It’s hard to spend time with Russ Asaro and Rob Kowitt of Healthy Food Brands and not leave with a smile on your face.
The two have become the dynamic duo behind Healthy Food Brands, a company that’s probably best known for being the first to sell Angry Birds gummies and fruit snacks.
I just got back from a three-day trip to Long Island to interview them for an upcoming cover story, and I had so much fun that for a half-second I almost thought about moving out there. I mean, what’s not to love about being so close to the ocean and the Hamptons?
I first met Russ at an ECRM show almost four years ago now, back when I had just been hired at Candy Industry Magazine. He was among the first in the confectionery world to make me feel like I belonged.
Of course, that was before everyone and their daughter’s dog had downloaded Angry Birds on their smart phones, and Healthy Food Brands was still mainly hawking Sunkist gummies and sugar-free chocolate.
Within a year though, everything changed for the candymaker. Russ had been smart enough to realize that this random app involving furious fowl was going to be huge, and he had gotten the license to Angry Birds before anyone else even had time to consider making candy related to the smartphone game. Then BAM! The orders came flying in (pun intended).
All of a sudden “Russ” became “Russ and Rob,” and anytime you saw the two of them, there was a group of 30 people circling around. Their down-to-earth style mixed with the amazing success of Angry Birds gummies and fruit snacks made them the kind of friends everyone wanted.
I was genuinely happy to see their success, but I thought for sure I would fall off their radar. Or at least be relegated to that dreaded “press” category, where companies only call you when they need you to run a release.
I should have known better. Not only did Russ continue to make sure I had something fun to do at every candy show I attended, he also introduced me around to others in the industry, vouching for me the way only a New Yorker could.
So, of course, interviewing him and his partner in candy this week was a true joy.
The two let me ask all the stupid questions I wanted about wafer making and co-packaging, and they even bought this Chicago girl some genuine New York pizza for lunch and then took me and Glen Dulberg, a Candy Industry Magazine sales representative, out for a true New York steak dinner.
And even though those Angry Birds aren’t quite what they used to be, Healthy Foods Brands has continued to navigate the changes in the market with ease, most recently coming out with Candy Crush Saga candy, so all those virtual players can get their real-life fix.
Of course, they also have a few more tricks up their sleeve that I’m sure will bring them even more of the the prosperity they so richly deserve, which you can read all about in our November issue.
It’s the kind of success story that truly couldn’t happen to a nicer couple of guys.