Boston startup aims to make an impact through junk food
Boston-based Unreal's co-founder Michael Bronner says the company is out to prove that most of the junk in junk food is there for the benefit of manufacturers, not consumers.
Michael Bronner, founder of Digitas and uPromise, says his third company is on a mission to reverse some of the most troubling health trends in America. The means: a line of healthier junk food, starting with candy.
"This is the first generation in history that's not going to live as long as their parents," said Bronner, who co-founded the Boston company, Unreal, with his 15-year-old son Nicky and chef Adam Melonas.
"If you look at the stats, and nearly half of calories come from junk food, then think about what can really be done to have a material impact on these health outcomes. One of them is to get the junk out of junk food," he said.
Bronner said the company has raised funding "in the tens of millions" of dollars from investors including Khosla Ventures of California, Raptor Ventures of Boston and himself. The company said its first products are launching in 30,000 stores — including CVS, Target and BJ's — this summer, and should be in 50,000 stores by the end of the year.
The first product rollout contains five varieties of candy, including versions of M&Ms, peanut butter cups and chocolate bars that have about half the sugar and 23 percent less calories than typical brands. The candies also have no hydrogenated fats or corn syrup.
Bronner, however, said the thrust of the company is "very much not about candy."
Like uPromise, which offers a college savings service, Bronner said the new company is seeking to create social benefit through for-profit business, rather than nonprofit.
"The reason this company exists is to be a catalyst for change," he said. "The bigger metric we're using is how do we measure the change we create around us. To really impact this problem, then we have to be the motivation for the big manufacturers to change, and to get the junk out."
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