AUSTIN, TEXAS  —  It was a family affair for Hema Reddy, founder and chief executive officer of Crafty Counter’s WunderEggs, on the pitch slam stage for Albertsons Co.’s second annual Innovation Launchpad at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif.

WunderEggs, a plant-based hardboiled egg formulated from almonds, cashews, coconut milk, turmeric extract and black salt, bested 60 participants and won first place and took home $163,000 along with services and industry recognition.

Miniature frozen waffle and waffle sandwich maker Evergreen took second place, while better-for-you frozen meal maker Blue Zones Kitchen won third place.

Ten other brands also received appointments with Albertsons Co.’s national team and data and consultation packages.

As an emerging brand applying for competitions, putting your brand out there is a must, Reddy said.

“You have to take every chance possible,” she said. “The journey is not a standalone one; it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You need partners and people to enable you to move to the next level.”

Winning the competition will help Crafty Counter bring more visibility to the plant-based sector and tone down the “negative rhetoric” Reddy said she sees in the category.

 “This win means that conventional retailers like Albertsons are ready to bet on a niche product,” Reddy said. “It’s not just a win for WunderEggs, it’s a win for the entire category to continue marching forward.”

Reddy said wining the pitch slam has flooded her company with retailer requests, bringing her goal of expanding the product and the plant-based category to life.

“I cannot keep up,” she said. “The dialog is happening to bring WunderEggs to more locations.”