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I love a good New York bagel — I like mine slightly toasted and oozing with cream cheese. Since the 17th century, bagels have been heralded as a cherished comfort food. They were believed to have magical power, and the round shape of the bagel was believed to bring good luck in childbirth.
Bagels are an indelible part of American culture, particularly in the New York area, but they also tend to get a bad rap. “Bagels tend to be very high in carbohydrates, with only small amounts of fat and protein,” says Aimee Yang, founder and CEO of BetterBrand. “At BetterBrand, we are on a mission to design better food for the future, and it all starts with the bagel.”
According to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes. That’s approximately 10.5% of the U.S. population. Growing awareness of diabetes is also propelling the growth of the diabetic food market, which is valued at $16.5 billion.
Manufacturers are spending money on research and development efforts to create low-carbohydrate and low-sugar products, which assist with controlling glucose levels in the blood. Yang and her team at BetterBrand are part of this movement to create more options for diabetics, starting with the bagel.
The BetterBrand bagel has the same net carb content as two banana slices. It has the same protein content as four eggs. And, it has the same sugar content as one stalk of celery. Its ingredients are proven to lower insulin levels, lower cholesterol and keep customers fuller, longer. It does all of the things Yang had hoped for when she set out to create it to honor her memory of enjoying Christmas morning bagels with her family.
Image credit: BetterBrand
Yang is on a mission to start a food revolution. Here are three lessons she’s learning as she builds BetterBrand:
Don’t just be a tourist
Yang credits her early career to helping her prepare for the life of an entrepreneur. “My parents immigrated from China in their 20s, both with technical backgrounds, and were more conservative, via both experience and expertise,” she says. “They told me I had to be fully prepared as an entrepreneur before I jumped into the startup world and encouraged me to build a foundation. So, I got a CPA and started my career at Ernst & Young to learn the fundamentals and understand how a company really operates.”
During her time at EY, Yang raised her hand to go and work in Bangalore, India. She credits that experience with helping her gain empathy and a greater cultural understanding of what life can look like outside the U.S. “Don’t just be a tourist,” Yang says. “Go and live and work in another country. You learn and grow so much from working with others who have a different mindset, different way of problem solving, and just have a very different view of the world that’s not just based on life in the United States. It’ll become hugely valuable as you’re constantly working with different people and distilling different opinions as a founder and entrepreneur.”
Do get emotional
Storytelling is a critical skill Yang has honed over the years. “Storytelling and analyzing data go hand in hand. You have to understand who your customer is, and what parts of the story you’re sharing resonate with them — and also to understand what’s not working and to quickly be able to course correct.”
BetterBrand’s Instagram posts are a mini master class in how to tell a powerful story and connect with consumers. Its “worse, better” campaign, also featured in an outdoor campaign in select U.S. cities, brings the brand’s proposition and story to life. A pager versus an iPhone. A fryer versus an air fryer. Plug-in headphones versus AirPods. It’s hard not to be tempted to try a BetterBrand Better Bagel after that.
Don’t get distracted
“It’s easy to get distracted as an entrepreneur,” Yang says. “Don’t get distracted by the next shiny object, stay the course. Focus on getting from point A to point B and doing that really well.” Yang points to early ideas that she had on all types of merchandising, including designs for a Better Toaster to go alongside The Better Bagel. “We were so inspired and excited to jump in and make everything ‘Better.’ At the end of the day, The Better Bagel is our hero product, and we have put our stake in the ground with it. We have to be hyper-focused on making it the most exciting customer experience and pave the way for the future of food.” And Yang’s commitment is paying off; demand and excitement for both The Better Bagel and BetterBrand has exceeded expectations.
“To us, it’s not about driving forward a product or portfolio of products, but rather inspiring a movement”, Yang says. “BetterBrand isn’t simply a food tech company. Instead, we are founded on a set of simple, yet powerful ideas. We believe unnecessary limits are meant to be broken. We believe everyone deserves to enjoy freedom and joy to the fullest. We believe a better world is possible. And we know that together, we’ll create it.”