The Power of Focusing on People, Planet and Profit with Kate Flynn of Sun & Swell Foods
When I came across Sun & Swell and its Co-Founder Kate Flynn I knew we had to have their product in our boxes and I really wanted to be friends with Kate.
From clean ingredients to sustainable packaging, Sun and Swell is a certified B-Corp based in Ventura California. They specialize in snacks, like the cookie bites that we have in our Oh Goodie! boxes, and pantry staples.
When Kate and her husband started Sun & Swell they knew they wanted to be a do good company and now they are leading the way for other brands to do the same.
In today’s interview we discuss everything from food sensitivities, to why calorie counting doesn’t work and why your snacks should be made with ingredients you can find in your pantry.
I know you will love Kate as much I do so let’s get to the interview so you can learn more about why she decided to start Sun & Swell and how the brand continues to evolve.
What you'll discover in Episode 1:
3:06 what shouldn't be in your snacks
3:13 what it looks like to follow a whole foods diet instead of counting calories
6:20 finding grab n go snacks that taste good and fit your lifestyle
8:55 the type of foods we support at Oh Goodie! Box
10:27 take the Everlywell test to find out what foods you might be sensitive to
11:30 progress in the clean foods movement
13:02 the reality of why healthy food can taste god
15;15 the reasons why we overeat
16:36 your body doesn't count calories
18:46 what it means to be B-Corp Certified
24:00 the effort it takes to do things differently
Links from Episode 1:
Learn more about Sun & Swell foods at sunandswellfoods.com
Follow @sunandswellfoods on Instagram
Add Sun and Swell to your Oh Goodie! snack box
Transcript of Episode 1:
Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Nothing But Good podcast. I'm your host Jennifer Calderon, and the founder of Oh Goodie! Box. When I came across Sun & Swell Foods and its co-founder Kate Flynn, I knew we had to have their product in our boxes and I really wanted to become friends with Kate. From clean ingredients to sustainable packaging Sun and Swell is a certified B Corp, based in Ventura, California. They specialize in snacks, like the cookie bites that we have in our Goodie boxes, and pantry supplies. When Kate and her husband started Sun and Swell, they knew they wanted to be a do good company. And now they are leading the way for other brands to do the same. In today's interview, we discuss everything from food sensitivities, to why calorie counting doesn't work, and why your snack should be made with ingredients you can find in your pantry. I know you will love Kate as much as I do. So, let's get to the interview so you can learn more about why she decided to start Sun and Swell and how the brand continues to evolve.
Today, 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 podcasts for 15% off your first order. Now grab a snack and let's get to today's show.
Cool. Well, Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. And for the listeners and the viewers out there could you tell them a little about you and then Sun and Swell as well.
I'm so excited to be here. I'm Kate. I am the co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell. I live in Santa Barbara, California, I'm also a relatively new mom. So, most of my time is spent, you know with my daughter or building the business these days. Our mission is to make healthy and more sustainable, eating more accessible. So we create delicious, healthy organic foods using only real food ingredients, organic ingredients. And our you know, when it comes to our snacks and what we put in them, we always say if you wouldn't have the ingredient itself in your pantry, it shouldn't be in your snack. So yeah, it's a good rule of thumb to follow up, at least when we develop our recipes. It's like we want you to know what every single ingredient is and actually be able to envision that ingredients and what it looks like when it's not, you know, turned into something else.
That is a good rule to follow. I feel like that's simple, too.
Totally and you know, I've heard before only ingredients you can pronounce, which I think is also a good rule of thumb. But for example, like you can pronounce corn syrup, so I personally don't wear like it's not just about being able to pronounce them, but it's about being able to know what they are. And you know, somebody would eat on its own as well.
100% And how did the idea like where did you guys decide to do this from like, what inspired it all?
