BRIDGEVILLE — Connoisseurs of delectable desserts and healthy treats may want to circle May 14 on their television tune-in calendar.
Local entrepreneur Katey Evans returns to ABC’s “Shark Tank” at 8 p.m. Friday to share an update on the investment venture she secured just over a year ago during her initial “Shark Tank” appearance.
During the March 27, 2020 episode, Ms. Evans landed backing from investor Lori Greiner — $125,000 for 30 percent of Ms. Evans’ Bridgeville-area family farm’s health desserts line called The Frozen Farmer.
Ms. Evans says viewers “will find out how many retailers nationwide we are in now. They will also find out how much in sales we’ve done since our ‘Shark Tank’ appearance, knowing that filming obviously started this past October. We’ve already exceeded some forecasts, which is exciting.”
The deal with Ms. Greiner was contingent upon securement of a major retailer to sell The Frozen Farmer’s lines nationwide.
Presto! Walmart, with nearly 4,000 stores, is on board. So is Kroger and Kroger’s family of stores.
“We started hitting retail shelves as early as March. Walmart placed in April,” said Ms. Evans.
“We’re in Alaska and Hawaii, and Puerto Rico!” proclaimed Ms. Evans.
“When Walmart came on board, they wanted an exclusive flavor,” said Ms. Evans. “We have one Walmart exclusive flavor, and we’re getting ready to introduce an exclusive flavor to Kroger. Let’s leave those as secrets … leave a little cliffhanger. We’ll talk about it on our episode night.”
Lines of product are produced through a handful of local retail chains in the Northeast. Some is produced at Evans Farms on Seashore Highway just east of Bridgeville.
Less waste, more taste
In June 2015 Ms. Evans, her husband Kevin Evans and her mother, Jo Ellen Algier, created The Frozen Farmer line that aims to reduce food waste.
“Food waste and surplus food is certainly one thing that we as farmers and producers are very mindful of,” Ms. Evans said. “There is a lot of pressure on farmers across America to increase our production capacities, yet our acreage is rapidly declining. And the population is increasing. Developments are popping up everywhere you turn around now in Delaware.
“The Frozen Farmer was a way to find an outlet for that perfectly edible food, the perfectly edible ingredients, and turn it into something that is incredibly delicious and healthful,” said Ms. Evans. “We shouldn’t solely be focused on increasing production capacities, but also be very mindful of where perfectly good food is being wasted already, or we have surplus of perfectly good food and utilize that.”
That’s the message Ms. Evans says is being relayed to their customers.
“It’s part of our mission and our brand, and why we founded this company. The exciting part of all of this for us is that now not only are we utilizing our own fruit from our own third generation family farm, which we grow about 3,000 acres now in Delaware, but with the new national line we’re able to take surplus food and upcycled ingredients from other locations across America and utilize that as well,” said Ms. Evans.
As an example of food waste, she points to strawberries in fields at Evans Farms.
“We only grow five acres of strawberries. But on average we waste about 15,000 pounds of strawberries annually. So we are cutting strawberries as quickly as we can during peak strawberry season, which we are in now,” said Ms. Evans. “We’re utilizing as many fruits from our own farm here at the farm creamery in our lines as we possibly can when we are in peak season. We’re storing as much for the offseason, but now this effort has allowed us to just expand that one step further and really take this effort across the U.S.”
Response to their products has been incredible.
“It has been awesome to hear the feedback as we have launched this nationally, people loving the flavors, buying it over the competitor brand on the shelf and choosing it because the flavor is so rich,” Ms. Evans. “We call it an epic explosion of farm fresh flavor.”
The Frozen Farmer creamery even experienced a sellout.
“We’ve already sold out on one of the national flavors,” said Ms. Evans. “Our Double Chocolate Cherry is something that we create at our co-packing facility. We had a pallet shipped here to our creamery and our customers have already bought us out!”
Delicious twist that’s nutritious
The most healthful options are The Frozen Farmer’s sorbets — dairy-free, gluten-free, fat-free, only 70 calories per pint.
“There is nobody else on the shelf that has no-sugar-added sorbet,” Ms. Evans said. “We are also the lowest calorie profile pint in national grocery retail, by far.
“We’re not using food dyes. We’re using beet juice. We’re not using artificial ingredients. As farmers and producers, health is front and center on our minds. I’m a mom of three kids,” Ms. Evans said.
Frobert is The Frozen Farmer’s signature blend of healthful sorbet with an ice cream base.
“It’s a way for us to take traditional ice cream and lessen the fat calorie and sugar content, naturally,” said Ms. Evans.
Roller coaster of mixed emotions
This past year has been filled with ups and downs.
Ms. Evans’ March 2020 “Shark Tank” appearance occurred as the coronavirus pandemic was heating up.
“We had mixed emotions when the first episode aired. We were all going through really scary times,” said Ms. Evans. “We had worked so hard because it took us about a year in casting. Then, once that moment was finally here, we were so mixed about how to feel about it. Even we, as the founders of this company, weren’t as excited about the experiences we probably could have had.
“The producers called me and said, ‘Your episode set records last night.’ Not because of us, but because of everybody being home,” said Ms. Evans. “It was the first Friday night that everybody in the United States was home. What else is there to do but watch TV?”
As the pandemic settled in, there was uncertainty. Ms. Evans said there were thoughts that this may turn out to be an opportunity lost.
“Viewership was up. But with that, demand for national grocery retail was obviously way down, because these grocery retailers were going through unprecedented times themselves,” Ms. Evans said.
Then came a breath of fresh air.
“ ‘Shark Tank’ gave us a re-air in June,” Ms. Evans said. “Once grocery retailers had kind of figured out their new normal, they were looking to take on new brands. When our re-air happened, we got the call from Walmart, saying that they had seen the episode and they wanted to bring us on.”
“Then we aligned ourselves with a co-packing partner that allowed us to do that. In January Kroger hopped on board,” said Ms. Evans. “For us we were ready. Had things happened differently, had the retailers called in March (2020) when our episode aired, quite honestly, we could have missed this opportunity. It became somewhat of a blessing in disguise for us that the demand didn’t hit right away, because we didn’t even have a co-packing partner that could produce to that capacity of demand. It took us close to six to eight months to work out all those details.”
In January, the floodgates opened.
“We were ready for it,” Ms. Evans said. “That was an exciting moment for us, because it was like, ‘Wow, everything really does happen for a reason.’”
Pint with a purpose
The Frozen Farmer’s company motto of sorts is “It’s a pint with a purpose,’ which has so many meanings.”
“It is a pint with purpose because we use upcycled ingredients. It’s a pint with a purpose because it has real fruit inside the container and that in and of itself has helpful aspects of each fruit that we use,” Ms. Evans said. “It is a pint with a purpose because people can eat it without blowing their diet.”
The upcoming episode was a work in progress at several locations, including Maryland, Delaware and Michigan.
“We’ve been filming that episode since this past October. Most of it has been remote … remote film from here with a production crew. We’ve also filmed at our co-packing facility.”
During the pandemic, Evans Farms and The Frozen Farmer pivoted to help provide food, essentials and meats to the community.
“We started taking grocery orders through our market, delivering through our drive-thru window at the creamery, just trying to supply the community with essential goods during a time of need. It felt good to be able to help people,” Ms. Evans said.
“Honestly, right after our episode aired, we spent those first few months not building The Frozen Farmer business, but just trying to help the community. And that was an awesome opportunity for us as well,” Ms. Evans sand. “Giving back is always so rewarding.”