RiceWrap Foods

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My husband and I tried to make sushi once. Rice got stuck all over the kitchen. And we made the rolls so thick that we couldn't fit them in our mouthes.

It goes without saying that a frozen pre-cooked, pre-sliced, easy-to-roll rice wrap makes a lot of sense. But will people buy it?

A Raleigh father and son certainly think so. Richard and Kyle Cronk hope to raise $68,000 through Kickstarter this month to market, design and buy the equipment needed to package and distribute at retail their patent-pending Slice of Rice healthy frozen rice sheets. They have a ways to go—57 backers have pledged just more than $5,000 with a week left in the campaign.

Here's the kickoff video on Kickstarter.


The two men have spent four years building the company called RiceWrap Foods—the elder Cronk was a restaurateur looking for an easier and quicker way to roll sushi in his restaurants. In 2009, they won $105,000 from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Fund to begin manufacturing in Henderson, N.C. (This week, they move production to Raleigh) According to a December 2011 story in the Triangle Business Journal, they raised $257K of a $600,000 round that year.

There were some challenges early into the project. According to the Kickstarter page, some funding dried up when a bank went under after the recession. They were also stalled during Richard Cronk's yearlong battle with cancer. But the product hit the market a year ago, and it's won fans in chefs at five-star restaurants, country clubs, hotels and sports venues, along with bloggers and magazines that have featured the product. Cronk told me today that he'd be hiring at least 20 employees to grow the operation.

The sushi restaurant industry continues to grow. IBISWorld reports 1.6 percent annual industry growth from 2008 to 2013. And sales of natural foods are expected to grow 64 percent by 2019, according to the NEXT: Natural Products Industry Forecast 2015 report released yesterday.

A key prediction of the report is that small companies will continue to be innovators in the industry, moreso than traditional consumer packaged goods companies.

RiceWraps is banking on these trends... and that people will donate money to bring their product to market and retailers will carry it.

Stay tuned to see if the next innovator in sushi-making hails from Raleigh.