Podcast

Why Connor Young Built The Natural Meal Replacement Ample

20 Minute Fitness Episode #80

In today’s episode we have Connor Young, the founder of Ample Foods, who doesn’t really fit the norm of most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Why? Simply because Connor and his team actively promote a much healthier way of living, in which you actually make sure your body gets all the essential nutrients it needs no matter how many days you have until your MVP roll-out or how many VCs you’re pitching that day.

Listen to this week’s episode to hear the first half of our interview with Connor that focuses on Ample Foods, their magical food replacements that taste like heaven and Connor’s definitely not boring journey through various health & fitness sectors.

And two weeks from now, you’ll get a chance to listen to the second half of the interview where we dig deeper into all things nutrition.

Three Things You Will Learn

1) What Is Ample & Who Is It For

Connor founded Ample with a simple goal in mind: to solve the issue of living a health conscious life next to a busy schedule.

Unfortunately as life gets faster, our schedules get tighter, but the number of hours in a day remain the same, sometimes our diets suffer the consequences. Which is what Connor’s friends experienced as well, when they started to bug him for a solution. 

As he couldn’t find a reasonable solution that was already on the market, he decided to create one. And this is how Ample was born. Ample is a meal replacement that includes your optimal nutrition in powder form packed into a very minimalistic plastic bottle. All you have to do is add some water, shake it up and enjoy not just a healthy and nutritious, but also very tasty meal.

You can get Ample in 3 different versions. The OG, which is higher in protein, is for anyone and everyone. Ample V, the plant-based version, is for all vegans or those who are lactose intolerant. And Ample K is for people following a Keto diet and looking for something very low in carbs. 

Press play to learn more about the difference between Ample and other meal replacement companies. And of course to decide which of the 3 Ample versions should be your next “emergency meal”!

2) The Path From CrossFit Through Sales To Nutrition

Before founding Ample, Connor had gone through a very interesting journey in the health & fitness industry. He started with a degree in Biology, became obsessed with CrossFit during college, which then led him to opening his own CrossFit gym. 

After getting bored with CrossFit, he joined a big corporate to sell their medical devices to hospitals. He realized that the medical industry was broken and wanted to get out of the system as his goal was to make a real difference.

Tracing back the root cause of the problem to the poor diets & exercise routines of people, he then built a patient engagement physical therapy platform. However Connor quickly arrived to the conclusion that physical therapy is another sector where he couldn’t make a difference.

So then when a bunch of his friends highlighted another major problem in their own lives, which is not having the time or the access to proper nutrition next to their schedules, he started working on Ample. Listen to this week’s episode to hear all about Connor’s interesting story and his first nutrition lab aka his own kitchen!

3) The Ample Community

The immediate short-term goal of Ample is to provide everyday individuals with the optimal nutrition on their busiest day. However the long-term vision is much bigger than this. 

Connor doesn’t only want to build a brand, he also wants to build a community. A community that revolves around a health conscious way of living. A community that spreads this idea and grows continuously. And he wants to use Ample as a tool to turn this vision into reality. 

Listen on to learn more about why Connor thinks that we need this big shift in our current lifestyles and how Ample will help us in getting there!

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Full Transcript

00:04 Martin Kessler: Hey, hey, hey. It’s your host, Martin Kessler and welcome back here to Why I Bid This! A sub-series of a 20-Minute Fitness Podcast. On every episode, I’m really trying to bring to you an entrepreneur, an inventor beside an exciting startup company that is really trying to make a difference in the health and fitness industry. In today’s episode, we’ve got Connor Young, the founder of Ample Foods and he’s pretty much our neighbor here in San Francisco and he doesn’t really fit the regular convention for most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Why? Simply because Connor and his team actively promote a much healthier way of living in which you actually make sure your body gets all the essential nutrients it needs no matter how many days you have until your MVP rollout or how many VCs you’re pitching that day, of course.

00:48 MK: Before founding Ample, Connor had gone through a very interesting journey in the health and fitness industry starting with a degree in biology to owning a CrossFit gym and selling medical devices to hospitals. Connor finally realized that if he really wanted to make a difference, he had to move from reaction to prevention and so, he finally got behind listening to a couple of friends bugging him and he jumped right into building a health nutrition company called Ample Foods. Ample Foods provides the perfect meal replacement for your busiest days when you don’t have the time to cook a proper meal together for yourself.

