While on a family vacation in 2012, Liberty Township resident Heather Young noticed her nieces were not eating their vegetables, something that really frustrated their mother.
She asked the children what could be done to make them want to eat the veggies, and they replied, “Make them taste like cotton candy.”
Thus was born the idea for Healthy Nation, a company that Young and her husband, Josh Young, founded to encourage healthy eating.
What is their product?
The company’s first product, and right now its only product, is Vegy Vida, a line of dipping sauces for vegetables with flavors kids like: pepperoni pizza, macaroni and cheese, ranch, bacon, garlic bread and taco. Each flavor goes best with certain vegetables. For example, the pizza flavor is best for peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes; macaroni and cheese with broccoli, cauliflower and carrots; ranch with carrots and celery.
Who created it?
Heather, who worked as a food scientist for 18 years, most recently with Erlanger-based Wild Flavors Inc. She knew how to put sauces together, she said, but the challenge was to create one with all-natural ingredients – no genetically modified ingredients, no sugar, no gluten and not much fat or calories. It took her about two years of working at her kitchen table to find the right combination.
“When you’re making a truly healthy food, you don’t have a plethora of things to use,” Josh said.
Why not just have the kids dip the veggies in ranch dressing?
Because it’s not especially good for them. Most ranch-style dressings are high in fat and use flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate, Heather said. They also use preservatives, which Vegy Vida doesn’t have.
Vegy Vida is also made from olive oil, which helps children absorb fat-soluble vitamins from their vegetables, she said.
Is anyone buying it?
Vegy Vida is in all 11 Remke Markets and selling well, Heather said. It hit the shelves in October, and 50 cases (each with six bottles of sauce) were sold that month, Josh said. Sales are picking up -- in just the first week of January, he said, 137 cases were sold.
The company is talking with other retailers, Heather said, all of whom seem very receptive.
“They have seen their customers wanting healthy products,” she added.
How much money have they put into the business?
Well over $100,000.
“We tiptoed into it in the beginning, but as we gained confidence, we decided we would go all in,” said Josh, a former food and beverage salesman. “We decided this is the idea we’re going to win with.”
The Youngs also have funding from a strategic investor that they declined to name.
Who else is involved?
The company pays Brandcraft Strategy LLC in Anderson Township to handle its marketing, branding and consumer research. Its manufacturing partner is Dominion Liquid Technologies LLC, and they store their product at Cloverleaf Cold Storage. The company itself has a large, one-room office on Russell Street in Covington.
One priority is to hire an employee with experience in sales forecasting, who can oversee the manufacturing process to make sure shelves are never empty of Vegy Vida.
“The worst thing you can do is run out of product,” Josh said.
Another priority is to hire some sales staff to call on all the relevant retailers. Also, the product’s label will be redone with pictures that give consumers a better idea of what vegetables each sauce can be used with – an idea that came from marketing research.
“It was a little hard for people to understand what it is, and what it was for,” Heather said.
Most supermarket shoppers make a buy/don’t buy decision within three seconds of picking up a product, Josh said.
Longer term, the Youngs hope to create healthy food products for adults, too. There’s not a product on a supermarket shelf that can’t be made more healthy, Josh said.
So do Heather’s nieces like the product?
“They love it. They go crazy for it,” Heather said.