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Rob Wunder: Green Willy Wonka
How can candy satisfy your kids' sweet tooth—and your strict standards?
Rob Wunder, co-founder of Yummy Earth, tells us how.
How'd you become interested in candy making?
My friend Sergio was feeding rice pudding to my 15-month-old, Jonah, and we imagined that soon he'd
begin asking for candy. We dreamt aloud of inventing an organic lollipop that tasted so good our children
would ask for it instead of 'chemical candy'—with all that artificial garbage. We spent months developing a
recipe and perfecting the production process; two years later YummyEarth candies are selling out in
thousands of stores nationwide and in 20 countries. Apparently, a few other parents also feel the same way!
What's in your lollipops and candies?
Wanting the very best ingredients for our children, Jonah and Rose, Sergio and I chose organic. But we took
it a step further, sourcing our ingredients from around the world to use which we feel are best in class. Citric
acid made from Israeli sugar beets instead of genetically modified corn; bright red coloring from purple
carrots instead of artificial red dye; real pomegranate extract for our Pomegranate Pucker lollipops and
candy drops. Organic pumpkin and black currant is also used to create the vibrant colors. We really have fun
with the recipes and truly make the candy for our children and families first—we aim to wow them.
What does conventional candy contain that we might not be aware of—what are we really feeding our
Food manufacturer executives are going to have to stand before Congress someday (like the big tobacco
execs did) to explain the thought process behind putting high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners,
artificial colors, artificial flavors, and other junk into their foods. Many of them label their products 'All Natural'
because there is apparently no regulation preventing them! Parents haplessly put this stuff into their
children's mouths all the time, so they're generally thrilled to find an alternative like ours that their kids truly
love to eat.
What sets your candy apart from the rest?
Taste. People assume YummyEarth will taste like health food, but our tart, delicious flavors make them
jump for joy. We also have a huge allergy following. Families often struggle with allergy problems—not
being able to find treats that allow their kids to feel 'normal.' We hear that word a lot. It's uplifting to us when
we hear that YummyEarth is usually the only candy they can have—whether it's an autistic child with a
severely restricted diet or someone with intolerance to corn, gluten, or artificial colors. Nothing gives us
greater happiness than YummyEarth being their lollipop.
Are your candies actually good for kids?
Funny you should ask that. Our sour apple tart flavor is colored with wheat grass juice. We tested the
lollipop for nutrients and found that the wheat grass juice nutrients survive the process (we stopped using
this fabulous ingredient in October 2008 because it concerned gluten free people that were still concerned
even after it tested as gluten free). Some of our lollipops will soon feature Organic Acerola Berries, a South
American fruit rich in Vitamin C. But we're not trying to be a health food, just a healthy alternative to what our
kids want to eat: candy.
Which sugar substitute works—and tastes—best?
We use a raw organic brown sugar called organic evaporated cane juice. It's unprocessed and better for
you than white sugar and chemical substitutes—why put that stuff in your body? We also make our candies
and lollipops small so kids don't get a sugar rush—each contains only about 22 calories.
How do you come up with new flavors?
We listen to phone calls and email from kids, moms, and dads and try to make the flavors they want. We
also try to come up with unusual combos, such as Blood Orange Cocktail and Chili Mango Mambo.
Did you experience any "eco-conflicts" in manufacturing?
We're not big fans of packaging, for example, we love selling bulk-size bags on Amazon.com because less
packaging is consumed. But the reality we faced when offering YummyEarth in stores is that consumers
aren't looking for a plain brown sack of lollipops—and stores won't put it on their shelves, either—so we had
to use something if we wanted to sell to more than just a few people at a farmer's market. Today all of our
packaging is reusable or re-sealable. One challenge we confronted was from our corn-sensitive fans, who
have kept a steady drumbeat of requests against using [biodegradable] corn-based wrappers. These would
be more eco-friendly, but ours is the only candy they can eat because it contains no corn products. We
chose them and their plight over using a corn-based wrapper. Not an easy decision, but a personally
rewarding one when we get their feedback.
Looking at the runaway success of Yummy Earth, there seems to be a high demand for natural candies,
yet there are relatively few on the market. Do you see the trend toward natural and organic sweets
increasing in the near future?
I do see a trend in that direction, but I see large corporations making only half-hearted attempts—as their
main goal is to make a label claim, not to actually use the best ingredients to produce something good for
your family. In the natural food world, it's always been a challenge to make healthy food taste great. I truly
hope that our success can serve as a model for others to create delicious candy that you'll want first for its
taste, not just because it's good for you.
You mentioned that these sweets are the only ones you could get "mom approved" for your kids. Are
they allowed any other candies or chocolate?
