Mayssa is the Founder of Behave, a better-for-you candy brand that wants to remove the guilt from indulgence.
Briefly introduce us to Behave and your journey to founding the company.
Behave is a better-for-you candy brand. Our products are low in sugar and don’t use any artificial ingredients, all without compromising on taste. I had the idea for Behave a couple years ago, and had let it ruminate in the back of my mind for some time. Then, last year the pieces came together when I met and partnered with celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner. After connecting, we jumped right into the kitchen and started developing our product. Having Elizabeth as our Head of Product Development has allowed us to create something that tastes amazing, is nutritional and looks good as well!
Tell us a bit more about the process of getting your first candy product ready for market (testing ingredients, finding the right co-manufacturer, packaging design, determining the price point)?
Like I said, the journey really started when I connected with Elizabeth and told her what I wanted to create. She was totally on board and super excited about the challenge. So, we started recipe testing and developing in the kitchen. Once we had it finalized, we began the process of transitioning our recipe from the kitchen to something that was scalable for commercial production. We connected with every gummy manufacturer under the sun and ultimately found a partner that could replicate our recipe into a great tasting product produced at scale.
In tandem with this, we started developing the brand and worked with an agency called Gander who helped us build our brand identity both in terms of a visual identity and brand voice. Those two pieces eventually merged with our packaging and site design, and once we had that in hand we were ready to go to market!
Candy is generally thought of as an impulse buy, which is largely a consequence of strategic shelf space. Interestingly, you recently launched via DTC. How are you working to drive more commercial intent to your brand and do you think consumers’ relationship with candy/sweets is changing?
One of the beauties of candy is that you see such high velocities in the retail; people are grabbing and going based on impulse and strategic shelf space. But, we decided to launch DTC so we can build a community and have a direct relationship with our customers. From there, we ultimately want to expand into retail to capitalize on those impulse purchases, but with a better value proposition. Traditionally, adults don’t want candy in the house as it would lead to indulging and isn’t healthy. But with a product like Behave, you can have it in your house without the baggage. It is not going to drive that guilty feeling after you indulge or grab a bag while you watch Netflix at the end of day.
What is the most important part of a business to get right first?
For food companies, you have to have a great product. You live and die with what is inside the bag. What drove me to partner with Elizabeth is that I knew she would create a product that people would be really excited about and would want to come back for more. As I mentioned, we spent a ton of time developing our product and flavors — we tested over a hundred flavors before landing on the three we used today. We needed to make sure our product would stand out, not just from better-for-you candies but from other sugar candies as well.
I love how effectively your branding conveys the messaging that you don’t have to live a certain way and can follow your own rules. What is an example of an idea or belief that you have that most people would disagree with?
This may come off as surprising for a Founder in the health food space, but I believe that people should give into their indulgences and cravings. I support having dessert every single time you go to a restaurant, and I always have a pint of ice cream in the fridge in case I get that late night craving. I am a proponent of people watching one more episode of their favorite show or staying out with their friends that extra hour past your bedtime. Life can sometimes be so monotonous, but it is in those little moments that you can find joy and pleasure.
That ethos is something we want to convey through the Behave brand. At first glance, you might think we are a brand about reducing sugar or eating healthy, but actually we are really saying eat more, indulge more and give the middle finger to the status quo. I don’t really subscribe to the philosophies of extreme discipline that echoes from many the better-for-you brands, in fact I really follow the opposite.
If you could join the crew from Inception and implant one fact or idea into the minds of consumers, what would it be?
A low sugar product doesn’t have to taste like crap. We have spent so much time discovering and testing the number of ingredients and new ways that we can sweeten products without using refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup to create candy and products that are really delicious.
If you could eat a Behave gummy with one person, who would it be and why?
I think it would be Barack Obama. He is someone I would love to share a bag of candy with and shoot the shit.
Often, when we are faced with obstacles or things go wrong, we think something is happening to us. But, when we reflect on these moments later on, we tend to find that it actually happened for us. What is one such example you have of this?
Due to COVID, our production got delayed by a couple months. It threw our timeline through a loop, and was super disappointing in the moment. But in hindsight, it gave us time to regroup and not have the added pressure of launching at the height of the pandemic. Instead, we launched in August when things settled down and started coming back to life. It also gave us time to give extra thought to who we are, what we are saying as a brand and what we want to look like relative to the market.
What is a memento from your childhood that you still keep and how does it serve you?
I have kept all of my sports memorabilia from growing up. I played multiple sports and, at from a young age, I wasn’t necessarily the best athlete. But, I cared so much about sports and my teams and I put in a lot of effort and ultimately ended up doing pretty well in a couple of the sports that I played.
Whenever I walk into my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house, it is a reminder that even though I wasn’t the team member with the most innate naturally-gifted athleticism, I ultimately succeeded because of the hard work that I put in. It is easy to think things should come naturally to you, but reflecting on those experiences, I realized that focusing on what you can control and keeping that growth mindset is everything. Translating that to now, that mindset is so important to starting a company or do something crazy and ambitious.
You are not born with every skill. You have to believe that you can improve. And ultimately, you can excel in areas where you don’t start off as a rockstar in.
What is your creative outlet and how does it help you channel a flow state?
My creative outlet is DJing. Though there hasn’t been much DJing since the pandemic started, I still love music and spending the afternoon running through different playlists and putting sets together. DJing allows me to tap into this headspace that tunes everything out and allows me to be really present and just focus on the music.
What is one daily ritual that you cannot live without?
My gratitude journal. It really has become such an important part of my day.
What is the last:
TV show you binged?
Pen15 on Hulu.
Movie you watched?
When Harry Met Sally.
Song you listened to?
Long Beach by Kota the Friend
Podcast you listened to?
Brand Builder which is a Snack Nation, food-focused podcast.
Book you read?
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino.
You can buy Behave candy via their website here.
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