strategies, but it always turns out to be the most effective for Slate. Our team is in Facebook Ads Manager on a daily basis, and we also have a team that works with hundreds of influencers who love our products to help spread awareness of Slate.

“Our influencer strategy is really to try to find people who love Slate products and convert them into fans and advocates of the brand.”

Shark Tank (spoiler alert: Mark Cuban was not a fan of the first prototype)

While many investors interested in the early stage CPG brands focus heavily on plant-based products, they are also recognizing the growth of higher protein lactose-free and ultrafiltered milks such as fairlife, and the growth of higher protein ultra-filtered milks such as fairlife. drinks such as cold brew combined with cow’s milk, he says.

But it wasn’t all easy, added Lubin, who observes that the brand’s appearance on Shark Tank last year did not go entirely as planned (spoiler alert: Mark Cuban was not a fan). ). That said, the Sharks’ comments during the episode – which aired nearly a year after it was filmed, when the wording changed dramatically – made Lubin and Belinsky work even harder to get the right one. sweetening and flavoring system.

When we filmed we were in pre-launch and the version the Sharks tasted was not the off-the-shelf version today, but we appreciate any feedback, ” said Lubin.

“We’re pretty encouraged by the type of feedback we’re getting online and the speeds we’re seeing in stores right now, but we’re always listening to consumer feedback and trying to improve ourselves. The key was to get something that offered the sweetness and indulgent flavor profile without the aftertaste of monk fruit.

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