For Sarah Michelle Gellar, the days of Mrs. Fields cookies and Famous Amos are long gone--and so are the hour-long episodes of vampire-slaying action.
These days, the actress is taking on some of the giants in the $5 billion baking industry with Foodstirs, her Los Angeles-based brand of organic, non-GMO baking mixes. With the help of co-founders Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman, the mission is to create and sell kits that are also simple enough to make with kids--Instagram-worthy cookies in six steps or less.
The idea originated one day after Gellar and Laibow made a quick run to a local grocery store. The two friends were prepping for a night of baking with their daughters, but couldn't find anything that met their nutritional standards. "We were so shocked by the offerings," Gellar recalls. "It still felt very old-fashioned. When you're looking at the ingredients and the second on the list is salt, you know something is off."
For Galit, the answer was hidden in plain sight. "There are a lot of meal kits out there for more convenient ways to make meals, but not dessert," she says.
Foodstirs has done well for the most part, particularly among health-minded mothers. All products are stripped of artificial preservatives or dyes, GMO ingredients, and bleached flours. Since launching in 2015, Foodstirs has become the fastest-growing organic baking mix brand in several of the 7,500 stores it's sold in, including Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, and Ralph's. Prices vary, but are in a relatively affordable range. A mixing box sells for $5.99; the more elaborate kits, like the Gingerbread Donut or Darling Daisy Cookie Bouquet, cost $18.99 and come complete with all the dry ingredients and baking tools-- cupcake liners and cookie cutters. A monthly subscription starts at $15.26.
Fleishman says that Foodstirs fits his recipe for a startup. "Where there's a frenzy, I usually tend to look in the opposite area to uncover that next big idea," says Fleishman. He points out that the billion-dollar baking category is now the third most frequently stocked household item, behind cereal and milk. "Nobody is innovating in this category. If you look at popular Facebook groups, you see parents complaining often about not having baking mixes that are good for their children."
Still, the industry has indeed declined in recent years, according to new data from Mintel, a market research firm. That trend reflects the growing consumer sentiment against processed foods, and interest in natural foods. But Foodstirs is by no means the only startup in the organic sweets business. There's Scratch & Grain Baking Co., also created by two moms, and Simple Mills, which sells a variety of crackers and dough mixes in addition to baking kits.
Gellar says the skills she developed on stage have empowered her as an entrepreneur, giving her a slight advantage. "As an actor, you spend your entire life marketing yourself," she explains. "I already had this authentic relationship with my fans. So now when I say, 'This is what I'm doing. These are the ingredients,' they know I'm telling the truth."
On the flip side, there's still a lot to prove. "People want to meet you as a novelty but they don't take you seriously," she says. "While it might have been easier for me to get in the door for that investor meeting, it's that much harder to prove that I know what I'm doing."
Foodstirs is still very young in terms of brand awareness, but Gellar's future plans for the company are bold. In the next few years, she hopes to see actual Foodstir stores, or better yet, as she says in her Buffy-like attitude: "World domination."