Unreal Candy to launch in thousands of store: Will anyone know?
BOSTON, MA: Hub entrepreneur Michael Bronner, who previously launched blockbuster Boston startups Digitas and Upromise, has a new mission — taking the junk out of junk food.
“Our goal is to ‘unjunk’ the world,” said Bronner, whose new start-up Unreal Brands is rolling out healthier alternatives to M&Ms and other popular candies this week.
CVS will begin stocking Unreal candies at 7,300 U.S. stores over the next two weeks, with BJ’s Wholesale Clubs, Target and other chains soon following suit.
Unreal’s candies skip the corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and other questionable ingredients that many commercial sweets contain.
In their place, the company uses vegetable dyes, pure cane sugar and other natural ingredients.
The result — treats with more fiber and protein, as well as fewer sweeteners, calories and carbohydrates.
“And we challenge people to taste it and tell us if it needs another gram of sugar or not,” Bronner said.
Unreal got its start on Halloween 2009, when Bronner insisted his son, Nicky, throw out half of his trick-or-treat candy because of its unhealthiness.
Over time, father and son began to research ways to make tasty-but-more-nutritious alternatives.
“What we found out is that the junk in junk food isn’t there to make it taste better,” the elder Bronner said. “It’s there to make it easier and cheaper to (produce).”
Nicky Bronner, now 15, eventually found a chef in Spain — Adam Melonas, now a top Unreal executive — to take a crack at making healthier alternatives.
Unreal needed two years and 1,000 attempts before hitting on candies that taste testers liked.
Now, Bronner and Hub venture-capital firm Raptor Ventures have invested millions of dollars to make Unreal’s products a reality.
The firm has contracted with production facilities out of state, and has recruited a staff of 19 from top candy and food manufacturers.
“I’ve finally found something that’s going to change the world,” said company President Carlos Canals, who formerly headed health-food firm Kashi.
But the entrepreneur, who made plenty of money on his other start-ups, said Unreal is more about creating healthy snacks than a big payday for himself.
“This company started with a fight over Hallo-ween candy,” Bronner said, “but it’s about a much more important fight now.”