Fast-growing Egglife Foods in Chicago makes gluten-free, high-protein wraps

Egglife is owned by the nation’s second-largest egg producer, Rose Acre Farms, based in Seymour, Ind. A veteran employee of that company, Peggy Johns, invented a recipe for egg-based tortillas nearly a decade ago when health problems put her on a quest to reduce her carbohydrate intake and increase the protein in her diet. She came up with a product containing nearly 6 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of carbohydrate per tortilla.

This is a perfect product for diabetics and people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Consumers are saying we are a game-changer,” says David Kroll, Egglife’s CEO. He believes much of his company’s success stems from Rose Acre’s decision to start Egglife as a stand-alone business, not as a Rose subsidiary, with a sprawling production plant in Wolcott, Ind. It gave us more focus. And of course their financial backing was important.”

From the beginning, Rose Acre also invested heavily in experienced talent. Kroll, 54, has worked for MillerCoors, Cargill, Wrigley and Procter & Gamble in his career. He’s surrounded by marketing and sales staff who know how to win shelf space at the biggest chains.

Egglife is in 18 divisions of Kroger as well as in hundreds of Target and Walmart stores, as well as at the fast-growing Aldi chain. The distribution is overseen by in-company sales personnel, with independent food brokers—the ordinary route for new foodmakers on a budget—not involved.

“This product is so different that we felt we needed to own the sales narrative ourselves,” says Ross Lipari, chief sales officer, who was once a consultant at Accenture. Most startups going to market lean heavily on brokers to make all the decisions. But we decided we wanted to control the dialogue ourselves.”

Brody Bennett, a category manager at Hy-Vee, a grocery chain based in West Des Moines, Iowa, is enthusiastic about Egglife. He carries all five varieties of the wraps—original, Southwest style, Italian style, everything bagel and sweet cinnamon—in his 180 stores.

“I was doubtful that this product would last as we placed it in the health market section within our stores,” Bennett says. But the creators got it right. It’s been my No. 1 performing a new item in the non-beverage area in terms of sales velocity over the past two years.”

Jenna Gorham is a registered dietitian who runs RD Link from Bozeman, Mont. The platform links nutritious brands to dietitians. Egglife has turned out to be popular, she says. “The product is a great solution for people with diabetes looking to lower their carb intake,” says Gorham. “Many gluten-free substitutes are prone to breakage and tear, but this does not. And they don’t add any sugar, another thing I like.”

Gorham expects the company to broaden its product base eventually to other categories, particularly pasta. Kroll suggests that more products are in the pipeline, though he declines to offer specifics. He predicts the staid packaged-foods category will undergo powerful changes as consumers seek out healthier foods, offering Chaboni Greek yogurt as an example of a fresh product elbowing its way past older brands. “Categories filled with legacy products chock full of stuff not good for you are faced with a new kind of competition from brands like ours,” he says.

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