Yeah, so, um, it's I feel like it's kind of like the classic, you know, start from scratch food brand. About five years ago, I had a pretty big dietary shift. I always cared about food, but I think I had a pretty negative relationship with food for most of my life. I was really obsessed with calories and carbs and kind of counting numbers. And it kind of turned into a negative relationship because it felt so restrictive. Like I felt like I was always logging and tracking and I couldn't eat this and I couldn't eat that. And when I learned about five years ago, I learned about a different way of eating which is like wholistic like following a whole food diet. So instead of focusing on calories and carbs and things like that, really reading ingredient labels and making sure that the ingredients that you're eating and the foods that you're eating the ingredients that make up those foods are made with whole foods, real foods, you know, foods you would find in nature. And when I started following that type of diet, it was pretty life changing for me both mentally, like, all of a sudden, I was enjoying food, it wasn't about being restrictive. It was just about, you know, knowing what I was eating. And also, it was really crazy because I had battled asthma my whole life, I grew up with it, I had it since I was a child. And when I started eating this way, my asthma like completely went away. So I started learning more about it. And I learned that a lot of you know, asthma is just one example. But there's a lot of other symptoms that can be driven by the food that you're eating. And I, you know, later learned that it was all because I was eating gluten, I learned I was intolerant when I started following my diet, but um, anyways, so it all just kind of inspired me to, I wanted to eat this way I want to eat real food, I want to eat food that was like, simple. But at the time I was working in the office, I was a consultant, I was working like 16 hours a day in the office. And I always needed things grab and go. And I couldn't find any Grab and Go snacks that fit this way of eating. And then I was trying to accomplish or at least any that fit this like way of eating but also tasted really good. A lot of times I find like, the healthy foods and I was like I don't want this. So it was kind of like it stemmed from like this, like personal desire, like need, I felt like this was missing. But at my old job, I was doing consulting in the lfood industry. And I could see the trends like moving towards simpler foods, real foods, and gluten free and plant based and all those things. And so it was kind of those two things put together and started, you know, making the original samples in our kitchen and handing them out to friends and family and then doing local events and just grown from there.
I love that I very recently, like the last two weeks have decided to go gluten free. Just we're trying to get pregnant. And so like all things that come with it, but like I don't know if it's in my mind, or if it's real, but I feel better like I have more energy. I don't feel like as like muggy headed, I guess. And they're just like, it's weird. And I was like I didn't I didn't know I had anything against it.
Totally. Well, that's, that's what's crazy is that there's a difference between like having a slight intolerance to an ingredient and being like allergic to it or like highly like so for example, lthere was only I think 1% of Americans are celiac, which means that 1% actually cannot eat gluten, it really affects them in a negative way. But there was another 20 million Americans estimated I think it's more than that. I think people just we haven't like, a lot of people are still learning that are gluten sensitive, which is like what I am. And that's where I learned like gluten drove my asthma. It's gluten is one example like soy dairy, those are some other ingredients that like are known to cause inflammation in a lot of us. And we just aren't aware that we're sensitive to these things because we've been eating them our whole lives and like with you like if all said you have more energy and like you have like less brain fog, it could be because you really do have a sensitivity to it, but you never knew that you never knew kind of like with the state of living without gluten, you know, and it's crazy.
I had nothing to compare it to. I just that's how you were supposed to feel. I just thought that was normal. So yeah, it's interesting. I'm very excited for it. And it's part of the reason with like, Oh Goodie! we're shifting to this kind of ingredient change where we want to support brands who are doing it right and who are supplying real food to people and coming from the vending industry. We've sold all kinds of things and I'm like oh my god, I don't think that we're supposed to be eating this but I grew up eating it thinking it was no big deal.
I'm the same way like I and dairy is another thing that a lot of people are I think over half of Americans are intolerant to dairy and we just don't know it. Because it's like we could have been through like babies and so like but I gave up dairy too. And I went from like, being bloated all the time. And like just thinking that was like the way of living to like not being like I don't I never get blood anymore unless I isolate dairy on occasion. Like I love a good ice cream. But it's like, I'm like okay, I like my body feels different now because I just ate it so it just so interesting. I think that I think a lot of us are trapped like I think it's always and the reality is like not everybody is intolerant to gluten so it's like or to dairy and so it's not necessarily evil but it's only it's more of like us being aware and understanding like our do we have sensitivities to it. There's a lot of cool like food sensitivities test stuff like that. And there's like really good. Like, you can be like, sensitive to like blueberries and not knowing, you know, so it's like, like, there's all these things. It's like I think like knots is another one where some people, people are fine. But some people are a little sensitive and you just don't even if it's on an allergy or intolerance, not allergic, you might be sensitive, you just don't know, you know, so interesting.
Think about taking a few tests. Now. I'm like, I'm gonna go take food test.
