One of the hard parts of being an adult — and there are many — is that gummies are no longer considered an acceptable afternoon snack. But today Journey Foods is unveiling a sort of reimagination of the fruit snack; one which is packed with nutrients and also promotes biodiversity.

The Chicago-based startup launched about 18 months ago, though the inspiration goes back much further. Founder and CEO Riana Lynn, who had previously started a food traceability company and served as an entrepreneur in residence at Google, got the idea for Journey Foods after she spent a stint traveling around the world. Inspired by the widespread biodiversity she saw (and tasted), Lynn decided to bring some of her most nutrient-rich findings — like baobab and seaweed — back to the U.S. and transform them into healthy snacks. 

The first product is the aforementioned fruit snacks, which Lynn calls “Micro-Foods.” Not only does that sound more legit than “gummy candy,” the name also communicates the caliber of nutrition research and technology that goes into Journey Foods’ products. “We are more of a hybrid biotech/CPG company,” Lynn told me over the phone. “I guess you could just call it food tech.”

Tech indeed. The company has three patents pending on the nutrition biotech that powers their products. They’re also testing out different sugar technologies, so people with dietary restrictions can still eat the Micro Foods.

The fruit chews, which come in Strawberry Chia Seed and Mango and Cayenne Spice, cost less than $1.50 per single-serve pack, which is slightly more expensive than many natural fruit snacks — but not much. “We’re really focused on accessibility,” Lynn told me. Journey Foods will make the bulk of their money from B2B sales and custom product creation for big CPG companies.

As of now, the Micro-Foods are available on Amazon and the Journey Foods website, and are being tested in 80 retail locations around the country. They’re also in a variety of corporate offices, and Lynn told me they’ll debut the Micro-Foods in select hospitals later this year.

Journey Foods also has a B2B product development tool called JourneyAI. It’s essentially an AI-powered database that helps the startup identify and catalog ingredients which could be used to make nutrient-dense foods, speeding up the trial and error of product R&D with their third-party CPG partners.

Journey Foods’ chews take advantage of a few food trends in one fell swoop. First of all, they’re capitalizing off of growing consumer demand for healthier foods, specifically snack foods. The global healthy snacks market was valued at more than $23 billion in 2018, according to Grand View Research, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Consumers are also getting more adventurous in their snacking, looking for new, exotic flavors. Finally, adding the buzzword “biodiversity” to their marketing, legit as it is, could help Journey Foods capture more ethically-motived consumers.

The decision to target B2B partners is also a smart play, specifically in hospitals and tech company offices. At the former, the Micro-Foods could help patients, specifically kids, get the nutrients they need. And at tech offices, which are renowned for their gigantic snack walls, Journey Foods can offer a healthier alternative to, say, gummy bears.

Lynn told me that next, Journey Foods will add new flavors to its lineup of Micro Foods products, incorporating ingredients like marine greens, probiotics, and vegetables. Down the road, the company will launch new nutrient-dense products outside the gummy realm. Journey Foods is currently in the midst of a fundraising round, with participation from Backstage Capital and other VC firms. The startup was also the first chosen to join the Soylent Innovation Lab earlier this month and was awarded a $15,000 grant and office space in L.A. Hopefully that translates into a lot more gummy chews that we don’t have to feel guilty about.

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