As the weather starts cooling down it’s time to put away your gazpacho recipes and start thinking about soup. Unfortunately most soups are too salty, unhealthy, and difficult to bring on the go…until now. Introducing BOU, the healthy bouillon company that is transforming your relationship with soup. Their proprietary recipe uses less sodium and more flavors packaged into a condensed soup cube, perfect for on-the-go soup consumption. The company is backed by AccelFoods and is already making a splash in the foodtech scene.
AlleyWatch sat down with CEO and founder Robert Jakobi, a former investment banker turned serial food tech entrepreneur (Jakobi is responsible for chocolate-covered edamame), to chat about the latest venture, how he forayed into the food space, and the company’s future plans.
Tell us about the product or service.
BOU is the better for you cube with a mission to revolutionize the ingredient, topping and grab and go soup categories beginning with a century old kitchen staple, bouillon.
How is it different?
BOU offers a healthier alternative to those unhealthy soup starters, mixes and cubes in the market. BOU does not use the high levels of sodium, flavor enhancers and artificial ingredients of many of the popular products on store shelves. Instead, BOU has over 30% less salt, is non-GMO and gluten free, and only uses natural ingredients.
To begin, we are attacking the bouillon industry, which does over $200 Million in sales every year. However, in the long term we plan to disrupt the overall soup, instant noodle and stocks market which is a $12 Billion market.
What is the business model?
We want to let the product speak for itself. Of course, it is important the we create a better branded and packaged product, but we think that the taste of the product is second to none. BOU will be packaged for retail grocery, selling into major retailers that span the Natural/Specialty, Conventional, and Mass Market retailers. In fact, we are launching with Whole Foods and plan to be readily available in over 5,000 locations by 2019.
What inspired the business?
The initial inspiration came from a chicken soup dinner that my now-wife cooked for me when we were dating. I remember the soup being delicious and asking what was in it. When she showed me the recipe, it had a Knorr bouillon cube. When I took at a look at the cube I noticed that it was extremely high in sodium and low in natural ingredients. Given my background in packaged foods, I thought there had to be a better and healthier alternative. Turns out, there was not. With that, BOU was ideated.
You’re a former banker. What made you transition into the food space?
I had been working in banking in London for a few years and was feeling creatively, and entrepreneurially, stifled. Then, one night I went to the movies and was looking for a snack that was not candy or buttery popcorn. Much to my surprise, I couldn’t find one. Soon I began to develop a line of chocolate and yogurt covered edamame to solve that void. When that product began to take off, I decided to take a risk and leave banking to dive into the food space full time, much to my family’s chagrin. That company was eventually bought by Julian Metcalfe, the founder of Pret and Istu, who brought me on as the Managing Director of Metcalfe Food Company. Fast-forward a few years, and the food space is my life.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Within the next six months, our goal is to be available nationwide in hundreds of locations. This is a lofty ambition, but with our partnership with Whole Foods, Amazon, as well as variety of prominent retailers, we believe it is achievable.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Don’t be afraid to take a risk and fail. Early on my career I always had a fear of failing. But, I learned that being an entrepreneur is about being fearless and diving head first into products and services that you truly believe in.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Michael Bloomberg – He is a brilliant entrepreneur but most importantly has given so much back to the community that I greatly respect.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York City is firstly where I am based and I am proud to call this place my home. Secondly, it is a great place to seed and establish a brand. There are great retailers and the consumer base is perfect for our product range. It is also such a competitive place to launch so if you are successful in NYC you then know you can be successful anywhere in the US.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
To be honest I am always on the go and so busy with work that I don’t like to eat out. My favorite restaurant is at home. My wife is a brilliant cook.