SKU DFW To Feature Inaugural Consumer Packaged Goods Startup Cohort at Virtual Showcase

On Nov. 17, six CPG startups will give a virtual taste of their brands through pitches to a national audience of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders.

SKU, the “nation’s first consumer products accelerator,” first announced its inaugural DFW cohort in September.

After participating in an eight-week program including classes taught by industry experts and mentor teams made up of leaders from companies such as Frito-Lay, 7-Eleven, and Amplify Snack Brands, the program’s six startups will culminate their experience at the SKU DFW Virtual Showcase.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more passionate and creative group of founders and mentors for the first track of SKU DFW,” Kirstin Ross, managing director of SKU, said in a statement. “Over the course of two months, we saw companies rebrand, reposition and fine-tune their channel strategy.”

Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market; Clayton Christopher, founder of Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka; and Marisa Bertha, who leads the business development at 7-Eleven and corporate venture capital for 7-Ventures, were among the presenters that the cohort heard from during the eight-week program.

“The knowledge and all the jewels shared are priceless,” Tyla-Simone Crayton, the 17-year-old founder of Sienna Sauce, said in a statement. “I was a sponge absorbing all of the information shared by my mentors and all the amazing guest speakers. This has been a life-changing program for me as well as my team and I have developed relationships with my mentors that will last a lifetime.”

Previous showcases have attracted hundreds of investors, CPG executives, and entrepreneurs, according to a statement. Although this year’s event will be held virtually, SKU DFW anticipates that the showcase will have an even larger audience that could possibly be even more impactful than its regular crowd.

Instead of giving out samples of the cohort’s products, virtual attendees will get a behind-the-scenes look at the founders and their mentors, giving “a virtual taste of the brands,” per a statement.

“SKU has been instrumental as we have been pivoting our company and moving into our next phase,” Shannon Ross, CEO of Highwave, said in a statement. “We feel so grateful to have built such a strong community in just eight weeks and can’t wait to continue working with the amazing individuals we’ve met.”

DFW CPG, an organization founded by Rick Jordan, Dallas-based shareholder at the Am Law 100 law firm Polsinelli, and food veteran Richard Riccardi, has supported the expansion of SKU to North Texas. The accelerator aligns strongly with DFW CPG’s mission, according to Jordan.

Here are the companies presenting at the SKU DFW Virtual Showcase, with descriptions provided by SKU DFW:

Brett Michael [Image: Courtesy SKU DFW]

All Y’alls Foods
All Y’alls Foods was born from Brett Christoffel’s love of cows. After spending over 40 years consuming them, he realized he loved all animals—from dogs and cats to bovines—and decided to stop eating them. He decided to support this lifestyle change by launching All Y’alls Foods in May 2018. The first products are It’s Jerky Y’all and It’s Big Crunchy Bacony Bits Y’all. It’s Jerky Y’all is available in traditional Black Pepper & Sea Salt, Prickly Pear Teriyaki and Prickly Pear Chipotle. Barely two years after launching, the product is available in retailers nationwide, including grocery stores like H-E-B and specialty natural foods stores as well as on Amazon and the company site.

Shannon Ross [Image: Courtesy SKU DFW]

Griffin and Shannon Ross grew up in a family of inventors. Their father, Gary Ross, invented the first travel mug with a drink-through top. Now Griffin and Shannon are creating a line of sustainable pet products that solve pain points for the modern dog parent. Their first product is the AutoDogMug, a one-handed, spill-proof hydration system that fits in a cup holder.


Melissa Blue and Melissa Mehall [Image: Courtesy SKU DFW]

Meli’s Monster Cookies
While baking monster cookies, a family recipe passed down from generation to generation, it dawned on best friends Melissa Mehall and Melissa Blue that there was a market for these delicious gluten-free cookies. Meli’s Monster Cookies are higher in protein and fiber than your typical cookie on the market. While flour and sugar are the first two ingredients in most cookies, Meli’s first two ingredients are gluten-free rolled oats and nut butter. Meli’s are available at a range of retailers, including Walmart, H-E-B and Whole Foods.


Kristen Fields [Image: Courtesy SKU DFW]

mmmpanadas is the creation of husband-and-wife team Cody and Kristen Fields. Cody fell in love with empanadas while working in Costa Rica. Then, on a trip to Austin in 2006, Cody met Kristen and fell in love with her, too. Together, they began making a variety of empanadas for local bars and coffee shops. Soon they were slinging their gourmet empanadas out of a big red truck. Now they have 18 different sweet and savory flavors available in the freezer aisles of stores such as Whole Foods, Albertson’s and H-E-B.


George Haymaker [Image: Courtesy SKU DFW]

Re:THINK Ice Cream
Re:THINK Ice Cream is the FIRST and ONLY collagen-infused lactose-free A2/A2 Dairy ice cream! Re:THINK is the indulgent ice cream that’s better-for-you, diabetic and keto-friendly, gluten free with no sugar alcohol. Available in 12 flavors like Chocolate Majesty and Cardamom Pistachio, Re:THINK is infused with whey isolate protein and collagen and made with lactose-free A2/A2 Dairy for a happy tummy. The name Re:THINK was born out of founder George Haymaker’s addiction to pain pills and alcohol. In recovery, he was forced to rethink everything in his life and the brand was born.


Tyla-Simone Crayton [Image: Courtesy SKU DFW]

Sienna Sauce
When she was 8—an age when most kids are playing with toys—Tyla-Simone Crayton was concocting a sauce for wings. The sauce officially launched in 2017, and the teenage CEO has become known as the “Sauce Boss.” The home-based business now sells three flavors: Tangy, Lemon Pepper and Spicy. The brand, available in 70 stores and online, won “Best Sauce” in the 2018 and 2019 Sauce-A-Holic Fest, competing against 15 competitive brands. Tyla-Simone also won $25,000 in capital on “Good Morning America’s Side Hustle Showdown” series as well as another $10,000 from the Revolt Pitch. She was the runner-up in a $100,000 pitch competition hosted by the Grammy Award-winning rapper Chamillionaire.

More information on the SKU DFW Virtual Showcase can be found here.

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