Rule Breaker Snacks
As a health journalist, Nancy Kalish, Founder of Rule Breaker Snacks, knew exactly what to do and what to eat to be healthy. She just had one major problem; a massive sweet tooth.
She’d go to health food stores and buy up anything that might satiate the cravings but everything she found either didn’t taste good or didn’t look good. So, just for her and her friends/family she began experimenting at home to try to make a delicious sweet treat that tasted as good as it looked.
After a lot of failed recipes she finally landed on a winner, quit her job as a journalist and now works full time bringing these delicious treats to the rest of the world.
Listen to today’s episode of The Nothing But Good Podcast to hear:
2:15 how Nancy started as a health journalist and why that matters for Rule Breaker snacks
5:00 the one ingredient Nancy insists you don’t use when making healthy baked goods
7:35 ingredients to be mindful of when you see them on labels
9:15 why Nancy takes her guardianship of customers very seriously
11:30 what does “natural flavors” mean on ingredient labels
16:15 the secrets behind why Rule Breaker Snacks taste so good
19:00 Nancy’s retelling of her time on Shark Tank
Links from Today’s Episode:
Follow @rulebreakersnacks on Instagram
Order your Rule Breaker Snacks at rulebreakersnacks.com
Support the Rule Breaker Snacks Equity Crowd Funding
Transcript of Episode 7:
You're listening to The Nothing But Good Podcast a show that believes you should know where your food comes from, or more specifically, who it comes from. Each week, we bring you new interviews with the makers and founders of the brands you love so you can see how they came to be and what makes them different. We focus on telling the stories of emerging brands and brands who are committed to using better for you ingredients in the snacks they create. Every episode of The Nothing But Good Podcast is brought to you by Oh Goodie Box, a snack box subscription service that sends healthier snacks directly to your home or office so that you have the fuel you need to make your greatest impact each day. Order your first box at ohgoodiebox.com and use code PODCAST for 15% off your first order. That's ohgoodiebox.com and code PODCAST for 15% off your first order. Now grab a snack and let's get to today's show.
Nancy, thank you so much for taking time to come on the show. Would you mind introducing yourself and Rule Breaker Snacks?
Of course. First of all, thank you so much for having me, Jennifer. I'm delighted to be here. I am Nancy Kalish, the founder and CEO of Rule Breaker Snacks. We're based in Brooklyn, New York and we make vegan top 11 allergen free brownies and blondies bites.
I love it. They are so good. I am mildly addicted to the brownie bite. Me and my husband fight over It I was like “that's not yours, You just help yourself to brownie bite whenever you want.”
But it never gets old.
Good. Well, how long? Has rule breaker been around? And what kind of got you started and all of this?
Yeah, well, so back in 2015. I was a health journalist. I wrote for lots of the women's magazines like Oh, Real Simple, Prevention, Glamour, Self, all of those. A little bit for the New York Times and I interviewed hundreds of doctors and nutritionists, dieticians, knew exactly what to eat to be healthy. And I've always had a terrible, terrible sweet tooth. Like, constantly with what, you know, with my aspirations to eat better. And, of course, I really wanted to eat better but and I would go into the health food store. And I would buy a whole bunch of things. Little treats. I'm lucky enough I live right across the street in Brooklyn from an amazing health food store. So I would go in there and new things would catch my eye and I buy maybe, you know, sweets are worth it. So I was spending like $20, $30 at a time in anticipation and it just didn't do it for me. They they tasted too healthy to be honest. They also looked really healthy. Like both the treat itself and the packaging would be this brown paper bag type of packaging. Yeah. I just didn't feel satisfied. So totally not for anybody else except for me and my family and my friends I started experimenting. I've always loved to bake, brownies are my absolute favorite thing ever. And I have read a lot about people making brownies out of beans on the internet. So I looked up some recipes and I thought, oh hell try these, beans are really healthy. So I bet this is going to be terrific. You know, and I tried them and they were awful really tasted like beans. They smelled like beans. I mean they were bad but they had a really great texture. And so again just for myself, I thought hey, I'm going to work on this. I don't mind a great hobby for me. And so I kept on working on it for about a year trying to come up with a better recipe that would have the beans in there and have that great texture but not taste anything like beans. It took me about a year and I did come up with a great recipe. I made a lot of bad brownies and my husband and daughter are saints because they also tried them and after a year I had a really, really amazing recipe. And everybody started saying to me, oh, you know, these are so good, you should sell them. And I'm like, I was getting a little tired of being a journalist. And I said to myself, Oh, hi, how hard could it be to start a food company? I'll try it. Really found out how this was back in 2015. In January 2015, there was a natural products trade show, one of the big ones coming up that September, I took a leap of faith, I booked a booth and thought I'll get ready, no problem. And it took the full time from January to September to get everything ready. In fact, we were so down to the wire that we actually had to FedEx samples down to Baltimore, which is where this trade show was in order to make the opening of the show. But we got our first orders, and then we were in business. So that's how it all started.