You should there's the Everlywell test is, I think it's like 100 bucks or something like that. But it tells you and that was like really eye opening to me. I think like I say blueberries cuz I think that was like on my top 10. But I was like, oh, like, that's not like, that's okay. I'm not gonna, like, I'm gonna I don't eat blueberries that much. So I'm gonna, like, take that little risk on occasion,
Right? But it just seems so interesting. Because it's like, you know, you think I hear blueberries and think, Oh, they're high in antioxidants. Like every food diet in the world says eat berries, then I think it's so important to remember, like, when you're talking about food, it's not just this cookie cutter system for everybody, you know, but like you said, like, some people are intolerant. Some people have sensitivities, some people, you know, it's like, you've got to know your body and take the time to do that research.
I love that you're like that you're thinking more about that. It's funny, because as a brand in the healthy food space, and like the real food space, sometimes I look around, like Whole Foods. And I'm like, gosh, sure. There's so many other brands, There are a lot of ways it feels really competitive, kind of it's like, oh, there's a lot of other brands, especially like this clean food movement that we're in. When we started it wasn't that big of a movement, but it's gotten bigger over the years. But then you go to like the airport, and you're like, oh, no, there's no healthy food. Like, it's like, we get little you know, it's like, there's so much so much. Especially, I mean, vending is like one where it's like, there's I mean, it's still the same candy that's been in there for like 30 years. Yeah. And it's like, so it's like, sometimes I feel like the industry is making really good progress. And then other times, like, you walk around and you're like, No, we have so so so much room to like, do better here.
It's so true. And as you guys are like in this, like New Frontier, kinda like, are you seeing consumer change their opinion around it? Like, are you getting more educated people finding you than in the past?
Yeah, I definitely feel like so I think the types of consumers that buy our products that like seek us out, are pretty educated by the time they get to us because they're like, Okay, I'm looking for something clean. I'm looking for something really simple. I think what we find that's always interesting to me is when people that discover us when they don't eat that way already, and they're surprised like one of the most common things that we hear is like, oh my gosh, like I didn't know that, like, healthy food could taste this good. Like that's always like, where I get really excited and like there's so many people out there that aren't necessarily trying to eat this way but then they discover Wait, this can taste really good. And like we use dates in our products to sweeten them and get dates are like this. I mean, like, literally it's like nature's candy they're so freakin good. They're so sweet. And I'm like we there's not even like a role there doesn't even need to be refined sugars like we have these like amazing natural sugars in nature. And so I think when people think of healthy food if you're not a healthy food eater, a lot of times you think it's like going to taste like cardboard and you have kind of that perception so for us like that's like the really bright light is when we have people like that are just surprised that it's like or they'll eat it because they were gifted it or something and be like and then they'll seek us out and be like. Wow like I wasn't I didn't I'm so excited like finally found something that like I can like feel good about snacking on as dessert and stuff like you know so that's really what I think where I feel like I see a lot of the changes just like more kind of awareness of people who weren't necessarily looking for it.
I do love Sun and Swell because your products just taste so good. We have so many products that come through and even tried to be in the boxes or in the vending side of things. It's just like oh, either when you're marketing yourself as healthy but I just read your ingredients and you're nowhere near what we would consider healthy or two, you're saying you're healthy but I can't eat that like I can't physically make myself like force this down because it tastes so gross. Well is just perfect. It's like still like a treat like I'm just like this is so nice and that you can read all of the ingredients and it's all things you could go buy in like a produce section.
The other crazy thing about eating nutrient dense snacks because if you think about like, and like don't get me wrong, I like love my M&Ms. But if you think about it, I mean, you could probably eat like a large bag of M&Ms and not feel like you could just keep going and go. And there's a reason why like you overeat. And it's because a lot of the ingredients in traditional candy or sweets or anything like that, or really any snacks, but it doesn't have to be sweet, the nutrients have been like stripped out of it. And so it doesn't actually make you feel full. So when you're eating snacks made with real foods, like our, our cookie bites, it's what we say nutrient dense, because it's just food in its natural form, no ingredient, no nutrients have been stripped out. And so you actually can't I mean, you could overeat on them. But you will notice that you feel full after eating like a little snack pack, you're like, Okay, that was filling, you're not like, trying to like, you know, reach for this endless bowl of that, you know, so it's like, it helps me from over eating when you are eating nutrient dense foods like that. And that's why like, it's the same as like when you eat a banana, like you can eat a banana and feel satisfied versus you can eat like a bag of chips and like, maybe not feel satisfied. You know?
