Daniel Lubetzky, best known for building Kind Bars and selling it to confectionery heavyweight Mars for $5 billion, has invested an undisclosed sum in Brooklyn-based company, Belgian Boys, through his family office Equilibra. PitchBook showed Belgian Boys has raised $7.01 million as of January 2022, with post valuation totaling $16.01 million.
This marks the first institutional investment Belgian Boys has ever received after running its European-inspired snacking business for seven years. It also coincides with the company’s recent expansion into the refrigerated breakfast sector through an exclusive launch of Brioche French Toast at Target
Offering a wide range of sweet treats from butter cakes, cookie tarts to mini stroopwafels, Belgian Boys has doubled its revenue over the past two years, increased its distribution by 2,000 stores in 2021, in addition to exceeding velocity expectations at U.S. mass retailers by 300 – 500%, according to CEO Anouck Gotlib — all attribute to the company’s unwavering commitment to “remaining our authentic selves,” Gotlib recently told me in an exclusive interview, alongside Elle Lanning, managing director of Equilibra. Read our exclusive Q&A below:
Tell me about how Equilibra discovered Belgian Boys, and what makes the brand a value add to your portfolio.
Lanning: We originally encountered Belgian Boys through Kind’s Frontline Impact Project, a non-profit initiative conceived at the start of the pandemic to rally companies behind getting snacks, personal care items and other products to frontline workers. Belgian Boys was one of 80-plus partner brands to generously donate their goods. The fact that our common dedication to giving back brought us together says a lot about the important role that shared values play in this partnership.
Gotlib: While growing Belgian Boys, we brought up Kind in conversation and meetings thousands of times as a source of inspiration for the way companies can be built. I read Daniel Lubetzky’s “Do the KIND Thing” and learned so much from the panels and webinars I attended. His personal values and vocal identity are inspiring to both Greg [Galel, Belgian Boy’s cofounder] and me.
How will Equilibra leverage capital, supply chain capabilities, and network to help Belgian Boys grow its business?
Lanning: At Equilibra, we are operators above all else. We are a team of cross functional individuals who came together at Kind Snacks and drove its growth through every stage from inception to its current standing as a multi-billion-dollar global health and wellness platform. This partnership with Belgain Boys is emblematic of the work we now seek to do which is pairing our capital with our operating experience to help emerging brands navigate the exciting and often daunting journey of scale. With Belgain Boys specifically, we are focused on building a team and infrastructure to support growth, shaping a multi-year innovation strategy and “futureproofing” the supply chain for scale.
Gotlib: In the near term, our focus will be on growing our team, attracting, and hiring talented individuals. We are planning to better support our retail and digital partners with activities we haven’t been able to execute before like end-caps, retailer marketing opportunities, promotions, in-store merchandising, and sampling. We have major optimization work ahead of us – ERP software, an inventory management tool, and finally getting our hands on a sales data subscription. This will help us work more strategically than we have ever before.
How did you decide to finally raise an institutional round after running Belgian Boys for seven years? What does brand authenticity mean to you and your team?
Gotlib: Belgian Boys has been a bootstrapped business, which has helped to make us extremely capital efficient and used to operating on tight budgets. Throughout our entire brand journey, Greg and I have been very intentional about how we make every decision. After laying a strong foundation for our business and reaching the limits of what we could bootstrap on our own, we decided that 2021 was the year to look for strategic partners. Throughout our fundraising, “alignment” was the word that we valued the most. We wanted to partner with fellow CPG founders and industry leaders who understand what we are building, and want to be part of it to guide us through every step of scaling our company. We are big believers that asking for help is not a weakness, it’s the biggest strength to know who to ask for help. Humility, gratitude and happiness are core values to who we are and in the way we lead our company. We wanted investors who could offer help as we grow and face challenges that many of them have personally faced.
Tell me about how Belgian Boys expanded into the refrigerated breakfast aisle, and what the future holds for your company.
Gotlib: Part of our strategy has been to incubate ideas with certain partners like Costco to see what works, learn, and find our sweet spot before we grow. One idea we incubated was offering ready-made, convenient and delicious baked goods in the refrigerated aisle instead of frozen. This is very common in Europe, but we noticed that there wasn’t much going on in this space in the U.S. After a 2018 test at Costco and then initial strong performance of our crepes and pancakes sold fresh at Walmart
When considering food trends like vegan, keto and gluten-free, we can’t follow those that aren’t authentic to our brand. We focus on what we can be best at. We are excited to invest in sustainability, which is really important to me and to our team. In 2021, we launched the first ever upcycled stroopwafel with Misfits Market. We took leftover cookie crumbs that remain after the round cookie is cut and were able to mix them back into the batter to make the first 12.5% upcycled Stroopwafel recipe. We also partnered with Neutrl, a startup offering consumers a chance to offset the carbon footprint of shipping our treats. This is just the beginning as we begin to think about sustainability for our brand — over the next few years, we’ll work to optimize our packaging with recycled materials and become a B Corp.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.