Both my and Sergio's wives are pretty strict about what goes into our children's mouths—as are many
moms today. We review ingredients—they're allowed to eat our candy as well as organic chocolate we feel
comfortable with. At first, it wasn't easy saying no, but they learned quickly. Jonah will ask, 'Is this made of
garbage?' If we say 'Yes' he just puts it back and says, 'Yuck!' But I don't know how easy it would be if we had
no delicious alternative for him.
Do you and your family eat organic and natural foods?
It's not hard to eat organic or natural foods—it's much more of a challenge to be a vegan or kosher. Most
restaurants serve salads, steak, chicken, eggs, and cheese. It may not always be organic, but it's easy to
avoid fast food and chemicals in your food at the supermarket or restaurants. It just takes a little extra effort
and you get paid back in great health dividends.
Have you and your wife ever had an eco-fight?
My wife and Sergio's wife went to Cornell University, located in the heart of the uncommonly green town of
Ithaca, New York. It's become one of my favorite places on earth. My wife has influenced me tremendously
and I gladly lose every eco-fight we have. Sergio grew up in Mexico City and loves the earth and trees and
plants as his friends and extended family. He grows many fruits at his house and smiles most when under
a tree with his family. They are both my inspiration.
What would you say is your biggest eco-chore?
Separating and managing recyclables. I've never been a fan of taking out the garbage, but today the process
has been elevated to an art form!
Is there any food you wish were green but isn't?
I wish hot dogs in Central Park were made of something good.
|"the best lollipop
I've ever tasted"
Phil Lempert - TODAY
SHOW Food Editor
support @ yumearth.com
Sergio and I, two dads with young children, founded YumEarth out of our commitment to feed our families a
diet rich in delicious healthful foods free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes.
We believe YumEarth tastes better because we choose real fruit extracts and planet friendly ingredients
grown on sustainable family farms to sweeten our lives and yours...and because we love spectacular flavor
and hand craft all our flavors to make them all tart and bright and delicious!
YumEarth treats are made with all-natural ingredients, no artificial colors or artificial dyes, no gluten, no
peanuts, and no tree-nuts, just award winning taste. YumEarth organic lollipops and organic drops are
kosher parve as well. Learn more about our ingredients and please shop locally at these stores, at
iherb.com if you live outside of the US or right here at our online store.
Thank you from Rob and Sergio!
"My mom and I LOVE the lollipops." Molly, 12 years old
"Yummy Earth pops are the only pops I trust." Jessica
Fundraising: "when my class made a sale in school we sold organic lollypops because our principal
doesn't let sugar snacks and we only had 500 to sell and they all sold in 15 minutes. We ordered another
900 pops because kids are still requesting them." Rickles
8 Year Old's Favorite! "Thought you'd like to hear what my 8-year-old daughter said when we picked up our
monthly bag of lollipops. "You know why these are so good, Mommy? When you get a little on your lip and
then lick it off, it kind of sparkles on your lips. You know, Mommy, it's not like those...kind of...oh, the ones that
you think are going to taste so good but they really only taste like really super sweet and they all taste like
really weird cherry." Her favorite flavor in the assortment bag so far is: pomegranate!"
"You guys are awesome -- I just think it's great to see people care about our little ones and want to change
the way people think about what we feed them. My three little ones LIVE for these lollipops and I gladly give
them one (or two) each day. I will continue to tell everyone what a great product you have and what a great
company you are. Thanks so much!" Jennifer
"Trick or Treat without the tricks":
We went trick or treating last night! Our two toddlers collect over 6 pounds of candy in an hour and half. I told
my 22 month old son Kayan (aka kaiboo) to pick one to keep, the rest is going bye-bye. He marched around
the candy several times, but wouldn't pick any, despite his Grammy chanting "chocolate, chocolate". He just
left and then came back with his dinosaur and circled again, not choosing any candy. I pulled two of our
organic YumEarth Vitamin C suckers out of the pantry and secretly added them into the group of candies. He
marched around and went straight for the vitamin c sucker. What a proud moment indeed! I absolutely love
that he loves them and made such a wise choice ;)
I cried in line - allergy mom:
I just wanted to write and tell you "THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!". I cried in line at Toys R Us because I was
going to be able to give my multi-allergic son his first lollipop! YEAH! He cannot eat casein, whey, wheat,
eggs, and peanuts so you can imagine what difficulty I have trying to find some treats for him to have when
other kids are having theirs. He absolutely loves them and so does my daughter who has no food allergies
but says "these are the best lollipops ever mom!" Thank you for making my kids smile and for making my
heart melt every time I give these awesome organic lollipops to them. Bless you Yummy Earth, each and
every one of you!" Melissa
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