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Boomerang's raises $1.2 million for expansion push

Austin maker of meat, veggie pies to pursue distribution deals with grocers

Lori Hawkins
lhawkins@statesman.com
Jack Fennell and Lance McIness of Boomerang's meat pies have raised money to expand their business.

Boomerang's, an Austin maker of Australian-style meat and vegetable pies, has raised $1.2 million for an expansion push.

Since its founding in 2006, Boomerang's Gourmet Veggie & Meat Pies has grown from a restaurant on Guadalupe Street to a wholesale business selling its handheld stuffed pastries to Whole Foods Markets in four states. It also does catering and sells pies at festivals, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker park this weekend.

Now Boomerang's plans to pursue distribution deals with leading grocery chains, founder Jack Fennell said.

He said the company sought to raise $650,000 from private investors but received nearly twice that much, thanks to strong response from Texas angel investor groups.

Members of five investment groups participated: the Central Texas Angel Network, Houston Angel Network, Concho Valley Angel Network, Baylor Angel Network and Williamson County Angel Network.

"They've come up with a great healthy alternative to fast food and Hot Pockets," said Joshua Shipsey , who invested in the company through the Central Texas group. "They've done very well on a regional basis, and they're in great position to break into mainstream markets."

Fennell was first introduced to the pies while working for Dell Inc. in Sydney in 2001.

The flaky meat- and vegetable-filled pies are a quintessential part of Aussie cuisine, akin to hamburgers in the U.S.

"The first time I had an Aussie pie, it was one of those eureka moments. I couldn't get it out of my mind," Fennell said. "Our visiting friends and family also fell totally in love with them."

After returning to Austin, he decided to start a pie business. He hired instructors from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin and spent six months on creating recipes with no trans fats, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Boomerang's restaurant on Guadalupe sells a range of pies, including Guinness steak and potatoes and curry veggie, for $5.50 each and also sells Australian beer.

Last year, Whole Foods began selling the pies in its refrigerated and prepared foods sections in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Boomerang's is one of Whole Foods' few outside prepared foods vendors because the grocery chain does 95 percent that production in-house, said Lucas Giordano, Whole Foods prepared foods coordinator for the Southwest region.

"They have a unique concept that's had great sales success," Giordano said. "We really liked (Fennell's) energy and enthusiasm for his product line. We felt they had a really good business model, and they're constantly putting together new ideas and new products."

For example, Giordano said, Whole Foods soon will sell a Boomerang's migas pie for breakfast.

In addition to a breakfast line, the company — which does not disclose its financial information — is considering new products such as small appetizer-size pies, said Lance McInnes, who joined Boomerang's as a partner in 2009.

lhawkins@statesman.com; 912-5955