Even for entrepreneurs with plenty of resources, tradeoffs are usually a way of life: What’s great for the bottom line isn’t good for the environment. Aim for ultrahealthful and you’ll rarely get delicious, too. At some point, you must make compromises–this or that, because rarely can you do both. Daniel Lubetzky founded Kind Healthy Snacks using a different approach: He replaced the word or with the word and.
Like many an entrepreneur, Daniel Lubetzky saw a problem and decided to fix it. Most snack and energy bars, he thought, looked (and tasted) like heavily processed slabs of unrecognizable ingredients. It didn’t have to be that way.
Instead of letting assumptions steer him into making compromises (“or” decisions), he set out to accomplish a number of “and” goals with his products: healthful, tasty, convenient, profitable, and purpose driven. Following Lubetzky’s “and” philosophy, sales of Kind’s fruit and nut bars have gone from $1 million in 2004 to more than $125 million in 2012. He says the bars’ tag line (“Do the kind thing”) has inspired customers to log more than 340,000 acts of unexpected “kindness” on the company’s website. Lubetzky calls it a product line without compromises.
Well, good for him, you say. It doesn’t work so conveniently for entrepreneurs in the real world, right? Well, sticking to his principles wasn’t so easy for Lubetzky in the beginning, either.
Or rather than and is an easy trap to fall into because of the way the brain relies on mental shortcuts to make quick decisions–what psychologists call heuristics. Sometimes the assumptions built into those shortcuts are valid, and sometimes they’re not. (When they’re not, they can create opportunities for entrepreneurs.)
When Lubetzky decided to create low-sugar bars, he assumed he would have to make compromises–either use sugar alcohols, which can cause digestive discomfort, or artificial sweeteners.
So Kind experimented with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and chili, and finally found its low-sugar flavor combinations. A year ago, Lubetzky’s team had a different challenge: how to make chewy and crunchy granola bars, a seemingly contradictory goal. They solved the problem with better and more expensive packaging to seal in the precise texture.
Kind bars just released six mini-size snack bars. Each contains 100 calories or less, and more protein and fiber than many reduced-portion cookie, chips, or cracker options. Every single flavor also contains either dark chocolate or caramel–sometimes both.
Kind Minis are basically halved versions of already existing Kind bars. While the company offers different styles of fruit and nut bars, Kind founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky says the new line is focused to attract customers who are choosing between popular smaller packs of Chips Ahoy!, and Cheez-its. Minis flavors include two of Kind’s best sellers: Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, and Carmel Almonds & Sea Salt, along with other flavors featuring peanut butter, cherries, and coconuts.
The Minis are also hitting shelves at an interesting time: In recent years, the company won a dispute with the FDA about its healthful product claims, and has proactively reformulated some flavors to avoid other kinds of criticism.
The little bars have between 5 and 8 grams of fat, but most of it is the good kind of fat–polyunsaturated or monounsaturated–from several core ingredients: almonds, cashews, and peanuts. That’s a distinction that Kind fought over before: In March 2015, the FDA issued the company a warning letter for using the term “healthy” on the back of its wrappers because, according to guidelines at the time, snack foods with more than 3 grams of total fat or 1 gram of saturated fat weren’t allowed to make that claim.
Those guidelines were about 20 years old and didn’t include modern dietary science. So Kind pushed back, filing a citizen petition that urged the agency to update its regulations. In May 2016, the FDA agreed and said the company could continue using the term. It is now working to revise its guidelines.
The typical Kind Mini has between 3 and 6 grams of total sugar, at least half or more of which is added. But that added sugar is printed right on the package, part of a shift toward broader transparency that Kind began in August 2016, well ahead of an FDA mandate that will eventually become a standard requirement for all food labels.
Every founder at some point believes he or she faces an impossible balancing act–a choice between quality and profit, or business goals and social impact. But if you focus on the long-term impact of a decision, you may find it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice.
Check out my related post: How to move the tummy and soul?