The Foodies — Colorado Companies to Watch 2023

Now in its 15th year, Colorado Companies to Watch recognizes second-stage enterprises that are fueling job growth and economic vitality in communities across the state.
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This year’s 50 Colorado Companies to Watch winners represent most of the state, with headquarters in at least 20 Colorado cities and operations in 77 locations in the state. They come from seemingly every industry imaginable: aerospace, architecture, engineering, construction, health and wellness, food and beverage, outdoor gear, to name just a few. 

The Companies to Watch program was created by the Edward Lowe Foundation to recognize and celebrate the achievements of second-stage companies that might otherwise go unnoticed or underappreciated on a statewide level. This year’s winners were judged the best out of more than 1,150 nominations, so it’s a select group indeed. Read on to learn more about them. 

Read on to learn more about our favorite Foodies.

Fast Fit Foods 

Colorado Springs 

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Fast Fit Foods helps more than 10,000 people per year achieve their health goals by providing them with individually portioned meals that taste great.  

The company recently expanded into new business lines, including corporate dining where it provides all dining and catering services to 2424 Garden of the Gods — one of the largest multitenant commercial buildings in Colorado Springs — and 555 Middle Creek.  

Last year, Fast Fit Foods began catering for artists at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium and in the past has catered at Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s on the verge of being awarded a contract to supply eight schools in the Denver and Fort Collins areas and expects to add up to 18 new full-time employees to handle the work.  

Founded out of a commissary kitchen, Fast Fit Foods serves nearly 1,000 people a day in corporate dining in addition to the 10,000 people in its core business.  

“We just love food, love good operations and have created a different culture than most food businesses,” Fast Fit Foods CEO Tillman Huett said. “Restaurants and chefs have a bad reputation for toxic work environments, low pay and bad hours. We strive to flip that on its head so we pay above market, hire almost exclusively full-time employees who have benefits, including health insurance, and work normal business hours. 

“That allows us to have a staff that comes to work with real enthusiasm, and we believe that is the reason we continue to put our competitors out of business.” 

Lily’s Toaster Grills 

Denver 

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It turns out one can put cheese sandwiches in the toaster. Founded in 2019 by four women, Lily’s Toaster Grills developed a grilled cheese sandwich that could be heated in the toaster without falling apart or burning the outside and leaving the inside cold. The team spent months developing the product, which is now available in major supermarkets. Simply remove the sandwich from the plastic wrap, microwave for 30 seconds, then toast the sandwich in the toaster for one cycle.  

The frozen food market enjoyed much growth during the pandemic, but many food companies are now struggling with rising prices. Lily’s has comfort food and innovation as competitive advantages. Few things are more familiar than a hot grilled cheese sandwich, and Lily’s has a U.S. patent that protects its manufacturing process technology.  

Led by a management team with years of packaged foods experience, the high-growth frozen food company has invested heavily since 2020 to build a manufacturing plant in Denver. All employees are based in Colorado. Lily’s donates sandwiches, as well as bread and sandwich meat, to meal programs that provide nutritious meals for kids and families, through the nonprofit LuvFromLily.  

MenuTrinfo, LLC 

Fort Collins 

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In the food business, “free from” is huge these days. Food-related businesses must make sure customers with allergies and sensitivities do not inadvertently receive food that contains gluten, nuts, or other unwanted ingredients. MenuTrinfo is an expert in food allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, celiac disease and lifestyle diets, and provides training and certification so that food manufacturers and food-service professionals know what foods they can safely serve to customers.  

The offerings include online allergy and gluten-free training, with courses that are accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and meet state-specific training mandates. The coursework includes classes for food handlers and managers, and there are classes available in English, Spanish and Simple Chinese.  

MenuTrinfo also offers Certified Free From Food Allergy Certifications, which the company says strengthens soft claims made by a kitchen or manufacturer. The certification indicates that the establishment follows a set of standards that include regular testing, annual audits, and ongoing ingredient reviews. It is available for K-12 and college and university dining, industrial and corporate dining, consumer packaged goods, and other settings.  

Founded in 2010, MenuTrinfo began as a nutritional services and training business. The company still offers menu labeling, gluten-free menus, and nutritional help desk services.  

Occasions Catering 

Englewood 

Founded in 1970, Occasions Catering is the Denver area’s longest serving catering company. Formerly Occasions by Sandy, the company focuses primarily on larger events, corporate and nonprofit clients, big weddings and kosher catering.  

“The Denver event market is maturing to become more like other major cities, with larger and more complex events and the opportunity for caterers to specialize more than ever before,” says Jeremy Bronson, president and owner. He adds that the company has a low rate of employee turnover. “Our secret sauce is the culture we’ve developed and how our core values translate into a widely distributed display of employee commitment to quality and beneficial outcomes for clients, guests and the company.”  

Its other competitive advantage is that Occasions has built enduring partnerships with venues and top event industry vendors. COVID-19 had a dramatic downward impact on the catering industry in general, but Occasions has bounced back and is hiring people as it grows. In 2022, the caterer entered into a partnership with History Colorado to cater events at History Colorado Center, which can hold up to 1,500 guests for receptions. 

Trisco Foods LLC 

Colorado Springs 

Trisco Foods is a five-generation Australian family-owned and operated business. The food manufacturer makes products for food service, bakery, retail and industrial settings. The company produces sweet and savory syrups, sauces and dips.  

For the senior dining food-service business, Trisco offers SimplyThick, a beverage thickener that provides nutrition and hydration. The product is designed to meet the needs of aged-care residents diagnosed with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. SimplyThick is a liquid formulation, so it is easy to mix and does not form a powder clump.  

In 2019, Trisco Foods opened a U.S. factory in Colorado Springs. The plant uses industrial automation touchscreen monitors to guide staff through most critical operations step-by-step, leading to increased job safety and quality control. Trisco obtained an AA score, the highest score one can receive, on its first audit in 2020 and every audit since, with the globally recognized food safety and quality system BRC. 

Trisco encourages a work culture that values innovation and ideas from all levels of staff. Many ideas for improvements to the manufacturing process come from production workers, and the company offers continuing education including LEAN systems. 

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