Food News

These Five Colorado Food Startups Are Competing at Pitch Slam 2021

The 2018 Pitch Slam panel of judges.
The 2018 Pitch Slam panel of judges. Courtesy of Naturally Boulder
Every new business owner is told to perfect their elevator pitch, but at Naturally Boulder’s Pitch Slam, that advice takes on a whole new meaning. At this year's 17th Annual Pitch Slam, Colorado-based emerging organic or natural-product companies will participate in a Shark Tank-style presentation of their brands while competing for the top prize: a complimentary booth at the Natural Products Expo East 2022 trade show in Philadelphia and a guaranteed pitch at the Expo East Pitch Slam. First-, second- and third-place winners will also split a prize package that includes financial and legal advice along with packaging design and strategy consulting from leading marketing and public-relations agencies.

Attending a Natural Products Expo trade show is a game-changer, because it can propel a company onto the national stage. But securing a booth is often out of reach for new brands because of the cost.

Naturally Boulder is a nonprofit trade association that aims to promote natural and organic companies through networking, education and resources. “[Pitch Slam] is nerve-racking, it’s scary, but it’s also quite fun,” says the organization's executive director, Bill Capsalis. At the event, entrepreneurs present their product to a group of judges and industry experts who essentially give them a grilling, Capsalis explains.

To qualify, a young Naturally Boulder member brand must have a significant Colorado business presence and have been in the market at least one year. Each applicant submits the necessary paperwork along with a one-minute video pitching their product and what makes it unique. The five finalists listed below were chosen by a panel of industry experts and beat out twenty other companies in the running.
FRESCOS/INSTAGRAM
Frescos/Instagram
“We officially started Frescos Naturales in December 2020 and started selling our first drinks January 2021 — and from day one, I intended to apply,” says Juan Stewart, co-founder of one of the finalists.


Frescos Beverage Corporation is a Latin American-owned company producing natural, low-sugar, non-alcoholic carbonated and non-carbonated aguas frescas that are made with only three ingredients. “I knew our business was unique, and with hard work this year I would be able to show people what I had in mind. I knew our drinks would sell, I just needed to prove it,” Stewart explains.

After hustling hard this year, Stewart feels the company has the numbers to back up its mission and that Pitch Slam is the best event for its presentation. “Naturally Boulder is a really special and unique community, the main hub for the natural-food industry in Boulder and Colorado, and we are really fortunate to be a part of it,” he adds.
click to enlarge Core & Rind's cashew-based sauce is free of dairy and ideal for nachos and plant-based mac and cheese. - COURTESY CORE & RIND
Core & Rind's cashew-based sauce is free of dairy and ideal for nachos and plant-based mac and cheese.
Courtesy Core & Rind

Finalist Core & Rind co-founders Rita Childers and Candi Haas enrolled in a culinary nutrition program after facing their own health challenges. That experience motivated them to find a new way to help others. The two started making a variety of healthy juices, drinks and milks for farmers' markets. “But the product people were most pumped about the cheesy cashew sauce,” Haas explains. The duo worked for years to perfect a shelf-stable healthy cheese alternative made with only clean ingredients.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” Haas says of participating in Pitch Slam. Although the experience is pushing her outside of her comfort zone, she's inspired by the Naturally Boulder community as well as SKU Dallas, a consumer products accelerator. Haas and Childers have been building the brand by themselves, so the inclusive and warm community is a welcome change. “It feels like we’re getting some arms wrapped around us,” Haas adds.
click to enlarge Wild Barn Co-Founders and best friends Jenny Verrochi (left) and Alyssa Evans. - BRAYDEN HEATH PHOTOGRAPHY
Wild Barn Co-Founders and best friends Jenny Verrochi (left) and Alyssa Evans.
Brayden Heath Photography
Wild Barn Coffee was founded by best friends Jenny Verrochi, whose family has roasted coffee for three decades, and Alyssa Evans. Verrochi was inspired to create her own brand combining her love of coffee and passion for the outdoors. “We just want to create a better-for-you coffee that gets people going — no sugar, no dairy, and some superfoods to add extra antioxidants,” she says.

Although pitching is stressful, Verrochi says it’s essentially getting up and telling the brand's story in an organic and honest way — and she's motivated to do so, because she's ready to grow and expand but needs help to accomplish her business goals. She's excited for the whole process, and honored to be a finalist among a group that includes other female entrepreneurs. “I want to support and help them as much as I can,” she says.
PASTIFICIO/FACEBOOK
Pastificio/Facebook
Pastificio Boulder produces small-batch, whole-grain craft pasta primarily made with heirloom wheat. Every pasta is made with freshly milled, organic, whole-grain flours sourced directly from farmers. Founder Claudia Bouvier spent time traveling in Italy and always had a love for fresh pasta. While pursuing a master's degree in engineering at the University of Colorado, her interest in entrepreneurship and artisanal, healthy food production combined with her partner Ted Steen's engagement with sustainability and the impacts of the industrial food system. The result is a nutrient-dense pasta that's sold at their shop at 2438 30th Street in Boulder. Bouvier is excited and inspired to be a finalist. "There is a growing interest in real food, created by entrepreneurs who care about the environment, the well-being and pleasure food brings to people, the meaningful connections food can foster within communities and the biodiversity in our fields," she says.
FOSSIL FUEL/FACEBOOK
Fossil Fuel/Facebook
Fossil Fuel Donuts, which was co-founded by Alexa Daniels in Alaska and relocated to Boulder in 2019, makes low-sugar doughnuts that are keto-, paleo- and vegan-friendly and are free of gluten, soy, GMOs, dairy and eggs. Flavors include Le'Matcha (lemon poppyseed and green tea matcha), Blue Bear (blueberry, acai and lavender), Choconut (chocolate almond maca) and Espress-o (Ursa Major Coffee and cacao nibs).


Previous winners of Pitch Slam include Hoplark Hop Tea, Gruvi and The Honest Stand. Capsalis says that feedback from past participants has been positive and that the event is "extremely wonderful in terms of exposure."

The final event and awards ceremony is open to the public and will take place Thursday, October 21, from 2 to 8:30 p.m. on the Boulder Jewish Community Center lawn. It will also be streamed on YouTube. For more information and to register, visit pitchslam2021.naturallyboulder.org.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kristen Kuchar is a Colorado writer covering craft beer, food and travel. For Westword, she explores vegan dining and the state's artisan beverages, such as cider and mead.