Entrepreneur Jovani Prince wants to do for the gluten-free market what Paul Newman did for packaged food.
Whereas Newman started his brand with homemade salad dressing, Prince is starting his gluten-free food empire with crackers.
Under the brand The Cracker King, Jovani is on his way. The company launched last fall and has two products on store shelves: a rosemary sea salt cracker, and a sunny seed cracker with pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds.
The crackers are sold in several local stores as well as local farmer’s markets. Prince produces the items out of a shared commercial kitchen in Sellwood. At this point, he is moving about 1,500 bags of crackers a month.
While Prince didn’t set out to get into the gluten-free cracker business, now that he’s in it, crackers have become his obsession.
“I keep driving myself to make the perfect cracker,” he said. “I know I am better than anyone else out there.”
He settled on crackers after he decided he wanted to start his own business and stop relying on others for his family’s well-being. The decision to pursue entrepreneurship also coincided with the family’s move from the Bay Area to Beaverton, after his wife was recruited by Nike.
The crackers were initially based on a recipe from Prince’s mother. He jokes that on a family road trip, he and his wife couldn’t stop eating his mom’s crackers.
After that, his wife, told him he should start a food business based on the crackers. He started exploring the idea and heard that the gluten-free market was in need of good tasting options.
“I could make good products for people who are celiac or aspire to be gluten-free and give them something positive,” he said.
To get the business started, Prince drove for ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber and worked for his neighbor’s plumbing business. One of his Uber passengers who worked at New Seasons made the introduction that placed the product on store shelves.
“I did everything I could to get it off the ground,” he said.
The product: Gluten-free handcrafted crackers
How it makes money: The Cracker King is sold online and in several stores including New Seasons, Chucks Produce, Barbur World Foods and Bob’s Red Mill. The crackers are also available at farmer’s markets at Portland State University, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Hillsdale, Oregon Health and Science University and King.
Size of market: The global gluten-free retail market is expected to hit $4.7 billion in 2020, according to research group Euromonitor and reported in the Financial Times. Prince plans to expand his brand nationwide and add new products such as popcorn, chips, pasta and bread.
Competition: Mary’s Gone Crackers, Blue Diamond, Milton’s Craft Bakers and Glutino
Competitive Advantage: The team makes the crackers by hand on a weekly basis to ensure quality and flavor. Prince said the small batch nature of the manufacturing sets his crackers apart because they aren’t stored before hitting retail shelves.
Managers and their background: Jovani Prince, CEO, has a background in technology sales and advertising. Diana Duthie, manager, is co-founder of bakery Portland Paleo and has managed other businesses including vegan restaurant V-Topia and beverage maker Fire Brew.
Advisers: Juanita Prince, the original recipe creator and author of the cookbooks “Ethnic Pride in Vegetarian Cooking” and “Amazing Journey to Health.”
Capital sought: Prince is starting to seek investors.
Ideal exit: The plan is to grow the company to a leading gluten-free brand nationwide and internationally.
Company: The Cracker King
Founded: October 2017
CEO: Jovani Milton Prince