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NOSH Live Pitch Slam 7: Know Brainer Outsmarts Competition with Keto Marshmallows

Beth Kaiserman

The future may be less sweet, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. Ketogenic brand Know Brainer won the NOSH Live Winter 2019 Pitch Slam for MaxMallow, its new line of sugar-free, ketogenic marshmallows.

As in previous years, this edition of Pitch Slam invited brands to pitch their product and field questions from a panel of judges in quick seven-minute rounds. The prize was a $10,000 advertising package.

Pitch Slam competitors included frozen plant-based brand Eat Nice Foods, which produces vegan comfort food like ravioli; Armenian yogurt dip brand Sosi’s Healthy Pleasures; allergen-free salsa and dip brand Zubi’s; CBD chocolate and tincture brand Vital Leaf and upcycled chip brand Pulp Pantry.

Sitting on the judges’ panel was Gail Becker, founder and CEO of Caulipower and Vegolutionary Foods; Pete Speranza, Business Development Principal at 301 Inc.; Katie Paul, VP of Category Management and growth solutions at KeHE Distributors; and David Lafferty, senior global grocery coordinator at Whole Foods Market. The judges evaluated each on product elements such as pack design and ingredient callouts, as well as considering other aspects of the company, such as team building.

“We were looking for category disruptors — things that haven’t been thought of before,” Becker explained. “Things that spoke to you off the shelf. It’s a very crowded store and social world. To capture [an] eye and imagination in 3.2 seconds is a real challenge and incredibly important.”

The judges were in agreement that Know Brainer has done just that. The brand’s marshmallow line launched just this fall and is the first of its kind, founder and CEO Shari Leidich told NOSH. Packaging played a big role in the judges’ deliberations: MaxMallow’s bright, bubbly design features clear callouts for sugar-free and added MCT oil and collagen for healthy fats and protein, Paul said. Taste, of course, played a role too.

“The taste and texture is amazing, and for being zero sugar it stood out to us,” she said.

Know Brainer began in 2016 with organic ketogenic butter creamers and instant drinks — said to boost energy for the brain and body — before launching ‘snackworthy marshmallows’ this fall in Mint Chip, Burnt Caramel, Classic Vanilla, Cinnamon Toast, Golden Milk and Lightning Vanilla, a SKU with added caffeine. The marshmallows work for snacking or as a coffee condiment, she explained. Leidich previously launched raw, sprouted brand Two Moms in the Raw after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In managing her diet, she found healthy fats and protein played a critical role.

Leidich noted in her pitch that sugar-free is one of the fastest growing categories in non-chocolate candies, expected to reach $11 billion by 2020. MaxMallow is already in 100 stores and online and will launch on Amazon in a few weeks; Leidich said the brand is also developing a vegan-friendly SKU as well as a s’mores flavored variety and has seen traction across demographics, from keto consumers to kids.

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