NJ Tech Weekly “On the Road” with NJ’s Fabalish at Natural Products Expo West 2024

[It’s not a tech startup, but it is a tech-enabled company cofounded by a former tech startup exec.]

By Rob Rinderman

Tens of thousands of food, beverage, and health-and-wellness brands, plus a wide range of industry professionals, came from all over the globe to visit the Anaheim Convention Center (Calif.) in early March for Natural Products Expo West 2024. Expo West is one of the world’s largest trade shows and conferences of its kind.

Among the numerous natural food-based companies with an exhibit booth was Carlstadt-based Fabalish, a producer of plant-based, allergen-friendly and organic foods made from chickpeas and aquafaba (a liquid made from cooking or soaking legumes, including chickpeas, in water).

Following his return to the Garden State, cofounder Paul Majcherczyk gave us his impressions of Expo West, as well as company-related info. Below is our Q&A, slightly edited/modified for publication.

What’s the Fabalish “elevator pitch” for anyone not yet familiar with your brand?

We are on a mission to fix our food system. Fabalish harnesses the power of chickpeas and their upcycled byproduct, aquafaba, to create “best-for-you” plant-based foods with award-winning flavor. This includes a line of organic falafel made from chickpeas, baked and loaded with veggies. We also produce creamy, flavor-packed condiments made from the chickpea aquafaba. All our products are plant-based; organic; allergen-friendly; and made with simple, clean ingredients. Fabalish is at the forefront of the trend for “real” plant-based foods.

What makes you distinct from other competing food products in your category?

Our flavor! I’m biased of course, but the product truly speaks for itself. We’ve won the awards, and the reviews are amazing. All that aside, our primary differentiator is the clean label. And we mean it. We don’t use anything you wouldn’t find in your pantry. 

Whom/what do you consider to be your main competition?

We look up to brands like Follow Your Heart, Dr. Praeger’s and Siete Foods. They have a great ingredient philosophy and operate across multiple product lines. We see Fabalish developing into a platform brand that can operate across multiple categories and products.

How was your experience at Expo West? What were your main reasons for participating and how did you do on those fronts?

Expo West was incredible, as always. The energy is contagious, and it’s so much fun! And exhausting! Our focus has been on expanding into “alternate” channels — that is, channels outside of physical retail — and we definitely walked away with some amazing leads. We also debuted our collaborations with WunderEggs and Mr. Bing, which were a hit. 

Discuss your prior background leading up to cofounding Fabalish? Who’s your cofounder and what’s their background?

I graduated as an engineer and then spent about a decade in financial services. I then went to a tech startup, where I headed operations. It was really valuable to get this varied experience. Working at a startup in a senior role gave me the insights — and courage — to start my own business. If you told me years ago that I’d be flipping falafel for a living, I’d have laughed at you.

Jess [Gebel], my wife and cofounder, had a career in hospitality. Her passion for food and clean eating came out of her own health journey. She became a natural foods chef after winning on Food Network as an amateur chef, and then became a private chef working for families with health issues and dietary restrictions. That’s when she started to work with aquafaba. 

We cover New Jersey-based companies. Are there any specific benefits you derive from being based in the Garden State?

Hands down, yes. The NJEDA [New Jersey Economic Development Authority] and NJBAC [New Jersey Business Action Center] offer a variety of programs to support startups, and we have benefited from them. New Jersey is also a food hub in its own right, giving us immediate access to transportation and distribution hubs.

You are headquartered and are also manufacturing in New Jersey. How do you use technology to your advantage in the food production process?

It’s all about efficiency. We’re constantly bringing on new equipment to further automate and streamline our manufacturing. 

What type of tech tools do you utilize behind the scenes that help you with marketing, sales, distribution/logistics, social media, accounting and anything else?

We use tools like Shopify for online sales, Klaviyo for email and SMS marketing, Fishbowl for inventory management and QuickBooks for accounting. 

What are the biggest challenges for you as a small biz owner/entrepreneur?

Fundraising and access to debt capital. Manufacturing and CPG [consumer packaged goods] are very cash-hungry businesses. We’ve been doubling in revenue each year, and we’re nearing profitability. 

Are there any other questions that we should be asking you? And supply your answer, please.

Yes … our go-to-market and product strategy! A major strength and differentiator for us is our vertical integration and ability to rapidly innovate and launch new products. This gives us an advantage and nimbleness that most brands using contract manufacturers do not have. Our approach is to provide customized solutions for retailers, brands and even influencers eager to launch their own products.

These will be co-branded, allowing us to leverage a shared halo effect to build brand recognition and awareness for the Fabalish brand, while increasing revenue and expanding marketing without cost. We’re partnering and co-branding products with brands such as WunderEggs, Mr. Bing and True Made Foods, with retailers such as Hungryroot and with a number of influencers [not yet announced].

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