Boston-based company Unreal Candy launched in the US last year, but only recently rebranded its products and gained wider distribution in the market.
The company’s celebrity-backers include John Legend, Matt Damon, Gisele and Bill Gates who contend that Unreal’s trans-fat free, non-GMO and reduced sugar versions of American classics are healthier for consumers.
Reinventing classics: The carrot method
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Unreal co-founder Adam Melonas, a chef by trade, said: “We have reinvented America’s favorite Candy.”
The company took five of the top selling US brands: Snickers, Reese’s, M&M’s, Peanut M&M’s and Milky Way, and removed all ingredients that were perceived to be harmful.
“It was actually pretty simple,” said Melonas. “It was about looking at a Snickers bar as if it was a carrot.”
The chef said this was a process called Progressive Cuisine or Molecular Gastronomy, a cooking philosophy which dictates that food can be manipulated with physical and chemical transformations during cooking.
Which ingredients were removed?
To determine which ingredients had to go, Melonas and his team asked: “Would we feed this to our own children?” If the answer was no, the ingredient went. This meant chemical preservatives, artificial colors, trans fats, GMOS, corn syrup and chemical emulsifiers were all cut.
“You don’t need to have preservatives in candy because it will preserve itself naturally [through the sugar content],” said Melonas.
The chef said that candy makers often used ingredients such as corn syrup and chemical preservatives to increase shelf-life and make production cheaper and easier.
He suggested most top confectionery executives would forbid their children from eating the products they produced because they were aware of the associated health risks.
Melonas pointed to a recent book by New York Times journalist Michael Moss which contends big food companies cram products with as much salt, sugar and fat as possible to make consumers crave more.
Keeping it real...
“What we’ve replaced them with is real ingredients.”
Unreal uses milk from grassfeed cows and real cane sugar. Products are 15% smaller, but have been made chewier through cooking techniques in order to give consumers the sense that they are full.
The company is sourcing cocoa beans from Ecuador and Ghana. Both its sugar and cocoa do not come from a fair trade source although its palm oil comes from an unnamed supplier in Brazil that Melonas said was favored by Greenpeace.
Fair Trade certified cocoa typically commands a $200 per metric ton premium and Melonas said the company was considering these options.
‘Not a fad’
“We are not a fad or a fashion. We are a company and we want to be big,” said Melonas.
Unreal has distribution in 15,000 stores nationwide, including Target and CVS.
Products are manufactured under contract at three locations: Two in Canada and one in the US.
Melonas said Unreal’s products were priced at around a 10-20% premium compared to the original brands. For example a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup costs around $1.19, while Unreal Candy’s version costs between $1.19-1.29.