Gosh, I love that story. And I love just like the huge leap of faith. I mean, think it's so just very honest, to be like it is hard. And yeah, it took all nine months and it still like barely happened.
Things always it's like that Murphy's law changes, especially the food business, really. There's a special Murphy's Law in the food business. You know, everything will take longer than you ever thought and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Basically, that's, that's how it goes. But yeah, you know, it's so funny, I never expected it is really hard. The food business is really, yeah. However, I have to say, I wake up every morning, you know, so happy and energized and interested in what I'm doing and can't wait to get to my desk. And frankly, I did feel that way when I was a journalist and I was writing an interesting article. But now I feel that way, like every day, you know, it's great.
Oh, I love that so much. That's so good. Do you miss journalism at all?
Once in a while, I'd like to flex my writing muscles a little bit. So I get some chances. And yeah, you know, it was, but they're very similar in one way. Which is, first of all, I have to keep up for my business, because we are a better for you, healthy brand, I have to keep up on everything you know, so and I use my journalism skills to do things like really do a deep dive into every ingredient that is in our products. So there are a lot of ingredients where they have sub ingredients that you don't necessarily have to list on the label. And you have to be really careful. And I take it very seriously because you know, I was an avid label reader. Before I got into this as a consumer and a journalist. And I know a lot of people are counting on me. So like when you for instance, natural flavors. So we have natural flavors in our products. And they actually are natural and made from plants. However, you can also have natural flavors that have something called propylene glycol in them, which is a chemical that's actually found in rocket fuel. You don't have to put it on the label. So you know, I'm not doing that to people. So I go into the spec sheets on each ingredient that we that we buy. I look at all the sub ingredients I pay more, believe it or not to have a flavor that doesn't have rocket fuel and have to pay extra. But we do that. Wow. I know, right? Careful, honestly, you have to have I mean, you really and I take my guardianship of our customers very seriously. Same thing with like, with our bakeries, you know, it's easy to say that you're gluten free or not free. And if you're not reading the label carefully, when you those, those products could be made in a facility where they're stored right next to, you know, with nuts. And now the truth is that those brands are probably super careful, but I wanted to go the extra distance and make sure that we were made in an allergen free you know, we're made to know Vegan allergen free, kosher certified, you know, everything that's on our label, our bakeries are those things. And that was actually pretty hard to find bakeries that fit all of our requirements.
As I say, especially because you said you're free of like the top 11 allergens, right. So I would imagine if you wanted one that was just like a gluten free facility, maybe still tricky to find, but not as tricky when you're dealing with three that you're like, absolutely not. That seems like very difficult.
