Rachel Kruse Interview
(Organicville Foods Founder And President)

Have you ever thought you could make a better product than what you buy in the grocery store?
Rachel Kruse thought it and did something about it!
She launched Organicville Foods.
Organicville Foods is a product line that is not only USDA Certified Organic, but gluten-free, dairy free, vegan and contain no added sugars.
Rachel Kruse talked with us about Organicville.

Q – Rachel, what are your job duties at the co?
A – Well, I founded Organicville so pretty much everything! (Laughs). I created the brand almost 7 years ago, actually 7 ½ years ago. I’m probably a jack of all trades but I’m officially Founder/President.

Q – Did you come up with this name Organicville?
A – Yes. I was out to dinner with friends one night and I wanted to create a brand that labels could invoke places. I really wanted to show the origin of ingredients. I was living in Emeryville at the time because I went to school in Berkley. I moved to Emeryville right after I graduated. I said, ‘Emeryville How about Organicville? And that was kind of it’. After I said it, I was like I love that name. I went to the U.S. P.T.O. Trademark Site that night and trademarked it. In those days I used to stay out late. (Laughs).

Q – Thinking of new ideas.
A – Yeah.

Q – You market so many different products, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, beverages, condiments, dressings, ice-creams, salsas, teriyaki sauces, vinaigrettes. Each one of those products would be a full-time marketing job. How can you devote enough time to each product line?
A – I’m a workaholic. I’ve literally been working 7 days a week, nights and weekends since Day One of founding the co. Just recently I tried to start taking off on the weekends because I have a daughter that’s 3 1/2 , but I work a lot. It’s my other child. It’s my passion. I really wanted to create something that’s affordable, accessible, tastes good and has wonderful health qualities. It’s been a very fun ride. So, I don’t really view it as work, even though I call myself a workaholic. But, it’s a lot of hours to maintain and create it.

Q – Did you come up with the recipe for the pasta sauces?
A – I really wanted to try to emulate mainstream pasta sauce taste. It was something that everybody liked. Some pasta sauces are bitter, some are way too sweet. The inspiration of the pasta sauce was the price point. I would go to the grocery store and some pasta sauces would be almost $9.00. Some would be $6.00. Some would be $8.00. I said with the Recession, moneys tight for everybody. One of my goals was to make products affordable as well. I wanted to create a really affordable, delicious pasta sauce. So, that was kind of the impetus of it. As I was creating it, I wanted to use agave nectar instead of sugar because we use agave in almost all of our dry grocery items. Make it certified gluten-free. Most pasta sauces aren’t certified gluten-free. So, little things like that. Of course I have an R and D team that helps make the formulation shelf table. I wanted mushroom, tomato basil, marinara, things that I was used to purchasing out there, but I wanted to do a little bit better.

Q – What does your sauce retail for?
A – Its different at every market. We’re in Whole Foods for $4.99 which I think is a really good price point for organic sauce with agave nectar instead of sugar. We also use 100% olive oil.

Q – Are they putting your sauce next to Ragu or Prego or are you being placed in the Gourmet section?
A – Again, it depends on the retailer. Whole Foods mixes it in with all the premium brands and their private label. So, it is next to it. It depends on the chain.

Q – If it’s carried only in the Gourmet Section, there’s a chance it might get over-looked.
A – Its true. Sometimes if it’s not all in the same spot, it can get lost. That’s why I think it’s important to differentiate yourself by having it have those unique properties using agave nectar. It’s a low glycemic ingredient where sugar isn’t. Sodium levels are also important to people in pasta sauces. It’s making your product different enough but also having that mainstream taste so it includes more customers.

Q – Have you also noticed stores are making their own pasta sauces? How does that impact your sales?
A – I think that any competition is good competition because it draws more people to the category. Some people are always going to want to purchase a store brand. I definitely understand why some people do that.  It’s because of the price point. But, for me our ingredients are always different than the store brands. I don’t know any store brands that use the agave nectar. Most of them use sugar. So, it’s a really big differential between us and private label brands per se. So, it doesn’t directly affect us.

Q – When you’re looking to get shelf space in a grocery store, do you have to make a presentation, or do you have a distributor that takes care of that for you?
A – I like to make the presentations personally so I try to go to as many different locations as possible. Of course there’s only one of me. I don’t always go to every presentation. Then we would ask the distributor to make sure to show it. 98% of the time I’m in as many presentations as I can be.

Q – As you see it, who is the Organicville customer?
A – I’ve always wanted to kind of create this product that everybody in the family can enjoy. To answer your question, younger people who are very organic minded would gravitate towards this sauce because the level of ingredients. Stay at home dads or stay at home moms would love this product for their children and for their families because of the organic qualities. Older people would enjoy it too, individuals who had diabetes because of the agave nectar versus the sugar, and then 1 in every 133 people are diagnosed with being sensitive to gluten. Our standard demographic is probably people who are shopping for their families, but, it’s all inclusive. I get e-mails from all ages of customers telling me how much they enjoy the pasta sauces because of either the taste or the ingredients or the health qualities.

Q – What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received on your pasta sauces?
A – I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a woman who said ‘That was the most delicious pasta sauce she’s ever had in her life’. It was the tomato basil. She says she buys it every week, how much she enjoys it, and thank-you for making it. I’ll get those e-mails late at night and I personally write back every single customer that sends an e-mail or gives a phone call or sends us a letter. She titled the e-mail ‘Delicious’. (Laughs).

Official website: http://organicvillefoods.com

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