Photo courtesy of Behave
I saw a TikTok the other day that claimed there were two types of people: those who treat candy as a treat once in a while, and those who eat it as a regular snack. Fortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to fall into the second camp. And that’s because the modern candy market is full of healthier brands that offer natural ingredients with low sugar content and even some health benefits.
You’ve probably had the opportunity to try a bag of SmartSweets erasers, or Justin’s peanut butter cups, which were among the first products to really expand ideas of what a healthier alternative might look like. But a new generation of sweet treats — from vitamin-infused chocolates to chews made from upcycled vegetables — are taking this innovation even further.
To behave, a brand founded by Mayssa Chehata, not only offers better-for-you versions of existing candies, but also introduces flavors that have yet to hit the candy aisle. The brand’s gummy bears, for example, come in flavors like lychee and passion fruit, while its tangy stars are made with pink pineapple.
Chehata, who developed her business acumen at a health food start-up Daily harvest, has always had a sweet tooth. “I think it might be okay for a while, but it eventually catches up to you,” she says. “I was looking to create a product that was low in sugar, low in net carbs, and very strong from a macro-nutritional standpoint, but also didn’t use any artificial ingredients.”
She quickly collaborated with celebrities chief Elizabeth Falkner, specializing in pastry. “I think there are natural food categories where you can kind of get away with a grass-flavored product,” says Chehata. “But I knew if we were going to disrupt the sweets, they had to be as good as what people are used to, because at the end of the day, it’s still an indulgence.” Falkner, immediately energized by the idea, invited Chehata into the kitchen of her Brooklyn apartment. Before they know it, the gummy bear is born.
The neon packaging features simple and bold typography, which is sure to grab anyone’s attention at checkout. Chehata wanted to make sure the packaging spoke to an adult consumer. “Walking down the candy aisles, what really stood out to me was the number of brands that catered to children. The mascots as cartoon characters, the color combinations, the messages, the language used, it all seemed very kid-friendly,” Chehata says. “But the truth is that all purchasing decisions are made by adults, and in fact, a lot of candy consumption is also made by adults. .”
Better-for-you candy brands like Behave have a higher price tag. Six bags of Pink Pineapple Sour Stars, for example, cost $30. But Chehata explains that such pricing is necessary to maintain high values for a product. “We sweeten our products with very high quality natural sweeteners such as vegetable fibres, allulose and monk fruit. Our gelatin is the cleanest gelatin you can find on the market, completely kosher and grass-fed. Chehata hopes that once the business continues to grow, she can make the product more affordable.
The message behind Behave balances a fine line between embracing good-for-you ingredients and getting into diet culture territory. “We’ve been really careful to create a brand that’s focused on abundance and joy and more, rather than less and restricting and removing certain things,” Chehata says. “Why not have two bags or three bags, because you don’t have to restrict yourself.”
It’s healthy eating — not restrictions — that resonates with Gen Z and a younger Gen Y audience. “Gen Z is probably the first generation to come into a world where they don’t don’t necessarily have to to learn sustainability, the benefits of holistic food, cleaner food and less processed products,” says Chehata. “As a brand, you almost don’t even have to jump that educational hurdle. I think it’s just very ingrained in the way they eat and consume in general.
As a Gen Z (barely crossing the line), I’ve tested a number of best-for-you candy brands to help (safely) satisfy your next sugar craving. These are the ones that tasted just as good, if not better, than the real deal.
Grabbing a Gigantic bar is like hitting the jackpot on Halloween – they’re full-size bars with delightfully nostalgic packaging. They’re also plant-based, gluten-free, contain just seven grams of sugar, and are made with Fair Trade chocolate. Simple, healthy ingredients like Madagascar vanilla, almond butter and coconut milk replace artificial additives. Flavors include Salted Peanut, Hazelnut Coffee, Almond Horchata, Banana Pecan, and Limited Edition Double Dark Mint. My favorite was the almond horchata – a perfectly cinnamon flavor you don’t often see represented in candy bars. These bars have such a great bite, with gooey caramel and toasted nuts.
A really great idea. After a trip to the Global Seed Vault in Norway, founders Amy Keller, Kevin Wall and Susan Smalley developed a product that eliminates food waste, turning imperfect produce into nutrient-dense candies. Each pack of 12 gummies (which come in strawberry and grape varieties) offers one serving of fruits and vegetables: half a beetroot, a carrot, a slice of pumpkin, a slice of sweet potato, and a slice of squash. I tasted Faves rather blindly, under the impression that it was just a healthier version of Starburst, and had no idea it had veggies in it until I read the back of the bag. They have a very strong and naturally fruity taste, contain a perfectly chewy texture and are, above all, good for the planet.
These are vitamin M&M’s. Sourse claims chocolate, a prebiotic, is an even better delivery system than gummies or pills because the nutrients are able to bypass your digestive system entirely, resulting in 90% absorption. You have Glow Bites for plant collagen, Hype Bites for vitamin B12, Mood Bites for saffron and vitamin D, and Beauty Bites for biotin. I don’t know if these chocolates had any effect on my skin, energy, mood or hair, but I really enjoyed the ritual of having a few after meals to satisfy my craving for something sweet. They’re so much better than your average M&Ms because one, they’re bigger, and two, they’re made with fair trade dark chocolate. My only complaint is that you have to limit yourself to two of each type per day, because after all, they are supplements.
True to Chehata’s idea of abundance, each bag of Behave feels like a big batch of snacks. The erasers may be small, but there are plenty of them, giving you the opportunity to really take your time indulging yourself. The texture of the bears and stars is comparable to your standard Haribo, but the flavors are truly unique. These candies have a natural and subtle fruit flavor, not sweet or sour. Chehata plans to release even more new flavors in 2022, and I can’t wait.
Lily’s Sweets has been around for a while now, but founder Cynthia Tice continues to innovate with new offerings. My favorites are dark chocolate chips, which I nibble straight from the bag. I love that they’re miniature, and because they’re made for baking, they have the perfect crunch. Lily’s chocolates, including chocolate bars and peanut butter cups, are Fair Trade Certified, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, and No Sugar Added. And just a few months ago, Lily’s released Gummy Bears and Sour Gummy Worms, which contain less than a gram of sugar per bag and come in flavors like Apple-Peach and Lemon-Raspberry.