An idea sparked by a social media trend has led to a promising young business in Westfield.
Freeze Dried Snack Co., which opened in early July, sells dozens of varieties of freeze-dried sweets, including Skittles, Jolly Rancher candies, Fruit Rollups, M&M’s, candy bars and saltwater taffy, in small or large containers and bags that start at $5 each. Customers can mix and match the treats as they wish.
The shop at 16851 Southpark Drive—west of U.S. 31 and south of 169th Street—also sells freeze-dried beef- and salmon-flavored treats for dogs and cats. Owner Brett Lemieux is working to add freeze-dried fruit to the menu.
The products are available at the company’s store, through its website and via services such as DoorDash. Customers often discover the company through its social media pages on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram.
“We started posting and people started flowing in like crazy,” Lemieux said.
The trend of freeze-drying food began during the pandemic when people would post their videos online. Over the past couple of years, stores have opened around the country. Lemieux said he believes Freeze Dried Snack Co. is the first store dedicated to the product in Indiana.
Lemieux, of Westfield, started the business to introduce his college-aged children to running a company. His kids, Jaxson and Maddie, who are business students at the University of Cincinnati and Butler University, have worked at the store along with their friends.
“I wasn’t doing this to try to be a billionaire. It was more kind of, ‘Hey, can we do this?’ I wanted to let the kids kind of experiment,” Lemieux said.
The business took off faster than expected as word spread via social media. One of the company’s TikTok videos has recorded about 85,000 views since it was posted in early August.
And despite not buying any print or paid advertising, Freeze Dried Snack Co. recorded more than $25,000 in sales over its first 45 days, Lemieux said.
The process of freeze-drying candy involves heating it to 150 degrees, cooling it to negative-10 degrees and using a vacuum pump to remove the moisture. Once the process is complete, food is shelf-stable for up to 25 years.
Freeze-dried candy typically has a sweeter, more intense and concentrated flavor, providing what many fans describe as a “taste explosion.”
Lemieux is working with Purdue University’s food science department to perfect the process of freeze-drying fruit and ensure it will be shelf-stable.
“It definitely took us by storm and went crazy. People were coming in and telling their friends about it,” he said. “We’re all having a really good time doing it, and obviously, we’re making money, which is a plus.”
Lemieux, an entrepreneur, also owns a digital photo booth business and a company that does custom framing of sports memorabilia.
To begin Freeze Dried Snack Co., he sectioned off about 2,000 square feet in a warehouse he leases. Space is a little tight with five freeze-drying machines in the commercial kitchen and merchandise in the front of the store.
Lemieux hopes to eventually open a pop-up shop in Carmel and focus on cooking and packing at the warehouse in Westfield.
He purchases candy in bulk from Merrillville-based Albanese Confectionary Group, Utah-based Taffy Town Inc. and Virginia-based Mars Inc.
“We have a ton of different products,” Lemieux said. “The kids go online and see something and say, ‘Hey, let’s try this’ and put a gummy worm inside of a Fruit Rollup and see what happens.”
Lemieux said he received permission from the companies to use their brand names on the freeze-dried candy sold at the store. He recently received a wholesale license and plans to begin selling the product to big-box retail stores.
Now that the business is off the ground, he is looking to add staff and increase production to meet the demand. What began as a fun project is now a full-time job.
“I thought it would work,” Lemieux said. “And it has definitely worked.”