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Jan 24, 2023

Wholly Veggie co-founders John Bonnell and David Gaucher knew their brand of plant-based frozen foods needed a new look. But when they saw the design firm’s proposed revamp, it was such a departure from the original version that it made them apprehensive and uncomfortable. And, as they told us, that's why it worked.

Wholly Veggie, which debuted in its home market of Canada in 2017, now offers a range of vegan frozen entrees and snacks, including Thai curry, cauliflower wings and mozzarella-style sticks. Bonnell and Gaucher envisioned the brand as one that could attract interest and democratize access to plant-based foods via familiar flavors and dishes.

In 2020, Target began carrying Wholly Veggie at all of its U.S. stores and the brand seemed on its way to becoming a household name. Nevertheless, Bonnell and Gaucher sensed that it could just as easily turn into an also-ran in an increasingly saturated market for plant-based frozen meals. Wholly Veggie had to be bold, differentiated and, most importantly, stand for something beyond the food itself.

In its fun, energetic and bright redesign, Wholly Veggie has been embraced by existing and new retailers. The brand is carried by 6,500 stores across the U.S. and Canada, including Walmart, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Fresh Thyme, Wegmans, Sobeys and Loblaws.

In this episode, Bonnell and Gaucher spoke about their process for creating a plant-based brand with broad appeal, their realization that Wholly Veggie’s package design needed an overhaul, how a comprehensive brand brief enabled them to better understand their products’ value to retailers and consumers, and the impact of the brand revamp. They also discussed their adherence to business fundamentals, a challenging environment for private capital and how the most commonly consumed ingredients factor into their innovation strategy.

Show notes:

0:45: John Bonnell & David Gaucher, Co-Founders, Wholly Veggie – Bonnell and Gaucher met with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at BevNET headquarters where the entrepreneurs chatted about traveling from Toronto to Boston and local store visits before they discussed Wholly Veggie’s most recent – and hilarious – ad campaign. They also spoke about their respective backgrounds and the brand’s origins, why the brand name was the only thing not on the table during the revamp process, how they evaluate taste as compared to other plant-based products and how fun and laughter supports their primary goal of championing vegetables. Later, they discussed early mistakes and what they learned from each, their warning that “the route to market is filled with booby traps” and how conversations with investors have changed over the years. 

Brands in this episode: Wholly Veggie, Green Giant, Birds Eye