Meet the Willy Wonkas of Marshmallows! Delisa and Zach Harper, the founders of SKU alum Funky Mello, are living out their dream of indulging in clean, nostalgic desserts. They have created the first refrigerated plant-based marshmallow creme.
In the crowded world of CPG, where there are dozens of brands in nearly every category, it’s impressive to be the world’s first anything.
A Flavorful Entrepreneurial Journey
The Harpers have traveled a flavorful journey that has helped Funky Mello gain national recognition.
The Harpers met at a music festival and embarked on their entrepreneurial journey six months into their relationship. Driven by their own dietary restrictions, they wanted to create a gluten-free, allergen-free dessert.
“It’s something we always wanted to do,” says Delisa. “We worked on the recipe off and on in our kitchen for years – really since the inception of our company!”
The Harpers initially started making crispy treats and marshmallows, selling them at Austin farmers’ markets. They went through more than 20 iterations before discovering aquafaba (chickpea Liquid). That was a game changer, enabling their fluffy plant-based cremes.
They created the cremes in three flavors: vanilla, strawberry, and cookie. They all are free of the top 8 allergens and are gluten-free.
They introduced Funky Mello through Kickstarter, which helped them fund their first commercial mixer – Gizmo!
While they knew the cremes were something special, it became evident that they were onto something when Whole Foods and Sprouts watched their pitch during SKU’s Showcase Day. “And this was before we were fully retail-ready!” recalls Delisa.
From Coffee Creamer to Charcuterie Boards
They have gotten a big seal of approval from their fast-growing and vocal customers who use them for everything from a coffee cream alternative to a charcuterie board topping.
Their fans are finding unexpected uses for the cremes, such as Melissa, who wrote a 5-star Google review. “I had Funky Mello cater s’mores cups for my wedding. They were such a hit! I didn’t tell the non vegans that it was vegan and they all loved it. I was worried at first that I may have got too much dessert but that not really a thing with my family and friends. They even tasted great for about a week after the wedding.”
Many just eat it with a spoon straight out of the container. “That means that our marshmallow is that good,” says Delisa.
Funky Mello also has received some prestigious accolades. Foxtrot – one of the nation’s hottest retailers – recently selected Funky Mello as one of six winners of its 2022 Up & Comers Awards. The brand was selected from more than 1K submissions. Funky Mello also received a golden ticket at the KeHe’s 2022 TrendFinder event. KeHe is one of the largest natural, organic, specialty, and fresh distributors.
Billion-Dollar Growing Market
Funky Mello has entered a market with huge growth potential. The vegan dessert market is expected to reach $3.2 billion in 2023 and projected, growing to $6.7 billion by 2033 with a CAGR of 8.5 percent, according to Future Market Insights. The increasing
popularity of the vegan lifestyle, particularly in North America and Europe, has driven this growth. Rising demand comes from customers who are either interested in living healthier lifestyles or have dietary restrictions. Industry players offer numerous plant-based sweet treats
that deliver the quality, taste, and visual appeal of traditional desserts.
Funky Mello currently is in 30 stores, with big box expansion in the works.
Funky Mello’s founders continue to innovate. In March, they partnered with fellow Austin-based company Fitjoy to launch Dippsterz, which pairs gluten-free pretzel sticks with vanilla-flavored marshmallow creme.
“This is a very special project for us because for the first time ever, we are giving back a portion of the proceeds to help fight food insecurity for children in the United States,” says Zach.
The Harpers aim to become the nation’s best healthy indulgent company while providing a feel-good experience for customers. With their unique creations, the duo has captured the hearts and taste buds of customers eager to explore the world of clean, nostalgic desserts.