Hey there! I am Phil Anson, founder of EVOL Foods (evolfoods.com). We make all-natural frozen burritos, entrees and pizzas. It has been a long and hard journey “fighting the good fight” in a challenged food system. I am here today to answer any questions you may have about the US food system, frozen food manufacturing, what “all natural” means, or the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship. I have some stories you just could not make up.. I will be on here answering questions starting at 1:00PM EST and will get to as many as I have time to!

Prof it's me: http://i.imgur.com/uh5tRGb.jpg More proof it's me: http://evolfoods.com/about/team/ (I am about half way down in the middle)

[edit] Hey guys, Phil here. I'll be live answering your questions for as long as I can. I'll try and get a coupon up for you guys to try the product later today.

[edit2] Thank you all for the great questions! I had our team get a coupon up on Facebook for the Reddit community. Keep your questions coming and I will get to them throughout the day.


Comments: 379 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

drewdigger1 karma

Hey Phil. When you started Phil's Fresh Foods, did you ever want the business to grow as large as EVOL is now? What were some of the biggest challenges of being a start-up in the natural food industry? Do you think being located in the Boulder area helps business?

EVOL_Foods2 karma

When I started, my goal was to make 500 burritos per week which would have lead to an income of about $12,000 / year, which was all I thought I needed to support a lifestyle of climbing and hiking everyday.

The biggest challenge I had early on was that I had no experience, no knowledge, no network, no plan, and no money.

I think being in Boulder helps. We have a unique culture and network of very capable smart talented people.

mac_miller_fan1 karma

What's your favorite burrito?

EVOL_Foods4 karma

Current favorite is a BIG Chipotle Chicken Burrito (11 oz) or the Grilled Steak + Guacamole

DrRonaldHyatt1 karma

Hey Phil,

I'm curious about product testing and development. How does Evol decide to attempt to create a new product? For example, the mac and cheese bowls are a vastly different product (although delicious) from your staple burritos. Do the products start in your kitchen, or in a lab, or on the assembly line?

EVOL_Foods2 karma

We start at the highest level. EVOL is all about love - loving what you eat, loving life, etc... As foodies, we ask ourselves the question: "What product category is the ripest to bring this concept of love to?" The Mac n Cheese floated to the top due to a number of reasons: Everyone loves Mac n Cheese, most of the frozen Mac n Cheese sucks, there are very interesting things happening in restaurants with Mac n Cheese, etc... So, it really starts there - with a good idea and an understanding of the category dynamics we are facing. In the case of Mac n Cheese, all we saw was white space, because nobody in frozen is doing anything interesting with Mac n Cheese - so we saw it as a big opportunity. Then we looked out into the general food world and saw the development of hot buzz flavors like Truffle, Chipotle, and Panko. Convering all of these factors together resulted in some exciting ideation sessions, which then got plugged into our formal innovation process - which includes white papering, cost of goods feasibility, r & d, commercialization, regulatory, packaging, etc... It takes about a year to properly develop the product. It is one of the hardest things we do because it is a cross functional discipline that touches every single department but it is also one of the fulfilling things I get to be involved in.

Kriztauf0 karma

Hey Phil! Thanks for doing AMA, I'm a big fan of EVOL. I would assume it must have been pretty hard to get recognition in a market that's dominated by big companies who cut corners to bring people frozen food as cheap as possible. How did you deal with all the competition?

EVOL_Foods4 karma

kept my head down and made sure everything we do goes back to our mission vision values.

wcbernard0 karma

PHIL!! I'm a huge EVOL fan, your products are perfect for my lifestlye, I don't have a lot of time in the day but I can wait 4 min for a great meal. You said you've been through "the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship," -- what exactly does this consist of? What was your hardest moment coming up in your industry? I'm a college student about to graduate, your story sounds helpful and interesting...

EVOL_Foods9 karma

Entrepreurship is crazy. When magazine interviewers ask me why I started my company, I tell them "To inspire people to care about where food comes from and how it is produced by making real food that tastes delicious." That's our mission statement by the way. When others ask me why I started my business, I tell them "Because I didn't know any better." That's the real answer.

For so many years, I lived teetering on the verge of bankrupcy - credit cards maxed out, holding checks for vendors and trying to convince them to not stop shipping me raw ingredients and that I would figure my way out of it. I knew nothing when I started this business and I had no plan. I made every mistake in the book - seriously - I'm not just saying that. I honestly think I didn't make ONE SINGLE GOOD DECISION during the first five years of business.

Luckily, I am an introspective person and able to learn from my failures. That was my saving grace. That and the fact that I was relentless in my ambition and hard work - and I won't lie, luck plays a huge role.

So what was the hardest moment in my entrepreneurial past? This may be a little heavy, but about eight years ago I had lost a huge private label contract with Whole Foods Market. I was panicked and freaking out. This is when I had virtually no employees and I was still driving my own trucks and running around like a lunatic. While delivering a couple of pallets of product to a distribution facility in Colorado Springs, I experienced what I thought might be a heart attack - but it was actually a full on panic attack. I started sweating profusely and had to sit down. I felt like I was going to puke. It scared the shit out of me. After that, I thought long and hard about my future in this business and it lead me to some great decisions - like bringing partners and capital into the business.

So that was one of the hardest - there were dozens of others - like when a male prostitute stole my refrigerated van mid-delivery at a dock at a natural foods store in Denver, or when an old partner of mine stole money from me, or when I had to learn how to fire people. I could tell you stories you wouldn't believe.

Megatron_McLargeHuge2 karma

Redditor for two hours, only comment sounds like it was written by a PR firm. Seriously, who says "your products are perfect for my lifestlye"? If you want to be taken seriously as an alternative to big corporate brands, don't pull this shit here.

EVOL_Foods1 karma

This was actually executed entirely in-house. We posted to our Facebook and Twitter so maybe that is where this user came from? To be fully candid we do have a PR firm and they have had, literally, nothing to do with this thread. Take it or leave it..

EVOL_Foods0 karma

I guess I must be really good if I am sounding like a PR firm. I would consider myself a liability but apparently I'm a little more fucking polished than that.


BUSTED forgot to log off and back in as the other user!

EVOL_Foods0 karma

you seem angry.

makes me sad...

want to talk about it?