Freeze Dried USA has room to grow in unique market


HomeHome / News / Freeze Dried USA has room to grow in unique market

Apr 24, 2023

Freeze Dried USA has room to grow in unique market

Freeze Dried USA CEO Tim Walker is a runner, literally. A few years ago, he set

Freeze Dried USA CEO Tim Walker is a runner, literally. A few years ago, he set out to find a healthy fuel to take on his runs. He was unsuccessful. Undeterred, he began looking into ways to make his own. "I looked into freeze-drying, bought a small dryer, and I started making some (fuel) for myself the same day," Walker said.

Walker blended strawberries, vitamins, glutamines, sodium, sugar, and 50 mg of caffeine, poured the mixture into molds, and freeze-dried them. It worked. While waiting for approval from the health department to produce his "Fruit Fuel" for the public, he began to consider candy.

In 2021, Freeze Dried USA was born.

Freeze drying is a process of drying foods at low temperatures. It differs from dehydration, which uses higher temperatures to evaporate the water within foods, creating a more dense, shriveled product.

In a freeze dryer, once the food is frozen, pressure is lowered, and ice is removed through sublimation the ice (transitioning directly into water vapor). The water vapor collects on the sides of the freezer and drains to the outside of the dryer. Freeze-drying results in a product that is similar in shape, flavor, and color but less dense than the initial food.

Freeze-drying is a less common way to prepare and preserve food. "The first time the health department came here, they were just as curious about the machines as everyone else. They hadn't really worked with them before," Walker said.

The process requires expensive equipment and a lot of time. "We can do three or four batches of candy in a day, but the ice cream takes a full 24 hours," Walker said.

FDSU has its own website,, where customers can place orders, but when it began to fulfill orders from Amazon, the sales took off. Shipments with addresses to all 50 states are sent out regularly. "With the free shipping for Prime Members, they sell like crazy," Walker said.

Last year, the company had about $700,000 in sales, and the numbers keep climbing. Last month alone, FDUSA sold 7,000 packages, and it has struggled to keep up with the demand. To increase production, Walker has purchased more dryers, increased his staff, and now has three shifts working to produce, package, and ship around the clock. The recent purchase of an XL dryer, which arrives Monday, will increase production by 40 percent.

The space that FDUSA originally rented when it began in 2021 is now used just for shipping, with an additional room for packaging supplies.

Walker has set a goal for $3 million in sales for 2023.

The most popular product is Skittles, which Walker estimates the company freezes, packages, and ships about 100 pounds (wet weight) daily. FDUSA also sells cheesecake bites, ice cream, taffy, Now and Laters, Starbursts, Hi-Chew, and new this year, caramel-filled M&Ms.

Additionally, FDUSA makes its own sour and sour blueberry-flavored Skittles. "We take regular skittles, then sour them in-house," Walker said. "We freeze them first, then when we pull them out, they get a little condensation on them, and then we let citric acid stick to them before putting them in the freeze-dryer."

Recently, Walker was selected to participate in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. Once a year, each state holds a free, 12-week course for small business owners within the state. "Janine Clover from Southeastern Small Business Development Center in Burlington and Shelley Oltmans steered me towards this program," Walker said.

After two interviews, Walker was selected as one of 35 small business owners in Iowa for the program. "I just got back from Des Moines two weeks ago, and then we have 12 weeks of classes through Zoom meetings," Walker said. "It's already been just amazing. The first week was business growth, then financials. After that, there's marketing, negotiations; there's so much good information for small business owners."

One of the things Walker has already implemented in the program is Volunteer Days. Walker has given each employee two paid days to use throughout the year to volunteer for a local organization. "It's a good way to give back to the community," Walker said.

To continue to meet product demands, projections, and goals, Walker has planned another company expansion in early May. The expansion will include using all three floors of the Southeast Iowa Community Development Center (SICDC), purchasing more dryers, expanding to more products, and hiring more employees.

Late last year, the Health Department approved Fruit Fuel, Walker's first product idea. Walker was hoping to begin its production after Christmas, but the clamor for candy has been so incessant he has to wait until the expansion. Though Walker has been steadily purchasing more dryers, the order volume has nearly overwhelmed the production output.

"I think we’re going to have to buy more dryers than we would just to support the candy so that we can start these other product lines," Walker said.

To increase profit margins, Walker has started looking into how to make candies in-house. The SICDC was originally owned by Roquette and included office and lab space. The labs already had panning machines installed. "I had no idea what they were until someone who worked for Roquette told me," Walker said. "They are for pan coating — to make the hard shell coating on candies like M&Ms and Skittles. So exactly what we need is already here."

While FDUSA has experienced success, Walker does not want it to stay within the company. Instead, a Warsaw, Illinois, native, he has turned to help neighboring businesses experience growth through online sales. Not long ago, Walker helped RePete Candle and Coffee Bar get its products on Amazon in hopes of increasing sales.

In a review Walker received of the company, Emily McNeil said, "Your business is definitely doing much more than just making money by selling candy. Your accomplishments are beneficial to the area as a whole, and your success is truly helping to breathe air back into the lungs of an unfortunately exhausted community… I love the fact that you have clearly proven that wonderful things are still out there to be accomplished… your drive and ambition are very inspiring to me and endless others."

"This could not be happening to a kinder, more deserving person than Tim," Kira Kruszynski of Main Street Keokuk, Inc., said. "We’re simply excited for people in this town to have success and experience growth."

Rain showers early with some sunshine later in the day. High near 80F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

Partly cloudy. Low 52F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.

A few clouds from time to time. High 79F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.

Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.

Error! There was an error processing your request.

Success! Error!