88 Acres Kicks Off With Kickstarter Campaign
This Massachusetts couple is making good food for every body, even those with allergies.
Approximately 15 million people in the U.S. are affected by food allergies, and Rob Dalton is one of them. When he and Nicole Ledoux went out to dinner in the fall of 2010—it was their fourth date—Rob was served a dish that was contaminated with peanuts or tree nuts and he had a severe allergic reaction. Not exactly how you want to end a date.
“Three bites into dinner, he looked up at me,” Nicole says, “and said, ‘I don’t want to scare you, but you need to take me to the hospital right now.’ His throat was closing up!” Nicole rushed Rob to the hospital, meeting his parents for the first time as the doctors worked to reverse the allergic reaction, and she ended up staying the night at the hospital with him.
“It was the first time I had ever seen someone have an allergic reaction to food,” Ledoux says. “When I got home, I went straight to the Internet. I wanted to see what I could feed him that he could eat.”
And so the idea for 88 Acres granola bars was born.
Inspired by Rob’s love of granola bars—which he usually can’t eat because they contain nuts—Nicole started messing around with allergen-free recipes and eventually hit on a few good ones.
“We’d take them on our bike rides and our runs,” Nicole says, “and our friends started stealing bites. When they started stealing Rob’s whole stash, and they don’t even have allergies, I knew we were on to something.”
88 acres is named for the 88 acre farm that Nicole grew up on near Sturbridge, Massachusetts. It’s the couple’s brainchild; a company that produces the granola bars Rob loves so much and spreads them to people with and without food allergies. Their three flavors, triple berry, apple and ginger, and chocolate and sea salt, are nut-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, and vegan.
“I grew up tinkering around in the kitchen with my mom and grandma, but I don’t have any culinary training,” Nicole says about her experiments in the kitchen that led to these three recipes. But she took her ideas and her recipes to Babson College where Rob is currently studying to receive his MBA, and to the entrepreneurs in residence there—Gail Simmons of Bravo’s Top Chef, and Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods—who both raved about the bars.
Encouraged by the initial reactions and support, Nicole and Rob decided to launch their company and start raising money to produce the bars in bulk, just three months after their July 2013 wedding.
“We like to cram all of our life events into one eight week period,” Nicole says with a smile. “So we got married and launched the business in the same eight week period.”
88 Acres’ Kickstarter campaign went live Sunday, September 22nd at noon, and by Thursday, they had reached their fundraising goal of $20,000.
“We’re absolutely blown away by the support we’ve received so far from everybody,” Nicole says. “We’ve been getting great feedback from people who suffer from food allergies, but also people who don’t who are just looking for something good and healthy to eat.”
From her experience on that 88 acre farm, Nicole came away with an appreciation for food and for what it takes to grow it.
“I’ve always felt a connection to my food,” she says. “Because of that, we really want to provide a lot of transparency so our consumers can see for themselves the farm in North Dakota where we get our flaxseeds, for example.”
The couple is planning to have products on store shelves by early 2014. And just because they met their Kickstarter goal doesn’t mean the fundraising is over. The end date for the online campaign is October 22nd, so there’s still plenty of money to be raised.
“We’ve started setting other goals and we just want to see how viral we can take this,” Nicole says. “Not only do we want to get our product out there, but we also want to spread awareness about food allergies to people everywhere.”