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Monday, December 5, 2022
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Real Tasty

Jennifer Meyers is changing the face of snacking with her handcrafted, 100% organic, vegan, gluten free, paleo, refined-sugar free, incredibly addictive energy bars and raw organic desserts.

Originally from Harrington Park, New Jersey—a small town about 45 minutes from NYC—Jennifer Meyers is an inspiration. Turning a less than ideal health circumstance into a positive force, educating herself about the power of food, Meyers understands about turning lemons into lemonade. 

She was living in Brooklyn when COVID hit and, as was the case for most people at the time, things were extremely stressful. Acting on an urge to “get the heck out of New York City” and a feeling that the desert was calling, she booked a one way ticket to Phoenix in January of 2021. She hasn’t looked back since. 

From the moment I met Meyers and tasted her superfood confectionary creations (made without artificial flavors, additives, preservatives, or chemicals) at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market, I was hooked. Here, she shares her journey “to minimize our environmental footprint, inspire culinary creativity, and ensure our own human health by doing dessert differently,” in our tête-à-tête. 

Tell us more about what prompted your move here? 

I was messaging with an old friend, Joey Rizzo, from high school who lived in Arizona and after our extremely brief conversation, I decided to book a trip to the desert. My one week trip turned into the most magical month of my life. I fell completely head over heels in love with Joey and hiked easily 100+ miles worth of desert. I traveled to Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, Phoenix, etc. Joey took me to every part of Arizona, and I fell in love with all of it.

What were you doing leading up to founding Earth Sugar?

I was the Director of Research & Development for a plant-based innovation company called Lavva. I was working in Brooklyn in their test kitchen, helping design new food products from concept to commercialization. I always had an affinity for food, but I never saw myself as a true professional. This job was such a fantastic opportunity because I learned how damn good  I was at this!!! I was creating ideas from scratch, and I had all the tools to create. It was fantastic.

What inspired you to start Earth Sugar?

As a young kid, I grew up eating anything I wanted. Chicken fingers, pizza, hot dogs, Funyons, candy, etc. I was an Iron Horse. My grandparents owned a local grocery store so I had direct access to lots of junk and candy. When I turned 14 and transitioned into high school, my stomach started becoming an issue. I developed severe IBS and began traveling to a nutritionist to nail down my diet. They told me to go gluten free, soy free, dairy free and to only eat “whole foods.” This was in 2009, I believe, so wayyy before ~the gluten free~ movement was trending. I really hated speaking up about my dietary needs so all through high school I continued to avoid my nutritionists’ help and tried to live on with society. It wreaked havoc on my system. By the time I got to college at Penn State, I was in a really rough place. I  was so bloated, swollen and sick and had easily gained 20-25 pounds of water weight due to chronic constipation. I decided to learn absolutely everything about health and nutrition and used my time in college to completely re-write my story.

Where did you begin?

I was lucky enough to bring my car to college, so I started to take daily drives to Wegmann’s after class. I would go with a clipboard and notebook and write down everything single product I saw and started to do deep dives on gluten free research. I was studying journalism at the time so this way of approaching things was very cathartic to me. Soon enough, I was whipping up healthy meals and snacks like crazy in my apartment! I was eating avocados, lentils, making veggie burgers, and sharing recipes with my friends. I would hang out at the farmers markets and have the best time. I was training and competing in Spartan Race, and I even won 3 heats in my age group! I feel like I had hacked the code of health, and it was life changing. My connection to food was really exciting at this time.

How did you navigate the ups and downs?

