This is the sixth installment of an interview series with the 2021 Target Takeoff Food & Beverage cohort. Participating founders are sharing, in their own words, details about their innovative companies. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Takeoff Program Management Team.
TT: Describe Pan’s in one sentence.
Michael: Pan’s Mushroom Jerky is a plant-based snack made of shiitake mushrooms with a delicious umami taste and satisfying meaty texture.
TT: What inspired you to start your company? What makes your product unique in the marketplace?
Michael: I discovered this snack during a trip to visit my extended family in Malaysia. They are vegetarian, so I was confused when I tried this satisfying snack until I realized – it was a mushroom! I knew I had something special to share with the rest of the world.
Pan’s is unique in the marketplace because of my family story. And, the taste and texture of Pan’s is unlike anything available in the market. There are many plant-based jerky options that are trying to completely imitate the taste and texture of beef jerky; however Pan’s Mushroom Jerky highlights the shiitake mushroom for it’s umami flavor and chewy, meaty texture that is satisfying and delicious.
TT: How did you decide it was the right time to join an Accelerator program? What are you most looking forward to getting out of the Target Takeoff experience?
Michael: Pan’s Mushroom Jerky has been doubling in growth year after year since we launched, and we’ve hit a point in our scaling process where we need to make smart decisions about growth. We are looking for help in making critical decisions that will enable our company and brand to reach it’s potential. Also, we are gearing to launch in national retailers, so the timing is perfect for us to learn how to best succeed in this type of store.
We’ve participated in accelerators and community groups before, and they have always been incredibly helpful in terms of peer mentorship. So we are looking forward to connecting with more peers in the CPG Food & Beverage space through this Accelerator. More often than not, another founder has already faced the same challenge we are facing now, and more than willing to provide advice and guidance. As a small company, this is invaluable!
We are most excited for the guidance and advice from experts on the retailer side. This will be a unique opportunity for us to learn more about how we can succeed from the retailers perspective.
TT: What’s a problem you frequently face as a founder?
Michael: Managing sales pipeline / supply + demand is a constant challenge. We have a lot of opportunity to grow, and we want to capitalize on the opportunity, but we don’t want to overcommit and disappoint our customers. We are always trying to grow fast but in a smart way.
Michael: Hearing customer feedback that they love Pan’s Mushroom Jerky is humbling, and reminds me of the mission. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly hard day, I will read reviews online to remind myself that we are providing a lot of happiness to people and the hard work is worth it!
I’m proud that we build opportunities for our team both in and outside of Portland. and I’m also motivated to set an example for my son.
TT: How do you see Pan’s growing after this experience?
Michael: I hope we will have the tools and confidence to launch in and support major national retailers across the country. We also hope to have built lasting relationships with fellow CPG founders!
TT: If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?
Michael: Don’t worry about having everything figured out right in the beginning. Start selling your product as soon as you can. This time is critical for proof of concept, market research, and making sales to support your business, and you can gain so much from going to market, learning in the field, and using that information to improve.