Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Sometimes I joke that I was born with a sweet tooth. From chocolate to sour gummies, I am an equal opportunity candy lover. However, I also know that candy and sugar are not healthy (as much as I wish they were). It’s all about balance, and thankfully there are new, healthier candy options with less sugar to make it easy.
Founded by Tara Bosch, SmartSweets is making it easier to kick sugar with satisfying treats from peach rings, lollipops, gummy worms and, my personal favorite, sourmelon bites. We all have our go-to’s in the candy aisle, but SmartSweets is reimagining some of our favorites without added sugars and artificial sweeteners. Out of the brand’s nine candy selections, seven are non-GMO, plant-based varieties that are naturally-flavored and colored using fruit and vegetable juices such as pumpkin, carrot, and spirulina from natural algae.
Noteworthy celebrities have joined SmartSweets’ mission to kick sugar – Nina Dobrev, Shawn Mendes and Zoey Deutch have all signed on as investors. Read on to find out how Tara went from a college drop-out making candy in her kitchen to building SmartSweets into a company ready to take on big candy corporations.
To begin, I'd love for you to share your background and the inspiration behind SmartSweets.
TB: “Growing up, I developed an unhealthy relationship with food, which eventually affected my health, self-esteem and body image. As I got older, it became apparent that healthy relationships in all aspects of life come from smaller, smarter choices. In a conversation with my grandmother at her kitchen table, I learned that she regretted consuming so much excess sugar over the years, especially from one of our favorite treats to enjoy together – candy. It was this conversation, coupled with my personal journey, that sparked my exploration into the reality of sugar.”
“I learned that on any given day we consume in excess of 70 grams of sugar, and Americans alone spend an estimated $1 trillion each year fighting health effects of sugar such as obesity, cancer and more. Despite this, not one confectionery player is addressing sugar reduction in a natural way. With this insight, and my determination to create a better-for-you candy, I dropped out of college, bought a gummy bear mold on Amazon, and began recipe testing in my kitchen.”
With many better-for-you brands entering the market, can you elaborate on how you started SmartSweets and what does the rise of conscious candy means for the big players in the sweets space?
TB: “After dropping out of college and a nudge from my grandmother, I set out to create the first healthier candy without the excess sugar and artificial ingredients. After months of testing and hundreds of recipe iterations, I finally developed a batch of gummy bears that I could bring to a manufacturing partner. Today, we are on a mission to kick sugar and keep candy by innovating traditional candies people know and love, without the high sugar.”
“We currently have a bunch of different flavors and we are excited to be venturing outside of gummy candies this year. As for the ‘big players’ in the sweets space, this trend means consumers are learning, and caring, a lot about what they’re eating and are no longer settling for products that make them feel bad. Those big brands will have to innovate to keep up with the rise in conscious candy consumers.”
You are on a mission to kick sugar but keep candy – I’d love to hear more about how SmartSweets has helped your consumers kick 1.4 billion grams of sugar in 2021 alone?
TB: “On any given day, people intake excess of 70 grams of sugar, and Americans spend an estimated $1 trillion yearly fighting the damaging health effects of sugar. We don’t realize how much sugar is actually packed into candy products which is why I wanted to tackle this issue with transparency.”
“I believe that we should feel good about enjoying the foods we love, which sparked my inspiration to create SmartSweets. We see the brand functioning as a catalyst in the global movement to kick sugar while raising the bar for what people deserve in the food they consume each day.”
What dreams and goals do you have for SmartSweets as you continue to grow? Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
TB: “Imagine being able to go to your local grocery store's candy aisle, picking out your favorite candy, and being able to actually feel good about enjoying it. SmartSweets vision is to be the brand delivering on creating that experience for consumers, no matter what their favorite candy is. There are many exciting projects in the pipeline! We’re continuing to push the industry’s boundaries and are excited for some unique innovations to come later in 2022.”
As a founder featured in our “Quality Makers” series, what does “quality” mean to you?
TB: “To me, quality is one of the most important parts of building a brand. You can have a niche, cool product, but if it’s low quality, it’s not going to take off. Consumers are smart and can tell immediately if you’re cutting corners. You’ll see it in everything from the packaging, taste, color, and ingredients.”
“I knew I always wanted to create a better-for-you alternative candy that was focused entirely on the quality of the product in comparison to traditional candy. Our consumers get to enjoy their favorite candies any time they want, knowing the quality is always going to be there!”
Ready to try SmartSweets for yourself? Shop peach rings, gummy worms, sourmelon bites and more here.
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This interview was edited for length and clarity.