Ask Ashley Paterson—founder of the plant-based, low-sugar gummy candy company Healthy Hippo Naturals—to tell you about Monk Fruit and you’ll experience pure enthusiasm. Monk Fruit Juice Concentrate is the only sweetener used in Healthy Hippo Naturals and after a run down from Ashley, you’ll understand why.
“Monk Fruit? I could go off! I discovered it over a decade ago and loved the fact that it had such a clean profile with no lingering aftertaste like stevia can have. A little goes a long way with this natural sweetener! It’s a melon-like fruit from Southeast Asia that’s used for its anti-inflammatory properties in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It also doesn’t cause any digestive issues like Stevia and Sugar Alcohols can. A lot of people don’t know that stevia is actually part of the ragweed family, which 15-20% of people in North America have an allergy to.”
Ashley comes from entrepreneurial blood—her mother is Kimberly Chamberland, Founder of Big Mountain Foods—and she always knew she wanted to start her own brand, but it had to be the right idea. A few years ago, she recognized a gap in the market for better-for-you candy and her “gut instincts and sweet tooth” told her that Monk Fruit was the answer.
But the road to launching involved the “unexpected three years of product development.” Why did it take so long to create the candy?
“There were a lot of non-negotiables. I wanted great texture, something that didn’t stick to your teeth. It had to make you feel good—no upset tummies. The ingredients had to be premium and non-GMO compliant. There were a lot of parameters, and that meant a lot of trial and error.”
Of course, as with all food brands, scaling up was a complex challenge as well. “Operating in a kitchen versus large commercial machinery is obviously very different. It took a year of booking pilot trials. It took 12-hour days. But we got there.”
In February 2022, Healthy Hippo was off to the races with a “great broker” who gave the brand a lot of momentum. In fact, the Monk Fruit-repping gummies are already carried by Whole Foods a gigantic coup for any health-conscious brand.
Ashley’s ambitions aren’t cooling off though. Her goal is for Healthy Hippo to be the trusted better-for-you household brand. She’s working with her brokers in both Canada and the US to gain more distribution in grocery stores. To that end, she worked with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) (who already made her folding cartons packaging) to create a show-stopping digitally printed point of purchase floor display for retail.
“I love how it looks! It’s key to increasing visibility as we build awareness, especially for our ‘back to school’ push. It’s fully covered with our brand and callouts that explain our benefits. In one Famous Foods store where we tested it, it was placed right by checkout and our product was flying off the shelves. When we take it to trade shows, buyers always stop, point at it, and say, ‘How about those? Can we get those?’”
As Healthy Hippos grows—which seems like an inevitability at this point—so does their positive impact. This brand is committed to sustainability like few others are. In fact, they have found a way to operate in a carbon neutral way. This means they do not contribute more carbon emissions than they offset.
“We partnered with the organization PlanetFwd to understand exactly what our impact on the planet was and how we could reduce it. And then we began purchasing high-quality offsets to become carbon neutral.”
As sustainability is one of GLBC’s core values as well, this is a partnership that feels great. As Healthy Hippos continue to fly off the shelves on their rise to household name status, we’re so proud to be supporting them.