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Gnarly Pepper accepted into Inno Accel program

Cedar Rapids-based Gnarly Pepper has been selected to join Agropur’s Inno Accel program.

Canadian Dairy Cooperative Agropur launched Inno Accel, an accelerator for startups building products and solutions in the dairy industry, in 2018.

Following an international Inno Accel call for applications, fifteen businesses pitched to win a slot on the 2019 cohort, with Agropur selecting four dairy-related start-ups from Canada, the US and the UK to join the program which started the first week of September.

The selected businesses will spend 12 weeks in Inno Accel, challenging convention and generating exciting new solutions to maximize their overall success.

Each selected business will receive several months of support, as well as $20,000 cash to contribute to travel and living expenses. Gnarly Pepper will fly to Montreal, Canada for four one-week sprints as part of the program.

“Canada’s dairy industry is renowned for its creativity and innovation and to be selected from so many strong contenders for a place on the program is an immense achievement for the business,” said Gnarly Pepper founder Sara Gotch. “Since the beginning development stages of Gnarly Pepper, I have wanted to combine our product formulations with plain Greek yogurt for a pre-mixed ready to use product, this program will help us navigate that goal. Above all, we are going to benefit from three months of intensive product and business development coaching and the expertise of a highly
professional and experienced company, creating undreamed of opportunities.”

Inno Accel will help Gnarly Pepper develop products and market solutions with a fully customized coaching program. Gnarly Pepper will be supported by two mentors—a successful entrepreneur and a member of Agropur senior management—and at least 20 coaches with different areas of expertise, from marketing and sales to R&D and strategy.

The popularity of Gnarly Pepper—the custom spice blend company that pairs products with plain Greek yogurt for healthier, savory alternatives to traditional dips and condiments—has increased rapidly since its launch two and a half years ago.

Gnarly Pepper’s products are now available on Amazon, eBay and sold in 60 stores across the US including 35 Hy-Vee locations.

Gnarly Pepper has also been to Sunnyvale, CA for Plug and Play’s Selection Day and opened a gourmet salad and sandwich shop inside NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.

Previous coverage

Gnarly Pepper: A healthier dip and condiment alternative -Aug. 16, 2018

Gnarly Pepper accepted into Inno Accel program | 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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