01:22 MK: So tune in and join me today to listen to this week’s episode, to hear the first half of our interview with Connor that focuses really on Ample Foods and their magical food replacements that tastes like heaven and I can show you that that is true because I’ve actually tried Ample Foods and most of our team has by now and Connor’s is definitely not a boring story to follow through his journey in health and fitness and two weeks from now, you get the chance to listen to the second half of the interview where we dig a little bit deeper into all things of nutrition.

01:54 MK: So before we move on, I’d like to thank our sponsor, Shape. As you know, Team Shape’s been working on a 3D Body Scanner Shape Scale and we’re currently looking for new engineers in both hardware and software. If you’re interested or you know somebody that might be, you can head to our careers page at shapescale.com/careers.

02:12 MK: Finally, if you guys like our podcast and enjoy tuning in every week, please don’t hold back from giving us a five-star review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. It only takes five seconds to do so and it could go a long way in helping others to discover a wonderful podcast.

[music]

02:28 MK: Hey, guys, I’m here in San Francisco at our studio with Connor Young. Connor, why don’t you introduce yourself?

02:33 Connor Young: Hey, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, so I’m founder and CEO of a company called Ample Foods. We make a healthy meal replacement for busy health-conscious people. Basically, Ample is effectively just a meal in a bottle with powder in it and so you can actually just put water, shake it up and drink; made with super high quality ingredients so all healthy fats, carbohydrates, proteins, probiotics, prebiotics, greens, everything that you’d want in a meal just in a pre-packaged form. A couple of versions of that but basically, we’re just trying to solve the problem of, it’s just so darn hard to actually lead a health-conscious life when you’re super busy.

03:07 MK: So who is it for? Is it really for anyone that just wants to be a little bit more healthy? Or is it for somebody who wants to lose weight?

03:14 CY: Yeah, you know, it’s an interesting thing like, I would say that unfortunately we have a lot of use cases. There are a lot of people who are using it because they’re already in a weight loss diet, something like the Keto diet.

03:26 MK: Uh-huh. Yeah.

03:28 CY: And so with those people, they’re like, “Hey, I’m trying to lose weight with Keto but Keto itself is really difficult for me to maintain.” So that’s why they go with Ample.

03:36 MK: Lots of fatty foods, lots of cheese, lots of bacon.

03:38 CY: Yeah, exactly and it’s like when you go to a, I don’t know, a restaurant or when you go to… It’s just difficult to be…

03:45 MK: Or even at work, we have catered lunches but it’s impossible to find Keto-friendly meals, maybe Paleo meals but…

03:53 CY: Yeah and even that is hard and good luck in an airport or anywhere on the go. So a lot of people just take one of these with them. I would say a lot of people do it for a breakfast or that office lunch but there’s a number of people as well who just use it almost as a backup meal when they’re traveling or for their emergency meals. So the use cases are quite varied. Most people have their own reasons for being health-conscious and so whatever those reasons are, they just need a quick meal that actually fits those standards and so that’s where they turn to Ample.

04:27 MK: So for our listeners right now that can’t really see what Ample looks like, can you describe what it looks like? Let’s say I’m ordering Ample, what do I get?

04:36 CY: Yeah so basically what you’d get… Actually, this is exciting because just a couple weeks ago we launched our bulk version as well so I can talk about that but really what the Ampler itself is, it’s a plastic bottle with powder in it and you just put water in the single-serve plastic bottle and of course, it’s recyclable.

04:52 MK: Do you have a reason why you haven’t pre-mixed it already?

04:56 CY: Yeah, so a couple of things. One is, well frankly, the most honest answer is when we were starting, when I was just mixing powders in my kitchen, three-and-a-half years ago or so, I wanted to make the most convenient way possible such that my friends who were asking for this had no excuse to use it. So originally it was like, “Okay, I’m gonna give you a bag, a little baggy and then a vial of oil and then you mix them in your own shaker bottle and… “

05:23 MK: Yeah. Because you do have that, for some of the shaker bottles, you can get an add-on that just screws at the bottom of it then you can add some protein powder and you have it on the go ready for you, right?