After college, I landed a job at ID Public Relations in Hollywood. I was working with clients like Alicia Keys, Sam Hunt, Steve Martin, and working huge Red Carpets like the Grammys and movie premieres. It was perfect, because I am a workaholic, but it was horrible because I am a workaholic. I was 21 and working myself to the bone. My digestion pretty much crumbled due to stress. I was about 105 pounds and mostly on a liquid diet for the year I lived in Los Angeles. I began seeing a holistic doctor who taught me about the importance of raw foods, meditation, whole body health, and really just expanded my consciousness. I decided to take on the 30 day Elemental Diet for SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which consisted of me drinking a vitamin drink for 30 days without any solid food. I was so freaking skinny, it was terrifying. I remember lying down to go to sleep at night and feeling like my pulse was so slow. It was crazy. After that diet I weighed 98 pounds, and I promised myself I would stop restricting and start living. I couldn’t believe my healing was based on restriction and shrinking. I wanted my brain back, my body back, and my life back. So I started to rebuild.

Share with us a bit about that journey…

Rather than focus on “diets,” I started to focus on my connection to nature and earth based foods. I would eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, ancient grains, and just expanded my diet above and beyond any “protocol.” I spoke and got acquainted with my farmers and learned about my personal supply chain. I learned that the Earth had everything I ever needed to heal: from herbs to fruits to vegetables to mushrooms—it’s magnificent. It’s horrible that the American Standard Diet doesn’t even graze the surface.

Why was it important to create 100% organic, vegan, gluten free, paleo, refined sugar free snacks?

I use whole foods and nothing else. No chemicals, no fibers, no junk. I don’t  make food by manipulating the ingredient label or the macros. There’s not a team of 300 working on a new flavor profile, it’s me. Someone who is trying to create more happiness, health, and love in the world. I hold this standard because it produces products that make people feel good emotionally, mentally, and physically. Eating is a full body experience and to many people, it can be an intensely emotional experience. I wanted to create a safe brand people could rely on.

Where do you produce your products?

We have our own facility in Tempe, AZ where we manufacture, sell, and distribute our products ourselves!

Tell us about the making of the caramel snack cake (we can’t get enough!) …. And the energy bars…

OMG the cake is so good. I made a cake because I NEVER had a birthday cake. Also, every single poor gluten free kid is sick and tired of being served    berries after dinner. I grew up eating dry gluten free cupcakes, pound cake and all of the imposters. I wanted to make something completely new and separate from the other junk. People from all walks of life eat our cake. You    don’t have to be gluten free or vegan to enjoy my treats. They just taste GOOD. They are nutritious, delicious, and perfectly portioned so you can experience taste pleasure without the repercussions we are used to.

Do you have a favorite flavor?

Cinnamon Raisin! It tastes like French toast and smells soooo good during production. If I could design my own candle, Cinnamon Raisin is what it would smell like!

What’s new for fall?

Pumpkin Spice and Apple Pie! 

From where do you source your ingredients?

All over! We work with a lot of local vendors for our dates and berries. Our other ingredients come from various organic farms!

Share with us your sustainability practices.

Our kitchen is 100% raw—we blend, we don’t bake. We designed our own hydraulic press powered by an air compressor to smash our own bars so it’s really simple, sustainable, and efficient. We have minimal amounts of trash, don’t use any water to make our products, and our bars are shelf stable! Our products are naturally vegan as we only use fruits, nuts, and  seeds.

Tell us about your packaging…

We design all of our own graphics, and our boxes are made from recyclable materials!

Most memorable moment to date?

The first day Joey and I did a farmers’ market together. I’ve never had someone support my dreams so unconditionally. When I saw my man in action selling at the farmers market, I lost my mind. It’s incredible that we have this working relationship. He is my best friend. We hopped in the car that day, counted the cash and high-fived. We were so excited to make $800, and we had no idea where this journey would take us!

What’s next for you?

Growing and expanding! We are building our wholesale channel and doing so many more events in Arizona. It’s a really exciting time for the brand.

Where can readers find Earth Sugar?

We ship nationwide from our website www.loveearthsugar.com. Readers can use the code ‘GreenLiving’ for 10% off all orders! We also do local Arizona farmers markets on Saturdays and Sundays,  including Old Town, Gilbert, Chandler, High Street, Sedona, Flagstaff, Roadrunner, Park West, and Payson. We are also in small boutique retail stores in Arizona with distribution in New Jersey, Texas, California, and Pennsylvania!

 

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