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Gnarly Pepper: A healthier dip and condiment alternative

Sarah Gotch had grown frustrated with the lack of healthy alternatives to traditional dips and condiments on the market.

“I started wondering how we could make salads healthier. I remember watching my grandma make chicken salad one time and the amount of mayonnaise and sugar blew my mind,” Gotch said. “Everyone assumes these chicken and tuna salads are considered healthy when that’s not necessarily the case.”

So in 2016, she started Gnarly Pepper.

Gotch came up with a powder formula that can be added to nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Adding a few teaspoons of Gnarly Pepper Like Mayo, you can have the taste of a rich, creamy mayonnaise for less than one-tenth of the calories. Similarly, she also custom blends an onion dip and veggie dip powder, all under the Gnarly Pepper label.

Hy-Vee is one of the biggest sellers of Gnarly Pepper products.  They recently branched out to Des Moines and Madison, Wisconsin through Hy-Vee chain. Gnarly Pepper products are also available directly online.

Last year, Gotch participated in Venture School as well as multiple pitch competitions.

“I’m a big advocate and part of the Sioux City Growth Organization. Every year we host the innovation market,” Gotch said. “Through that, I actually won a course at the Venture School.”

Gotch says Venture School helped her develop a lean business model and a lot of customer discovery.

“Venture School was hugely beneficial for me. I learned so much in such a short amount of time,” Gotch said. “Calculating who your customers are saves you so much time and money in the end because you’re not guessing and buying stuff that’s totally useless.”

Gnarly Pepper: A healthier dip and condiment alternative | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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