I interviewed someone a couple of weeks ago, and she's a health trainer and all these things. And she said, you know, your body can't actually count calories, like your body doesn't have a calorie counter inside of it. It doesn't know whether or not you've consumed 2400 calories or whatever. Your body can only like process nutrients. And so it knows when it's nutrient deprived. And so it's still going to ask you for more, even if you did already eat the whole bag of M&Ms, because it didn't get anything that it needed.
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. That's a great way to think about it.
Right. And I was like, I considered it as a former calorie counter myself. Yeah. Oh, man. We're trained so wrong. I feel like in our country, because it's just like, as a society, it's like, oh, count your calories, count your calories, count your calories. And it's like, well, I can count my calories. I can count how many calories are in that bag of M&Ms but it did me no good because I didn't give my body anything that it actually needed.
Totally. Yeah, I like It's like recovering calorie counters.
There’s one other thing I love at Sun & Swell that we'd be remiss not to talk about is just your sustainability efforts. I love that when you guys send us your box, everything was just so beautiful. And it was and then you explain what it's all sustainable. Even the little postcard that you sent us, like just telling us about your brand. It's what you plant it right, it's got seeds in it. And even that piece of paper is sustainable. And it goes back and it can create something beautiful for this earth. And I just thought, wow, that is so much attention to detail that’s so much care. So where did that sustainability piece come from?
Yeah, so um, we definitely when we first started the company, we definitely always wanted to be like a do good company like we wanted to be. Of course, we wanted to, you know, grow and be big and be profitable. And like all those things. But we also wanted to have the business be more than that, like we wanted to, it's Mike, my co-founder, my husband like we're devoting like our life to this is all we do. And we wanted to feel really good about like the impact that we're leaving behind with the business. So that kind of the pieces of it have unfolded as we've grown. So the first thing we really learned early on in our business about what it means to be a B Corp. And for anybody listening who doesn't know a B Corp is to be B Corp certified. It's almost like getting an organic certification for your food, but you're getting a B Corp certification for your business. And to be B Corp certified it means that you meet certain standards when it comes to how you treat all stakeholders of your business. That includes your employees, your suppliers. It includes how you treat the environment. All these there's all these kind of different layers. And you have to meet these certain standards to be certified as a B Corp. Some of the biggest B corpse out there are like Patagonia, Ben and Jerry's, you know a lot of those really awesome companies that when you think of like these companies, they're like, yeah, these are like mission driven companies. And we learned about that early on and we're like, Okay, we have to do this, it is so aligned with what we're trying to do. And I think as a business owner, it gives us permission to make if all you care about is the bottom line like if all you care about is profit and nothing else. Your decisions are different than if you care about profit and people and the planet. And so that's like so we that's kind of something we like established as a business early on is like hey, we want to be a B Corp. We want that to like be a guiding Prince like we want that being a B Corp to like healthcare decisions as we grow, that was like the first thing we did. And then as we built the business, and we realized, like, Hey, we're a food company, like, we're putting products out there in the world, we're shipping boxes, like we're doing all these things like, we need to be thinking about sustainability. And like how we can leave the environment, often a better place. And there's a lot that we do. But like just this is like a simple thing. Like if you it's really beautiful when you like when a box comes on your doorstep from a company and it's all these bright colors up. That's beautiful. But when you put heavy inks on boxes, they go from being easily recyclable, and even a regular shipping boxes compostable to when you cover them and heavy inks, all of a sudden, they're not compostable anymore. And so like for us, we're like, Okay, well, let's use a brown box with a cute compostable tape that's fun and bright. So you still get that like fun experience, but like, it leaves the environment in a better place. So that's kind of how we think about decisions is like, we still want to, like, be a fun brand and be a special brand. But like, how can we do that in the most sustainable way possible? I mean, we really start to like, get creative around it like you can, I think you can be super sustainable without having to make like any tradeoffs from like the you know, consumer experience point of view.