We don't even have coconut or sesame it's like, you know, soy and dairy and eggs and gluten. And I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So and every ingredient has to also come from a supplier. That's also where they, it's also free up all of those things. Wow, all the way down the line, you know, but like I said, and that's kind of where the journalism thing comes in. Because I was an investigative reporter. So I'm very good at drilling down and getting to the bottom of things. And I'm like, I'm like a pitbull. Like, I really, you know, dig and dig and dig and dig to, like, get to the bottom and I can feel rest assured that everything that I'm, you know, putting in people's mouths is actually good for them.
God, I love that. I will say on the natural flavor side of things, or like the ingredient reading kind of things with Oh, goody. Now, we're like really looking to find only products that are paying attention to the labels that care about their ingredients. But that is something pretty new to me still, like, I grew up in the vending world, it was very normal just to have like Reeces and Coke and Frita and not think about it. It was just food. And it was facts. And it was right there. And now I'm like, Oh my god. So, but when you see like natural flavor on an ingredient list, how do you know? Like, how do you get to find out if I wanted to be like an investigative journalist on it? Like, how would I find out what actual natural flavor means for that product?
Well, so I would say there's two, two steps depending upon how industrious you want to be. The first is, if you look at the rest of the ingredients label, and they're all recognizable, good ingredients, you know, with integrity, you know, they're made from things you can recognize, chances are, especially that chances are that it's okay, that it's really made, they just are not saying you know, they don't want to say that they use this combination of four different flavors to get the flavor, the specific flavor profile that is in their product. So they don't want to let that out because it's a proprietary information. So if you're at the label in general, and you can feel good about the other ingredients, chances are that the natural flavors are good, too. However, really, if you really want to know, you have to reach out to the brand. I mean, I get ingredients, questions from customers all the time people, kinds of crazy allergies, you know, and they want to know, if our facility is made in the same facility where something with tomato is or something, you know what I mean? Like it's like, really, you have to be prepared. And a brand should want to answer those questions for you and should get right back to you. So that's, that's my answer. I hope. I hope that helps. And they should be really helpful.
No, it's really helpful. I mean, got it. You think you think you know, like so many aspects of a business or you think you might know like, what goes into something? But like never in a million years, right? Think that someone would be emailing you to ask if like the brownies are made in a facility with tomatoes, like you just you don't know. And I love these type of conversations. Even something as silly as yesterday was at a coffee shop that I love to go to and I love this little hand pie that they make, which is not gluten. It's all of the bad things. But us it's stuffed with curd and it's so good. And you just think oh, well, you know, $5 is kind of a lot but it's good. I'm gonna get it. And then I was sitting at the counter and it's like an open kitchen so you could I could see the the barista I was talking to you. he was working and stirring. It's like what are you doing? And he was stirring for like over an hour as I was working on these reports. He was like, Oh, I'm making the curd for the hand pies. What? What do you mean your curd for the hand like that was how long are you going to be here use pretty much like as long as it takes and it's you know, and so you don't think about all of the things that go into the end result. And so it is nice to know that someone out there actually cares about all of those things and isn't taking it as a nuisance that someone would email and ask that you're like No, I take a great pride and responsibility in getting you that information. So that's actually reassuring.
Absolutely, you know, I think that's true or have smaller brands as well, you know, meaning like, you're really like someone like me or my equivalent at other small brands, you know,, the origin of every ingredient. What's this meat from? Where are your oats from, are they grown in fields that are adjacent to gluten? Like you need to know that stuff to know if there's any possibility of cross contamination and what your certifications are? And it's yeah, it's a lot, but it's good. And I feel good, because I feel like our customers are putting an enormous amount of trust in us to be transparent. And you know, this is something that I can deliver on that maybe a big, bigger brand, can't that easily 100%?
And who wouldn't want to because they don't want you to know what's in for profit. Well, how do you make these brownie bites these buddies taste so good when they have none of the things that I would normally associate with the goodness inside of them? Because they really are, like addictively good. So, like, what's the, not like the secret but what's like the generic secret that you can share?
