Today’s interview is with Cofounders of UNREAL Candy, Nicky Bronner and Adam Melonas. UNREAL Candy has perfected “unjunking” brand name candy by taking out all unnecessary ingredients, but maintaining the familiar and well loved taste.
How did the idea for Unreal Candy come about?
Nicky: About 4 years ago I came back home from trick-or-treating with a bag of candy. I woke up the next morning, and half of it was gone. I went to my dad because I knew he was the one who took it and I asked him why he did. He said he took it away because it’s unhealthy. I didn’t believe it was so terrible, so I decided to go out and prove him wrong. A little bit of research showed me he was actually right—that there’s a lot more “junk” in candy than needs to be – excess sugar, artificial flavors, colors, and more. We decided to work towards this idea of “unjunking” candy and were referred to Adam Melonas, a professional chef, and the magic has been happening ever since.
Adam, what is your background, and is this your first startup?
Adam: I’m a chef by trade, and I’ve been a chef for quite a few years now. I’ve run kitchens in 5 countries and I consider myself a serial entrepreneur. Whenever I’ve had a job I would always have something on the side, normally as a consultant. The type of food that I specialize in is called progressive cuisine, making this next step to UNREAL Candy a unique fit with my prior experience.
What were the most important elements prior to getting your product on market?
Adam: I commuted between Spain and the US a few times a month for a year. Every time I returned, I would bring samples of the product, and we would test them with as many people as we could find. After receiving feedback, we would roll the best ones into the next iteration. The whole process took us about 18 months.
One of the pivotal moments for me before having the final product was when Michael (Nicky’s father) asked me how I would feel feeding this to my own children every day. This was the tipping point for us in holding ourselves to rigorous standards of ensuring every ingredient was natural and of the highest quality.
Do you have any favorite stories promoting your candy?
Nicky: My favorite memory is of the Easter Bunny Apology Tour, a national tour where the Easter Bunny apologizes for filling children’s Easter baskets with junk and then vows to make healthier choices. There was a lot of celebrity involvement with this. We have videos of Tom Brady teaching the Easter Bunny how to make a touchdown, John Legend singing the candy blues, and even Jillian Michaels pushing the Easter Bunny to get into shape.
What is the biggest area of focus for your success in the next 6-12 months?
Adam: The most important area, which is constantly ongoing, is listening to what our customers want. As confident as we may feel some days, the most important opinions will always come from our customers.
Is there anything that you know now that you wish you had known when you first began?
Adam: We are so much stronger because of every single one of our missteps along the way. In retrospect, if we would have done it differently, I don’t know if we would have landed where we are today, and we’re extremely happy with where we are.
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