That is so cool. And even your even your packaging, right? Even like the product, like your cookie bites, like
So let's talk about the product itself. So there's a couple of things we do. So first of all, with the ingredients, we try to source directly from like US family farms. And we can, we can't do that with everything. Because some ingredients are you know, not so grown and other like cashews we use those are grown in other countries. And we're not an importer. But for example, all of our dates come from a family like a farm in Southern California, which is just 100 miles away from us. So it's like, not only are we supporting this awesome farm in the US, but we're also like the one that coming to our facility to actually manufacture them there. It's less carbon too for the shipping and stuff like that. So that's like number one is like ingredients. We're also 100% organic, which organic food we believe is not only good for you, but it's also better farming practices. So it's better for topsoil, so that's also better for the environment. So we sell about 75% of the products we sell are in compostable packaging, the little snack packs of bites, we don't have transitioned to compostable yet, because it's a sort of we don't have to have a whole other podcast on compostable packaging. But those will ultimately be transitioned into compostable, we're going to be doing a trial of them and compostable in early 2022. We actually already transitioned the original thing didn't work. So but we're going to try to do a trial in early 2022. So you should be you'll be able to, like be on the floor, the first people to see those once we have them.
So cool. And I love that as you're sharing this, it's like it really is, it sounds like a commitment, like you're doing things different than mainstream is. And so I feel like that's, that's exciting. But that's also like a lot of hard work. So I just like hope that the listeners right now appreciate like how much effort goes in to creating that experience for customers, but then also doing so in a way that's good for the environment. You're not taking shortcuts, you know, to preserve the bottom line.
Yeah, it is 100% tons of effort. And I have like, many brands starting out come to me all the time asking me like, Hey, should we do this? Should we do this? And my like, recommendation is always like, if as a business leader, you're passionate about these things and you're willing to put the energy behind it like yes, but if you're ever doing something to just like check the box, like it's just not worth it. Like it's easier to do it the regular way like so. It's like it's not easy to do things differently. But um, you know, at the end of the day, it's like what makes us feel more proud of what we're building and I definitely, I think creates more challenges but um, you know, it's it gives us a lot of purpose in what we do and I think we're a lot of what we're doing on the sustainability side is kind of pioneering the way for other companies in the food industry and that's really important to us.
I love that well gosh, I don't want to take up too much of your time but for listeners what are some of your most popular items I know that we carry your cookie bites right now and we do all of your pre like your pre packaged snacks but on your website you guys do more than just snacks right? You could like stock a full pantry. Yeah, so we do we have we say snacks and pantry staples. So with our snacks, we have our cookie bites, which are what you carry.
We also have just like dried fruits and nuts. And those are again like most of our dried fruits are coming on and a lot of our nuts are coming directly from US family farms really prioritize that not just because it's great to support this because that means when you get the food, it tastes fresher and better. If it goes directly from a farm to us to package and then to your pantry. That's gonna be a fresher product than having it sit in warehouses and stuff like all so that's kind of that's, that's really what I what we prioritize, and also a wide range of pantry staples. So from grains to spices to super foods and whatnot. I definitely like I think our most popular products are the cookie bites that are so good. Yeah, I know they're, you know, they're unique to Sun and Swell, like they're not that you can't find out can't find our cookie bites anywhere else. And, then but outside of that, like for the things that we carry only on our website. That's like the dried mangoes are really delicious. We have dried peaches, almonds, kind of those really just delicious, natural snack foods that that we don't even have to do anything to they're just they just have grown soaring from the earth, which is amazing.
I love it. Well, Kate, thank you so much for your time. The last question that everybody gets asked is what is your definition of a quality life?
Yeah, I think it's a life. Gosh, a quality life. I would say it's one like where you're living with like purpose and kindness. And you're thinking about other people and the planet. And I think that is ultimately feels so rewarding. And, you know, just trying to be grateful and appreciate like all of the amazing things that life has to offer us as well.
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Nothing But Good Podcast. If you loved getting to know Kate and want to stock up on healthy treats, and staples for your pantry. Go to sunandswellfods.com and use code OHGOODIE25 That's OHGOODIE25 for 25% off your first order. And remember, if you want to get a variety of better for you snacks, like Sun and Swell delivered to you monthly, ohgoodiebox.com. All of these links and codes are in today's show notes. So don't worry, you don't have to remember it. Just go to the summary of the show. And click on the link that works best for you. You guys. I hope you enjoyed today's show. If you did, I'd be so grateful if you could leave a review and share this episode with your friends. Happy snacking. We'll see you next week.