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Applesauce Emperor: what young innovators can learn from Ethan Holmes
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Ethan Holmes


Applesauce Emperor: what young innovators can learn from Ethan Holmes

Everyone has a favorite food. For Ethan Holmes, that was applesauce. Simple. Sweet. Tart. And yet it was this humble food that became the foundation of an empire.

Ever since he was 15, Ethan dreamed of revolutionizing the applesauce market. Now, at 27, Ethan has achieved that dream. Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce has slid across the shelves of more than 300 stores across the Midwest and onto the tables of thousands of homes. How did he do it?

It was simple. Ethan looked at a pre-existing product, ice cream to be specific, and sought to bring that same kind of variety to applesauce.

“We’re trying to be the Ben & Jerry’s of applesauce,” Ethan said. “Nobody has been able to shape up applesauce the way ice cream has been.”

And just like Ben & Jerry’s, Ethan set his brand apart by investing into organic production and a variety of flavors. Investors were drawn to his product for a few reasons. First, Ethan doesn’t rely on artificial preservatives. Every 100 gallons of applesauce is created from 600 pounds of fresh apples from the orchards of Cleveland. When his company was first taking root, Ethan used to drive four hours to a Mennonite community in Kentucky for his supplies. The difference shows. Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce uses fresh fruit, apple cider, and no sugar, giving every packet a fresh, fruity taste. It even comes in a few new flavors; the original applesauce, strawberry peach, and apple pie cinnamon, with pomegranate and ginger cinnamon coming soon.

Furthermore, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce strives to be accessible to everyone; his product specifically goes out to stores in low-income areas, where fresh, non-artificial food is difficult to come by. According to a recent study conducted by the management consulting firm McKinsey, one in every five African American households is inside of a “food desert” meaning that they have limited access to supermarkets and fresh food. This is especially seen in urban America, where about 18% of African American homes have limited access to fresh food. So, Holmes brought his applesauce there, and the market thrived. Holmes’ vision of bringing applesauce to the masses has led to bold strides into big name supermarkets; Ethan has his eye set on Walmart and Target as future distributors.

In fact, this boldness is another key reason why investors were so keen to support Holmes’ new applesauce. The applesauce industry is what is defined as a “sleepy category,” meaning that there hasn’t been any disruption in the applesauce industry in a while, and Motts, the preeminent brand, still reigns supreme. The promise of a rapidly growing, innovative new product has garnered over six figures worth of investments so far. And to think, this all started with a simple cup of applesauce.

No idea is too small. If an empire can be built on something as commonplace as applesauce, consider what your own ideas might bring. Whether you already run a business or you are looking for the next market-shaking idea, sometimes it does good to look back at the simple resources you have at your disposal and decide to make a change.