Well, so one thing is, you know, we worked really, really long time on chickpeas, which is our first ingredient, all our products are really hard to deal with, not as hard as black beans, which is what I started with. If you're gonna make your own being brown, these guys, make them with chickpeas do not, do not make them with black beans, black beans are way too beany. But um, what we did was a whole journey in finding a grower of chickpeas that within you grind them up according to our specifications. And we roast them a certain way to cut down on the bitterness, all the bitter oils disappear. And I'm kind of a nuttiness, not for nuts. This comes in, and we had to work with that as well as frankly, some of the natural flavors are rocket fuel free. That all work together to, you know, so you've got a chickpea centered product that does not taste anything like a chickpea. And then we keep a chewy, one of our ways that we actually keep our sugar count way down below our competitors and keep the product shelf stable, which basically means fresh in the store for many months without any preservatives, is deep paste. Deep paste is a wonderful, wonderful sweetener. And it gives a lot of texture and chewiness to our brownies. So we're able to do something that’s soft baked and also remains fresh. It's really, it's really a terrific win win situation. Now that I cracked the code, which took a long time. Now we really know how to make all kinds of flavors. And so it's gotten a lot easier.
I love that. Thank you for sharing. Yeah, cuz we think a chickpea you think of like a savory snack I don't normally think of I've had enough of your brownies to know that there's chickpeas. That's the first ingredient. But it's not what I would have normally associated with a brownie. But it's so good. And you have that cheeriness. I just love them. But, one of the things that I wanted to ask you about as you're growing the business, I did see that you were on Shark Tank. So it's a pretty big pivot question here. But I wanted to ask you before I let you go, what was it like? It's like my favorite show. I'm so in awe that you were brave enough to go do it. Was it fun? Was it terrifying? Did it increase sales, all of the things?
Well, it was fun and terrifying both. Well first of all it takes, people don't know this, but it takes about a year to get on. Your filling, It's harder to get on Shark Tank then it was to get into college. A lot of application forms with essays and you basically turn your whole life over to the ABC people because what happens is they vet you thoroughly before you go on the show like the sharks actually have never known anything about you besides your name when you walk out onto the stage but there are lawyers and there are financial people and you have to make videos and you go through like a whole bunch of levels of producers. So it's crazy long process that said, I was so happy to get on. It was really, really thrilling because it's one of my favorite shows too. And before that it was a little rough. So I actually filmed it. We were on air in February of 2021 and almost a year ago, but I filmed in the middle of the pandemic and August 2020. And they created a bubble kind of like they created for the NBA, they created one in Las Vegas, where they brought the cast crew and they built the sets at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. And so we all flew out to Las Vegas, but it was very weird because we had to quarantine for 10 days in our hotel room with repeated tests for COVID before. And so actually, I got to Las Vegas, I was whisked into my hotel room, and then I didn't see another person for 10 days until they let me out to go to but it was crazy.
Shark Tank jail.
The hardest part was they make you do a final run through. So I don't know if you saw my episode but I play with my food a little bit where I do a little throwing of things like all the things that are not in our products. So I throw some eggs and at the very beginning, before the chart says answering questions asking the questions and I throw some butter over my shoulder anyway, I had to do a final run through for the producers in my hotel room, throwing all of those things. They were just they were there as an iPad, you know, somebody had to put up tarps all over the hotel room. And then it was bizarre. But anyway, when I finally got on set, and I thought you really do walk down that corridor and there's a cameraman walking behind the scene just speaking about it. Doors open up and the sharks are right there in front of you. It was so thrilling. And honestly, they were really terrific. They all look really good in person too. They didn't show on the season as again, because of the pandemic they had. The sharks instead of sitting next to each other, which they normally do, they were spread out into this enormous semi circle, maybe like 25 feet from Mark Cuban to Damon. I went in front of all the regular sharks except for Robert. But in any case, what they didn't show anybody doing which I thought was hysterical as you know, it's like a free for all. They're asking questions. They're shouting over each other, and you're in front of them for about an hour. Oh, yeah, it's a long thing. And it could go longer even, so Mark would ask a question. And then, you know, Laurie would ask a question. And then Barbara would ask question and the Damon and my head was like, I could not keep everyone in my line of vision and they cut out the parts where all the entrepreneurs are like that, you know. But anyway, it was great. So long story short, I didn't get a deal. They love the products. And luckily, I have a clip of that but I didn't get a deal. But the the sales! Another brand that had been on told me to sit there when they aired the episode, and watch with my laptop open and look at Amazon where we can see sales in real time. And literally, from the moment I walked out on the stage, you know, when they're showing it in February, and I open my mouth, ding ding, beaming crazy, and it really continued for a really really long time like that whole month. And then and then they re ran it in March and it got another bump and then it leveled off but it leveled off at a point that was much higher than previous to Shark Tank.
