I am pretty sure I understand how Google works but I am having a hard time finding the Well Food Company and its products.
Does WFC not exist anymore or has it changed to a new address? It seems to just redirect to JohnWelbourn.com.
Thanks for your help and programming!
Sadly, Well Food Company shut its doors at the end of the 2015.
After spear heading the efforts to create great jerky and products for 7 years, my partner decided he no longer wanted to be in the retail food business. Therefore, the decision was made to shut the company down and move on.
Not sure if you knew, but Well Food Company originally started as Paleo Brands. The idea came in 2009 after my neighbor stopped by one afternoon and tried the jerky, nuts and fruit snacks my wife had been making when I would travel for the CrossFit Football seminars. There were a few companies in this space but the quality was suspect, so I made my own.
After brainstorming and a few “harrumphs” (1), we created a mission statement: offer amazing tasting snacks and products with the least amount of processing possible. The next morning I realized we were going to need some horsepower, so I enlisted my good friend Robb Wolf to join our ranks.
The company got off to a great start and had solid momentum, but lacked the singular maniacal drive needed to become a major player in the space. Myself, Joe or Robb each had our own full time jobs and were not going to abandon them to run Paleo Brands as a full time venture.
Instead it was agreed by all parties, I would run the day to day with the other guys tag teaming in where needed. The problem was time; CrossFit Football and my brick and mortar performance gym in Newport Beach were taking up the majority of my time. And as they grew, my time got less and less.
Here is the part where I interject some entrepreneurial knowledge I learned the hard way – part time hobbies pay part time dividends and very rarely grow into multimillion-dollar ventures. If you want to be successful, “burn the ships”, go all in.
After a few years of doing this I knew Paleo Brands was getting short changed and needed full time help. I enlisted the help of a smart MBA that wanted to leave her corporate gig managing a 150 million dollar real estate portfolio for an institutional real estate investor and work full time with a start up focused on providing high quality snacks and products to a health conscious crowd.
With her help, we decided that rebranding would help reach a broader audience.
The Paleo market is difficult and with more and more people peddling everything from Paleo ice cream, to Paleo BBQ sauce to Paleo tampons; shit was going sideways and it was like the Wild West. After the 1000th email I received from some new “Paleo-ite” about how dared we use sugar in our jerky, I decided I had enough and began a rebrand.
And in case you guys don’t know how jerky is made, it involves lean meat dried to prevent spoilage. This drying process includes the addition of salt and sugar to prevent bacteria from developing on the meat before sufficient moisture has been removed. And sugar has an added benefit, it keeps the jerky playable so it doesn’t taste like you are chewing old leather.
On a side note, we tried to make jerky with no sugar and we ended up having bags full of green moldy jerky.
Before some of your launch into a tirade, you can make jerky at home in a dehydrator in small batches without salt and sugar. But usually those are made a pound or two at a time, put in some bags and eaten over the course of a few days. Things get different when you are making thousands of pounds of jerky in a commercial smokehouse and packing them for resale. They have to self-stable and approved by the FDA. Because when you make things commercially you have to make in large enough batches to reduce margins. Then you end up with products that are able to sit on the shelf and survive shipping to consumers that might be as far as an APO in the Middle East. Therefore, you have to use things like sugar and salt to create product stability so you don’t open a package of jerky that looks like a 3rd grade science experiment.
Sadly, this knowledge did not compute to the “recently converted to Whole9 from Starbucks peppermint chocolate mocha, Hostess and DQ” crowd that would flood my inbox with emails screaming about sugar in the jerky. Reading the FAQ or checking Google could have answered all of these questions, but I digress.
From the ashes of Paleo Brands, Well Food Company emerged. With this more encompassing brand we could offer supplements and other products without some long drawn out thread on Paleo Hacks about how dairy was not Paleo and how caveman probably didn’t wiped his ass so neither should you.
Ultimately, I wanted to create a diversified offering of products that were high quality and free of bullshit. Problem is that isn’t cheap and the margins were much smaller than what is usually the norm in the food business. No more was this more apparent when I was approached by GNC to start offering our bars and jerky. They were going to need $500k worth of free samples to put in stores as a test and wanted to buy the products at a cost 15% under my production costs. When I got on a call with their team and tried to explain US produced grass-fed, organic, almond meal instead of peanuts and wheat and apple juice in place of sugar, all I got was silence. They suggested I look into producing and sourcing my products overseas with much cheaper ingredients and better margins.
Problems arise when you take a company based on firm set of ideals and a mission to create high quality products into the general consumer food business. Foods, like supplements, are commodities. And a commodity is a basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type.
For example, you want to buy whey protein, what is more important, quality or price?
