Seeing as it’s almost Halloween and all, we thought it’d be fun to turn our attention to all-things-candy. Not the junky stuff that you typically find around this time of year, but real, honest to goodness, filled with agave and cacao and legitimate ingredient kind of stuff. You should know that I take my chocolate bars in particular very seriously. So when I was first introduced to UNREAL candy, I was a bit skeptical. But scouts honour, it’s good. Really good.

UNREAL Image

Inspiring, no? We recently caught up with this ground breaking company, and we’re here today to tell the tale…

SMP: In brief, what’s the concept behind UNREAL?
Our mission is to provide better options in the food and beverage categories where healthy choices previously didn’t exist – starting with candy. Without sacrificing taste, we’re reinventing our candy using only real ingredients, less sugar and more nutrition. Most importantly, we want to eventually make UNREAL available everywhere and fairly priced.

SMP: What prompted this candy revolution?
The morning after Halloween, 13-year-old Nicky Bronner woke up to find that his father had confiscated most of his Halloween candy. Angry, Nicky to set out to do some research and prove that candy isn’t so bad for you. He knew that candy wasn’t good for you, but he didn’t realize just how bad most of it is. He found that the worst parts of candy, stuff like partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors, chemical preservatives, and loads of sugar aren’t there to make it taste better – but instead to make it cheaper to produce and last longer on the shelves.

Nicky wanted to wanted to find someone to help him take up the challenge of creating a candy that tasted as good as his favorites, without the junk, so he teamed up with Adam Melonas, a master chef in Spain at the time, to recreate America’s most popular candies with real ingredients.

SMP: 13? He was 13? That’s incredible! Once the idea for UNREAL came to fruition, how long did it take to get it up and running?
Our products went through thousands of recipes and trials before going to market, and even now we’re always going through improvements. Chef Adam and his team are continuously innovating to make the candies even more delicious and to continue to incorporate ingredients that are even better for both people and the planet. The product development took a little over 2 years from Nicky’s idea to when it hit store shelves in July 2012.

SMP: So why hasn’t it been done before?
Candy companies aren’t really incentivized to use high quality, natural ingredients because they’re a) more expensive and b) can reduce their shelf life. Instead, they use artificial dyes, a lot of sugar, and chemical preservatives. Even though we’ve proved otherwise, some of these companies probably thought their candy wouldn’t taste as good if they removed all those artificial ingredients. We created a great video, which talks about what’s going on in the food industry, which you can check out here.

SMP: How do you source your ingredients?
Our key ingredients are all responsibly sourced. We work to support farming communities and CO-OPs where we can – and minimize our environmental impact. Our dairy comes from pasture-raised cows in New Zealand that are antibiotic-free, with no added hormones. Our cacao beans come from farms in Ghana and Ecuador that have been audited for human rights and best growing practices. Doing the right thing by people is just as important to us as making the candy.

SMP: That’s amazing. Truly. How do you ensure the quality of each ingredient?
At UNREAL, quality is of the utmost importance. Chef Adam has personally visited many of the farms and locations that we sources our ingredients from. From the cacao beans in Ghana & Ecuador to the dairy protein in New Zealand, Adam has traveled around the world to make sure that all of our ingredients are of the highest quality.

SMP: So how do you decide which candies to re-create?
Nicky’s favorite candy is peanut butter cups, so we naturally started with those. We then moved on to America’s other favorite candies like Snickers, Milky Way and M&Ms.

SMP: Are there any that you’re struggling to get just right?
Our products are never complete. Our recipes are constantly being tweaked and improved to make sure that we use the most sustainable ingredients possible – and our candy tastes as delicious as possible. We are also working on several new products in the pipeline, which were inspired by the feedback we heard from our fans!

SMP: Spill the beans! Can you tell us what you’re working on next? Healthy Kit Kat, maybe? *crosses fingers*
It’s unfortunately top secret so we can’t share, but we can tell you that you can expect some new candies in 2014 – all inspired by what our loyal fans want most! We love getting feedback and suggestions.

So let’s hear it folks, are you guys sold? I know I am. And I’m still hoping that those secret 2014 candies come in the form of a Kit Kat bar.

Interview & Video: UNREAL Candy