Based in Seattle, this burgeoning brand is setting its sights on upending the way Americans view traditional condiments. What started as a simple recipe that Taylor Rausch would make for his family, grew over the course of five years into a promising product currently available in regional Pacific Northwest grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
We recently talked with Rausch about where he’s been and where he’s going, and everything he’s learned in between.
How did Bear's Breath get started?
I got started after I graduated college back in 2013. I had trouble finding a job so it was really therapeutic for me to cook. My family was very supportive in the process. I made my first ketchup and it was terrible. But I just stuck with it.
Eventually, I came up with a recipe that someone besides my mom told me they liked. She brought it to work and her colleagues had taken it home. A few days later, I got a call from someone saying “Hey, my wife works with your mom, and you make one of the most amazing things that I've ever tried." This guy, who would end up becoming my future business partner, Nicholas, was worried that the name I was mulling over was already copyrighted and he wanted to help me figure out a better direction. We began thinking of names together and had way too much fun talking about ketchup. Before I knew it he turned out to be a valuable business mentor and we started meeting weekly.
Who is your target audience and how are you selling to them?
More and more people have become health-conscious, and they want clean ingredients. They are trying to do things to help their diet, whether that's a Keto diet or a Paleo diet, for example. They’re looking at the back of these packages, including the ingredients in ketchup, and can become discouraged when they see unrecognizable ingredients, high calorie counts, and unnecessary carbs. That healthy factor is undeniable in a sense and is part of why we’re seen as a disruptive company.
In general, we just keep asking “why does ketchup have to be boring?” That's why it's called Bear's Breath—bears are courageous and bold, unlike the ketchup we’ve all become accustomed to. Today, our products are available in about 330 different grocery retail locations, and some smaller deli and butcher shops. The grocery stores are noticing that their customers are shifting their preferences and that there’s a nutritional awakening happening. The stores are interested in having an exciting, new product on their shelf that they can sell to this empowered demographic. We also sell directly from our website.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced launching your own business?
When you start your own business, you're the only one doing all this stuff. Barcoding is a great example of a challenge we faced early on. We started off with some of the more local, regional grocery stores, and I just honestly went out and looked for the cheapest barcode I could buy. I actually think it was a recycled barcode. But once we started working with Kroger, I realized we needed to get our barcodes from GS1 US, because it was a part of their vendor requirements.
It was then that I really started taking our products to another level. We could create a six-pack or gallon sizes, and they could all have their own barcodes. So, it was a small hurdle, and it was something I had never dealt with in my life. But I had someone from GS1 US customer service walk me through the process and explain the overall benefits, like being uniquely identified in the marketplace, and it made sense to me. I had thought to myself “Am I going to have to revisit this process every single time that I work with a new retailer?” The fact that I don't have to has allowed me to find time to do other things that could be more beneficial to the business.
What does success ultimately look like for Bear's Breath?
I think we ultimately want to see this product become a movement, to further embody the bold spirit of the bear. We want to grow to the point where nationally, everyone wants to “maul” their next meal. So success to me is to become a national disruptor to what’s already been established and challenge what people think ketchup is.
My advice for other entrepreneurs is to have the courage to put your product out there and follow your passion. Everybody loves to eat, everybody loves to share food, and try something new. That helps me feel good about what I'm doing. It's really important and it’s not something that can be measured.