Better Brand's Aimee Yang is on a mission to reinvent the bagel by removing refined carbs

Starting with bagels, Aimee Yang and her food tech business Better Brand are calling time on refined carbs.

Better Brand's bagels contain 90% fewer carbs and twice as much protein compared to a traditional bagel. (Photo: Thingtesting)
FOUNDER INTERVIEW

In March of this year, Aimee Yang launched her first product. It looked like a bagel, it tasted like a bagel, and it even crisped up in the toaster like a bagel. But inside, things are a bit different. 

Her future of food company, Better Brand, has developed a recipe that contains about 90% fewer carbs and twice as much protein as a regular bagel. This newfangled bagel might look like one you’ve seen before, but Yang says it won’t leave you with the same sugar rush.

She got the idea while studying for her MBA at Wharton. “I was always on this cycle of wanting to eat something, then feeling guilty if I did or deprived if I didn’t. It consumed so much of my mind,” she says.

Better Brand’s mission, she explains, is to relieve people of that guilt altogether. She’s starting with the bagel, but the real battle is tackling refined carbs as a whole. The next product launches in the pipeline include hamburger buns and more flavors of the bagel.

Does the bagel need reinventing?

A food revolution is currently taking place, with many direct-to-consumer brands trying to figure out how tech can help us eat better and live healthier lives with what we decide to digest. Juicy Marbles, as an example, has engineered a new kind of machine that can grind plants into a realistic-looking filet mignon, Simulate is coming out with “software updates” for its vegan chicken nuggets, and Stockeld Dreamery is testing out different fermentation processes to turn beans and peas into chunks of cheese.

It’s now estimated that plant-based proteins will be a $150 billion market by 2030, but Yang says those racing to replace animal meats are missing an even bigger opportunity.

“Refined carbs is a $10 trillion industry, and meat is a $1.6 trillion industry,” she explains, adding that by those calculations, a company like Better Brand could end up being “multitudes larger” than the Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods of this world.

Investors are on board with this ambition. In February, Yang raised $1.2 million in a funding round led by VERSO Capital, a firm which has previously invested in Impossible and Eat Just, a startup developing egg-like proteins. The round made Yang the first ever American woman to raise over $1 million for a pre-seed stage business in food and beverage. Just eight months later, in October, the company raised another $2.5 million, this time from Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian's fund, Seven Seven Six.

Yang says Better Brand spent six months working with a lab to create a new kind of bagel dough that “if you took to any other bakery, no one would have any idea of what to do with it because it needs to be processed so differently.” 

The details are a trade secret, but Yang does say that it uses enzyme technology to make the texture and taste as similar to a regular bagel as possible. 

“Guilt-free” or guilt reinforcing?

Better Brand’s biggest sell is that, by using tech advancements to get rid of refined carbs, people can not only have their cake (or bagel) and eat it too, but also not worry about the calories afterward.

It’s a concept that is likely to provoke strong reactions. After decades of messaging around “good” and “bad” foods, consumers have grown rightly skeptical of labels like “guilt-free” on various food marketing.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 17% of people are on a diet at any given time. But despite the number of weight loss plans and products marketed to the population, obesity rates are rising.

While Better Brand does talk about “less carbs” and make comparisons to traditional (read: miserable) health foods like celery sticks, Yang argues its products could actually help people break these patterns.

Refined carbs in particular, which cause blood sugar spikes that can lead to overeating, are the biggest culprit when it comes to America’s difficult relationship with healthy eating, Yang says.

“[People] do spend a lot of time thinking ‘should I eat this?’, and compromising in so many different ways,” she says. "This is about creating a world where you don’t need to diet, and you can eat what you want,” she says. “It’s about ridding yourself of the guilt — you can eat the food. It’s not bad for you.”

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