Aimee Yang is tired of the word "guilty" being associated with things that are pleasurable to eat, so she built a company to improve consumers' choices.
Her company, Better Brand, is preparing its first launch: the low-carb Better Bagel, which looks like a regular bagel, but has five net carbohydrates — the same as half of an orange or two banana slices. It will become available on the company's website this week.
"A lot of this stems from my personal pain points around diet and healthy eating," Yang, the company's CEO, said. "...I was always going back and forth in the cycle of, 'Should I eat this? Maybe it's not good for me, but I want to.' And then if I did, then I'd feel super guilty, and then if I didn't, I would feel deprived."
Yang's company has used ingredient innovation and food science to get around this mental argument. Better Bagels are made with ingredients that undergo a proprietary process using enzymes to transform high-carbohydrate items. Better Bagels contain no wheat flour, but are made with ingredients including modified wheat starch, wheat protein isolate, chicory root fiber and potato starch. A single bagel has 27 grams of dietary fiber — 96% of the recommended daily intake on a Nutrition Facts label.
Investors — both institutional and famous — have put their money behind Yang's company. In February, Better Brand closed a $1.2 million funding round led by VERSO Capital. Legal services company Cooley also participated in this round, according to Crunchbase. Other notable investors include Wendy's heir Sean Thomas, actress Emmy Rossum and Venture for America CEO Dorie Smith.
Yang said the company has its focus on disrupting the $8 trillion refined carbs market, but is starting with bagels.
"We really thought that by making the most carb-heavy food ... [the carbohydrate equivalent of] two slices of banana, then that really allows us to put our stake in the ground as a leading innovator in the refined carbohydrates space," she said.
How can a baked good that looks and tastes like a bagel become low carb?
According to the company, the answer is its proprietary "grain-changing technology," a term that Better Brand has trademarked. In an email, Yang said Better Brand worked with outside experts to figure out how, through enzymes and processing, to formulate ingredients that have fewer total carbohydrates but provide the texture, function and taste of a bagel. Yang wrote she worked with four global leaders in ingredient production to develop the initial bagel. Put together, she said, the R&D teams had more than 200 years of experience.
"We also have, similarly, a very uniquely designed process to allow us to get the food to be the higher caliber and quality," Yang said, "and everything from proofing to mixing to cutting, kettling, baking ... involved to get us there."
"A lot of this stems from my personal pain points around diet and healthy eating. ... It was so, so consuming for me."
Founder and CEO, Better Brand
Keeping the end product clean label has been important to Better Brand, Yang said. While the Better Bagel is vastly different from what consumers are used to, all of its ingredients are recognizable to consumers, she said. And, the bagels are paleo friendly and made with non-GMO ingredients.
Yang said in an email that Better Brand has been working with master bakers — including Matthew McDonald, bakery director at artisan Southern California bakery LA Hearth and former director of culinary innovation at Aryzta — to develop and enhance the production process. She added that the majority of the $1.2 million raised in Better Brand's seed round will be allocated toward R&D, and building what she described as "Better Labs."
While the bagels will be getting to some stores this month and available for direct orders from Better Brand's website, Yang said there are plans to make them more widely distributed, and introduce them to some foodservice areas. This should happen closer to the fall, she said.
Better Brand also has more innovations in the pipeline, Yang said, with other products launching soon.
According to Yang there has been a lot of enthusiasm for Better Brand and its products — even though the company has nothing on the market just yet. With several prominent investors already, Yang said it shows the need for baked goods that are both tasty and not loaded with carbohydrates. It also shows confidence in using technology to transform food, she said. Yang said Better Brand has moved past what she called the existing industry's "predispositions of what has to be" in the baked goods space.
"Traditionally, the [way the] large CPG companies operate, they're just not focused on innovation. Rather, it's more of a focus on existing products," Yang said. "...But that opens this huge white space for us to really come in as newcomers. Some people think differently."