“This isn't meat — this is neat!”

Phil and Laura Lapp’s oldest daughter said that in fall 2011 upon tasting the pecan-and-garbanzo-based meat replacement that Laura had concocted. The description seemed apt, and they ran with it.

In March 2012, they officially formed Neat Foods LLC; by 2013, they were selling Neat out of their house, and last August Phil quit his job to focus on Neat. By late spring or early summer, Phil says, Neat will be in roughly 500 stores.

Behind that story lies the narrative of a couple identifying an opportunity, deciding it holds promise and, after deliberation, going all-in. The product itself is important, but they view the Neat brand as their biggest asset, and so they invested heavily in developing it even before they started selling the product.

“You can really only be the first or second to market with a product in order to have the consumer recognize your brand with that category,” he says. “Once you get deeper into that and you’re the fifth, sixth, 10th brand, you get lost. We wanted to get out very quickly and get in the consumer’s mind that Neat is a meat substitute.”

Phil speaks like an experienced food marketer, which he is. He had been a corporate sales director for Lancaster-based pretzel company Auntie Anne’s Inc., which has more than 1,500 locations in more than 30 countries, since 2006.