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Oct 12, 2021

Like many food and beverage entrepreneurs, Buddha Brands co-founders Chris Magnone and Mark Cigos introduced themselves to the industry as exhibitors at Natural Products Expo West. At the time, the Canadian business partners were marketing coconut water, a product they saw as an anchor for a platform of premium and clean label food and drinks aimed at addressing modern consumers’ demand for plant-based and nutritious products. 

In the years since, Buddha Brands has seen its share of hits and misses and while coconut water is no longer the company’s primary focus, the founders’ vision persists via a line of keto-friendly snack bars launched in 2020. Made with MCT oil, sunflower seeds and pea protein, the bars contain no sugar alcohols, palm oils, dairy or soy and are now available at over 1,500 natural independent retailers and grocery stores in the U.S. including nationwide at Sprouts. Buddha Brands also completed its first round of outside capital in July, adding $3 million to support retail expansion of the keto bars along with new product development.

In an interview featured in this episode, Magnone and Cigos spoke about the formation of Buddha Brands, key learnings from the brand’s U.S. debut and how they responded to adversity and innovation that fell flat. They also explained how they have navigated a challenging time for the bar category and why the timing was right to bring in new investment.

This episode also includes an interview with Jen Ballen and Joe Magliano, the co-founders of Otherworld Foods, a new company that is pursuing a positive impact on the food system by aligning locally sourced and upcycled ingredients with nostalgia-inspired products. Launched earlier this year, Otherworld markets vegan and superfood-infused pancake and waffle mixes that are currently sold direct-to-consumer. Our conversation offered a glimpse into the company’s formation, go-to-market strategy and ambitious mission.


Show notes:


0:52: Interview: Chris Magnone and Mark Cigos, Co-Founders, Buddha Brands -- Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Magnone and Cigos about the community of Canadian food and beverage entrepreneurs, how the founding team came together to form Buddha Brands and why persistence was the key to landing new retail placement. They also explained why it was a mistake to expand distribution too quickly, why the launch of an innovative coconut jerky failed to attract consumers and what they learned from the experience. Later, Magnone and Cigos discussed how the keto bars fit into their original vision for the company, how they were able to persevere amid the pandemic and why they sought non-dilutive capital for Buddha Brands’ recent funding round.

45:23: Interview: Jen Ballen and Joseph Magliano, Co-Founders, Otherworld Foods -- Ballen and Magliano sat down with Latif at Expo East 2021 and spoke about the origins of the company and how they recruited a team of world-renowned innovators and chefs to help formulate the mixes. They also discussed why they chose to launch the brand prior to having a product to sell and what they view as the biggest learning curve for early-stage entrepreneurs.

Brands in this episode: Buddha Brands, Manitoba Harvest, Mid-Day Squares, Love Good Fats, Guru Energy, Rhythm Foods, Brad’s Plant Based, The Chia Co.,  KeVita, Otherworld Foods