If you are on a budget, you will price shop via the Internet and find the cheapest whey protein you can find. Because if your mind, whey protein is whey protein and Amazon has some really cheap products. Little do you know the protein content of what you are consuming might be off by as much as ½ of what is listed. Or have toxic levels of heavy metals being produced from animals raised in poor conditions. (2)
If you have some extra jingle in your pocket and care about what you put in your body, you will look for the highest quality, minimally produced product that comes from pasture-raised animals. You will buy from a reputable company you can trust that is not owned by a major publicly traded company. Large publicly traded companies have shareholders that demand returns on investment and therefore many times will reduce quality to maximize returns.
But at the end of the day the price conscious crowd will always be a larger market than the health conscious crowd.
If you don’t believe me, come with me to work one morning. As I cross over Newport Blvd the Del Taco on 17th has a line 20 cars deep each morning. I have almost been in a dozen accidents from people making a b-line across lanes of traffic to get into the Del Taco parking lot. In contrast, I pass 4 fresh juice shops on my 3.6 mile commute with rarely a car in front. Maybe people rather eat a breakfast burrito at 6 AM, but I have a feeling most people can wrap their heads around a 99 cent drive thru breakfast taco than a $6 cold press juice that you have to get out of your car to get.
In hindsight, what could I have done better?
Understood the market – I had no experience in the production and marketing of food so I was always playing catch up. I was learning as I went and made far too many mistakes that could have been avoided if I had some experience. I should have found a mentor or contacted some food companies to get some experience before venturing into my own endeavor. But I am hard worker and have no problem putting all my time and effort in and the knowledge learned is invaluable going forward.
Second, followed my gut from day one. There will always be a boutique market for jerky products that are produced to the highest quality for the discerning consumer. I would have avoided the supplement game as there will always be a new company offering some bargain that is too good to pass up. Very hard to compete in a market where a product’s success isn’t based on what is in the container but the imagine created around the company pushing the products. I should have built a company based purely on the best jerky on the planet and owned that space. Companies are attempting this right now, but always falling just short of dominating the market.
Take the supplement company Shredz for example. Are people buying Shredz products for quality? Or are they buying it because it allows them to connect to the image being propagated by Paige Hathaway and her band of androgynous fitness boys? I highly doubt they would have the same success if the ads were three guys in lab coats, glasses and dad bods were standing around talking about how they had synthesized the best products the world in the lab.
Ultimately, find your niche and make an amazing product that owns the space. Do everything humanly possible to work at this daily – live and breathe your work so you are living it in real time. This allows you to see the market as it is growing and changing, so you can grow and change with it. You can recover from a few mistakes, but not a dozen.
No one is sadder about the closing of Well Food Company than the Power Athlete staff and my family. I was able to source the best products on the planet and create the best jerky I knew how and we literally lived on the stuff for weeks at a time. It has been in my pack on every trip I have made since 2009. I put the jerky and treats in my kid’s lunches and always have it on hand wherever we go.
Since the closing of WFC, I have been trying products in the supplement and food space to see what I can replace WFC with. I have found some good whey proteins and been searching for a great jerky.
If you have any suggestions, I would love to find something amazing products I can endorse and recommend.
Thanks to our friends and customers that were so loyal over the years.
Hi John, maybe you could try and see if you can get hold of biltong. It’s a South African snack, much like jerky, which is just dried without any heat. I’m sure there are enough South Africans in the US that you should be able to source some with out issue.
What a timely article for me, I currently own Crossfit Cork (registered Crossfit football gym in Ireland) and this week I step back from that and start a food company Anú Dairy the worlds first K2 rich butter. It’s hard to not want to make a million things at once, cattle are very versatile(Whey protein, Jerky, Bone broth etc) but as you have said we aim to own the space of nutritional butter.
A lot of this drive to be in this business came from meeting yourself and others at the AHS 12 in Boston. I may travel to the US again (possibly Paleo Fx for networking) It would be great to catch up with you and get some advice. Thanks for your articles.
Good luck in the new enterprise. I hope you crush it out the stratosphere. Nothing more near and dear to my heart than butter, so good luck and own the space.
Hit me up if you are in Southern California.
I was afraid this was happening when I couldn’t order chocolate powder anymore. Thank you for the detailed explanation and lessons learned. You are not alone! We own a small food science company(wife is the scientist/engineer) and are intimately familiar with the challenges listed above. For what its worth…enjoyed the products. RIP WFC.
Sorry to see this news. Stumbled in here after searching for WFC protein to refill my stash. Your products will be sorely missed.
You mentioned that you’d found some good whey proteins, any recommendations? I’m trying to expand my knowledge base on what to look for, but it still feels like wading through 6 feet of BS to identify a good product.
Hi John –
Great story and I’m sorry to see a high integrity option go. My name is Elizabeth and I work with The New Primal. We are a grass-fed/grass-finished jerky company also offering free-range turkey and meat sticks.
All of our products are gluten free, soy free, paleo approved, non-gmo, with no added preservatives, hormones, or antibiotics. We make a super clean product, that’s not void of taste!
I’d love to get some samples in your hands and see if we could be your new go-to. Please contact me at the email provided for some samples!