Through our recent Halloween surprise-and-delight in which we offered our customers a complimentary assortment of better-for-you sweets with each order, Lauren (our Head of Nutrition and Community) had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with with BEHAVE founder, Mayssa Chehata. BEHAVE is a low sugar candy with quality ingredients including natural sweeteners and fibers instead of artificial, and they taste incredible.
Q: You have such an incredible career history - from working as Marketing Manager at Uber, then Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Daily Harvest, followed by Director of Business Development at SoulCycle. I would love to hear the story behind why BEHAVE was formed.
A: BEHAVE was born out of a personal love for candy during a time when I was aiming to clean up my diet and eat healthier. I was really trying to find that balance with healthy eating and indulgence. It was around the time that I joined Daily Harvest and was seeing so many healthier products. I was able to find great alternatives for so many products - from better beverage options to soda, to chickpea pasta, and dairy free ice cream. Candy was that craving I was not able to find a good replacement for, which is what perked my ears up and made me get curious about why there isn’t a healthier candy option. So I started digging more into it, learning more about the category, what products did exist and found there was a huge gap in an option that was truly low calories, low sugar, low net carb, didn’t spike blood sugar but also didn’t use artificial sweeteners (most others out there use aspartame and sugar alcohols). I knew there were lots of plant-based, natural sweeteners that no one in the candy space as using.
Ultimately, I cold emailed the incredible chef, Elizabeth Falkner and she just was really excited about the whole idea and agreed it was a real need in the market for consumers, so then we were off to the races. We started with R&D in her BK apartment!
Q: What are let’s say two or three skills or learnings from your prior job experience that have influenced your current position as the Founder at Behave?
A: Absolutely. Having worked in start ups at a number of different stages was so fundamental in allowing me to even start a company. In the start up world, every day you wake up to a problem and no predetermined solution as compared to a more corporate settings. In a start up, there’s often a problem that no one in the company has solved and you just need to find the tools, the people to go about solving it and getting to the next step. So much of starting a company (especially a food business) is getting creative, figuring out hold to solve the last problem and get to the next one.
I’d also say business development - with my background being is in brand marketing and strategic partnerships - really taught me how to cold email, use LinkedIn, build a strong network and leverage. It taught me how to negotiate and build relationships. So much of building a company is relationship-based. And lastly, working from NFL to Uber to more up and coming companies like Daily Harvest, every brand has been amazing brand with an incredible community which set the tone for the kind of business I wanted to build. It was important that it would connect with the community, and that people would want to be part of the brand's world.
Q: As an RD, I think you guys do such an incredible job accurately marketing to your consumers. You have a great visual on your site comparing BEHAVE to other candy brands when it comes to nutrition breakdown. Not only is BEHAVE a low sugar brand, but it is also a low NET CARB brand which is really the important number to look at when you’re being mindful of sugar intake. Why was that an important inclusion on your website?
A: Even in the last couple years, there have been a number of low sugar brands that have hit the market and they’re low in sugar but not low in net carbs. There has been a lot of backlash from customers because they’re keto or diabetic, so they see on the front of the pack that the product has 2, 3, 4 grams of sugar, eat a bunch and then notice their blood sugar has spiked.
Another part of the background of the company is that my father was diabetic so we didn’t have candy in the house which contributed to my sugar addiction. My dad loved candy. Once a week, he allowed himself to have one piece of candy. I was thinking how can we make a product that everyone can consume without guilt. I didn't want the consumer to eat BEHAVE and worry about blood sugar, net carbs and other aspects that can get hidden behind the low sugar, low calorie call out. Formulating a product like ours was not an easy task but we’re committed to being low net carbs and to serve that community.
Q: I would love to hear the story behind your brand working with chef Elizabeth Falkner vs food scientists. What made you do that & would you mind sharing more about the process that goes into product creation?
A: I knew from the start that we wanted to achieve these nutritional and ingredient goals, but it would be equally if not more important the product tasted amazing. It’s candy at the end of the day, not a green juice or supplement. People are turning to this product to have the moment of sweetness, to enjoy an indulgent time of the day.
I connected with food scientists at the same time as Elizabeth, and saw how a lot of the food R&D scientists approach food made me think is this the right? Is this the avenue I want to go down? They would ask things like: what do you want nutrition panel to look like? What ingredients do you absolutely want and not want to use? Then, they would excel spreadsheet their way into a formula before ever even tasting anything. I felt like this is how we get so many health foods that taste awful and that’s where I had the thought to go to a chef and use a food-driven approach. We started with the ingredients we thought we'd like to use and then after knowing it tasted good, we made sure that the nutrition panel matched up with what we were looking for. We didn't even run the nutrition panel until a couple 100 iterations in and then low and behold it was in line with what we were looking for. Chefs have such great intuition. Elizabeth has decades of experience so between her intuition and making something that tastes great, we ended up right where we wanted to be.
Q: You donate 1% of online sales. What organizations do you donate to & why did you chose these causes?
A: The reason we created the charitable give back program was two-fold. First, to donate to organizations that feel relevant in any given moment. Secondly, we can involve our community. Our community has the opportunity via our website to share what organizations they want to see BEHAVE donate too. A few examples include the Equal Justice Initiative (summer 2020), Refugee organizations (earlier this year), and Heart of Dinner.
Q: Let’s say you meet someone with a great business idea and they’re asking you for guidance. What are a few tips that standout to you to share?
A: I think the main advice would be to build a peer network. There is often advice given to get mentors, but actually the most valuable relationships to me have been people connecting with other individuals who have food and beverage companies that started around the same time as mine. The mentor can absolutely be incredible, but what I've found to be most valuable is the peer network. A few of my closer founder friends are almost like founders therapists. We check in every month on business of course, but also mental health, wellbeing.