Woman Manufacturer’s Idea for Healthy Snacks Becomes the Fruit of Her Success

FAIRFIELD, NJ -- Angela Liu’s idea to provide healthy snacks to the masses has become her passion and the fruit of her success.

Liu is the Founder and CEO of Crispy Green, Inc., a Fairfield-based small consumer goods business that produces healthy fruit snacks using freeze-dried technology.  She started the company in 2004 when she was at a career crossroads: Liu had spent 15 years as a Research Scientist in the biotech and pharmaceutical field. When the company Pharmacia she last worked for was acquired by Pfizer, Liu decided to take a buyout offer to explore the possibilities of starting her own business. 

Shortly after she left Pfizer, she found herself in her native country China, traveling with a former colleague and playing tour guide, while also scouting for new business ideas. It was during that trip that she and her friend witnessed a demonstration of freeze-drying food including apples, something that wasn’t yet commercially commonplace in the U.S.  “We tasted the freeze-dried apples and immediately we looked at each other and said, ‘wow!!!’” Liu said. “Right away I knew that we were onto something. I thought this could be the idea for my business.”

So, in 2004 she officially launched Crispy Green. With not much experience in running a small business, Liu took full advantage of the local resources that could help her get started. Her first stop was the Wise Women's Center an educational and supportive service provided by Essex County Community College in Newark, N.J. While attending a seminar hosted by the WISE Women’s Center, she recalls meeting a representative of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) New Jersey district office. During the presentation, she learned about SCORE, a business counseling resource sponsored by the SBA.

Soon after, she visited the SCORE office in Newark a couple of times. Members of SCORE gave her some valuable advice on starting her business. “The meetings with SCORE gave me a good idea on how to appropriately structure the business and prepare me for the many early obstacles and challenges that small business owners often face,” she said. 

Over the first year and a half, Liu ran the business from her West Orange home, utilizing consultants in marketing and sales to help promote Crispy Green snacks and get them into key retailers. “With technical background, I was very comfortable navigating the FDA rules and regulations,” added Liu. “But when it came to understanding the ins and outs about getting food products into a store, I had to rely on the experts to show me the way.”

As the business began to grow, Liu realized that she needed working capital to keep up with the growth. In 2006, she turned to the SBA for a revolving line of credit under the agency’s Express Loan program.  An SBA Express Loan for $30,000 from JPMorgan Chase Bank was just what she needed to help her get Crispy Green off the ground.

“The loan from the SBA came just at the right time,” said Liu. “It basically helped take Crispy Green from the start-up phase to a fully functional small business. It was about the same time that the company went from a two-employee, garage-based operation to a company with five employees and a commercial warehouse.” 

Today, Crispy Green can be found in over 5,000 retail stores across 45 states, Canada and South America. An agreement with a West Coast distributor has helped boost its expansion nationwide. Crispy Green can be found in ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Kings Food Markets, Fairways, The Fresh Market, and many others as well as at Amazon. 

“As we celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the U.S. Small Business Small Business Administration today, we see the impact that the SBA and its resource partners can have on a small business,” said SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone. “This is what SBA does best; assisting small business owners and then getting out of their way to watch them grow.”

“When I started this journey, I was also struck by the lack of healthy snacks and by the growing obesity epidemic taking place in this country, especially among young children,” Liu noted. “By freeze-drying fresh fruit, and transforming apples, bananas, mangoes and other fresh fruits, we’re able to make an incredible light and crispy texture snacks that are good for you.”

Crispy Fruit is 100% pure fruit and nothing else. All fruits are 55 calories or less per serving and maintain most of the nutritional value of fresh fruit. There are no additional sugars, sweeteners or preservatives. These fruit snacks are gluten-free, certified Non-GMO, Kosher and have no fat or cholesterol.”

Other Crispy Fruit include banana, mango, pear, pineapples cantaloupe and tangerines “We offer customers single-serving packs that retail at $1.49 or 6-pack multipack at $7.99,” said Liu. “Because the packaging is so light and portable, it’s basically fruit-on-the-go.  It’s great for school, camping, hiking and travel.”

Currently, Liu is overseeing a major rebranding effort and the launch of new packaging. “You can never be too complacent,” she said. “I am constantly educating myself.  We created a Board of Directors to help us take Crispy Green to another level.”

Future plans for the company include developing new products, strategies and ideas to help Crispy Green continue to extend its profile and leadership position in the freeze-dried fruit snack industry in the U.S. and abroad in select international markets. 

“We’re a lean company with only 13 employees currently,” said Liu. “Yet, we were able to achieve nearly 50 percent growth last year over the previous year and we expect another big year in 2018.”

It’s nothing new for an entrepreneur who is enjoying the fruit of her success.

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Company Name: 
Crispy Green
Location: 
Fairfield, NJ
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