Oh that's so good.
Oh, but I did it. It was great.
I love that. I just loved hearing the inside story on all of it too. And it's just it's such a cool experience and we always, I tell my husband that Shark Tank is like my personal QVC because I just love the entrepreneurs so much and I love hearing the stories and they do such a good job like all of it and so I just have my phone up and I just like Christmas shop and I just love it. So I've always been hopeful that even if they don't get a deal if you don't get a deal that when you walk away the exposure and all of it still helps the brand, I hope.
You know, I think that's the truth. What I found was that the viewers, you know, if they are interested in your product, they don't really care whether you got a deal for the Shark Tank that other sharks actually thought that I had bootstrap too much. I had put in too much of my own money. And so that's the reason which was a little weird. But I really think the real reason was that Mark Cuban has already begun a cookie company in his portfolio came out, like, like asking me like, not so nice questions. He was fine. He was fine. Anyway, I think that was really, you know, I won't know for sure ever, but in any case, the viewers don't care and not at all. It's been it's was wonderful. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. And I enjoyed every second of it. So I'm very glad I did. And now you will know that people work really hard to get on that show. So those out there you know that they're really passionate about what they're doing.
I just love it all and thank you for sharing that as you're moving on into the new year you're like at this higher plateau than you were before the show all of the things. What's next for Rule Breaker Snacks, like what are you hoping for in 2022? All of the things, how can listeners support you?
Thank you. Well, a couple of ways while 2021 was actually a great year for us, despite the pandemic, our sales are up, we're expanding into new stores. One of the things that we are so we're in a lot of supermarkets as well as online like Kroger and Wegmans and Stop and Shop and Jewel. One of the things that just happened that we're most proud of is that we just started shipping to the military, the military is going to have our snacks in their commissaries. That’s really exciting.
Thank you. So all that kind of you know, and of course The Vending Channel is really important to us as well. And micro markets, we're trying to expand it and it's working. We're also, I can put a plug in for this, we are currently fundraising doing something called equity crowdfunding, public thought co. And what that is, is it's kind of like Kickstarter on steroids. You can actually own a little bit of Rule Breaker and and benefit as we grow and eventually exit hopefully, and get sold and you also get really good perks. Like really delicious snacks and some fun swag as well. Thank you. So that campaign will be going on for another few months until May 1. So yeah, so we're doing that and, and yes, we're just trying to grow the company and maintain our integrity. We have a new flavor coming out in a month called Strawberry Shortcake bites. Oh, really excited about. New flavors coming out after that. So got a lot of plans this year.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Nothing But Good Podcast. We hope you enjoyed today's show. And if you did, we'd be so grateful if you could leave a review and share this episode with your friends. Before you go. Make sure you're subscribed so that you are always the first to know when a new episode is released. And don't forget to follow @ohgoodiebox on Instagram, so you can get an even deeper look into how we decide which products get placed in our snack boxes. Last but not least, visit ohgoodiebox.com And make sure you use promo code PODCAST for 15% off your first box. Links to everything are in today's show notes. Until next time, happy snacking.