EVANSVILLE, Ind. – An Evansville-based startup is making waves for its zero-carb pizza crust and has plans for growth. ZeroCarb LYFE produces a high-protein crust that includes chicken among its ingredients and is available for purchase in more than 150 restaurants and select supermarkets. The company recently closed on an oversubscribed $1.5 million seed round of funding, and already has plans for a seed-plus round later this year.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Chief Executive Officer Omar Atia says he was surprised by the amount of money the company was able to raise.
“You know, it was founder money that kept [the company] going for the first year and few months and, of course, the revenue we were making because it took off so well,” Atia said. “Our goal was $1 million and we oversubscribed it and actually had to turn some investors away.”
ZeroCarb LYFE was founded in April 2020 by Atia, a Purdue University graduate, Chief Growth Officer John Pena, a graduate of the Purdue@WestGate Firestarter program, and Mohamed Aly, who originally created the pizza crust.
Atia says initially, the company’s launch was set to be one of several startup launches but the pandemic forced them to focus on one company.
“Our mission is really to bring that element of joy in food back to health food,” he said. “We believe that’s how we’ll help people achieve it is through carb-alternative foods that don’t jeopardize or don’t sacrifice any of the taste and any of the joy that comes with those foods.”
After launching, Atia says the company focused on getting the product right with the zero-carb pizza crust first being offered in August. The company initially focused on direct-to-consumer sales in order to establish the ZeroCarb LYFE brand.
The company also piloted the product in restaurants through a partnership with Azzip Pizza, which was also founded by a Purdue grad and has nearly a dozen locations from Evansville to Lafayette.
“By Q1 of 2021, we were already in several restaurants and started working with distributors and with retail for the actual crusts. But, we focused mainly on foodservice restaurants and direct-to-consumer,” said Atia. “We grew the company for the rest of ’21 on founder money with the intention to do the seed round in the beginning of ’22.”
Atia says the seed round funding will mainly be used to scale marketing and brand efforts, which has to date been done by “influencer marketing” with the direct-to-consumer sales.
In April of this year, the company launched its frozen pizza products in retail stores, which Atia says has been one of the best products for Schnuck’s supermarkets.
The company plans to begin its seed-plus round in the fourth quarter of this year, though talks with potential investors have already begun thanks to ZeroCarb LYFE being featured in a recent Crunchbase article.
ZeroCarb LYFE currently has nine employees and is looking to fill a few more positions. Atia says over the next couple of years, the company looks to unveil new zero-carb products, including additional frozen pizza varieties, bread crumbs, chips, pasta and both hard and soft taco shells.