05:34 CY: Yeah, the problem though is… Well, the first problem was, I was adamant that getting enough healthy fats was really important and so some people would actually just not use the fat, they would only do the powder and I’m like, “Guys, you’re missing the point.” Which is another discussion altogether but long story short, in my personal view, is that healthy fats are very, very important and so that’s why we have a lot of them in every version of Ample.

05:57 MK: So you have three different versions.

05:58 CY: Yeah, yeah, so we have our original, which is a little bit higher in protein. We have our Ample V, which is our plant-based version, which is good for people who are either vegan or they have some sort of dairy intolerance or just do better without whey and then finally, we have our Keto version so that’s just very, very low carbohydrates but once again, there’s fat, there’s protein, there’s carbs in all of them as well as the prebiotics, greens and the probiotics as well but to finish the discussion on the form factor, actually the reason why we… First all, we mixed it in just a little baggy but I was noticing that my friends were forgetting to take the shaker bottle with them or they wouldn’t rinse it out, which can get really really gross.

06:37 MK: That’s pretty gross.

06:37 CY: Yes and so I was like alright, what’s the easiest thing that I could possibly do? I can put it in a bottle for them and as long as they can just get their own water, they’re gonna be fine. Ultimately, I think the thing that’s beneficial here is that they can… Because it’s powder, you can get it through a TSA line and you can take it on travel. You can also mix it with water or milk, whatever you prefer and then finally, it actually costs a lot less for us to ship because it’s just dry weight rather than shipping water across the country which is very, very expensive.

07:04 CY: So for those reasons, we’re right now as powder in a bottle but I will say we also just did… We just launched pre-sales for a bulk version. So that’ll be basically 15 meals in a bag where people just can scoop it out and have it in their shaker bottle if they so choose.

07:19 MK: So you really have a version for everyone. You have a Keto version that has less than 5% carbs, I’m assuming?

07:26 CY: Yeah.

07:26 MK: And you have a plant-based version for somebody that is maybe on a vegan diet and then you have a regular version?

07:33 CY: Yeah, yeah and the regular version [chuckle].. I will say the regular version is the one that is the most ill-defined in terms of a specific demographic but…

07:42 MK: I’m noticing it has the most amount of protein in there.

07:45 CY: It definitely does which a lot of people are completely fine with and I would also add that for the vast majority of people who are not trying to follow a specific diet, that’s probably the one for them.

07:55 MK: So does it follow any macro standard? Is it following FDA guidelines or how does it differ?

08:02 CY: Well, we’re definitely not going for FDA guidelines because most of the research out there right now is that FDA guidelines are very, very antiquated and so just a brief background, I majored in biology and before then, I decided I was going to basically build health businesses for all of my life when I was 17 years old and so I started a CrossFit gym originally and then…

08:24 MK: And how long ago was that?

08:26 CY: That was… So I’m 30 now and when I was 22, so right out of college and then…

08:31 MK: What inspired you to do it?

08:32 CY: Oh! Well, I was very deep into CrossFit when I was in college and I was like, I wanted to…

08:38 MK: You were also competing?

08:39 CY: Yes. Not… I knew I was not gonna get to the CrossFit games but I was like alright, I still have my own ambition. I would at least get to regionals. So that went pretty darn well so I was pretty excited about how I actually performed but I think the best thing was I could see people who came into my gym and within four months were a completely different person. Not just their physical wellbeing but also their mental wellbeing. They had a different view of themselves. They thought of themselves as strong, as capable, as confident and obviously, they had a lot of physical changes as well. So I actually then… But I was bored with the whole CrossFit space ’cause it…

09:15 MK: How so?

09:16 CY: Well, as a CrossFit gym owner, you coach people in CrossFit and then other than that, you just… There’s not as much… There’s not as many discreet problems to fix. Whereas running a startup, there’s so many more different kinds of problems to fix. The other thing is that when you develop people with a CrossFit gym, you’re training more of yourself. You’re cloning your own ability to coach but what’s interesting about running a startup is that, you’re learning from other people who have skill sets that you do not and so to me, that is an infinitely more exciting challenge.

09:46 CY: So when I said, “Hey I wanna do something different than a CrossFit gym.” I… First of all went into medical device sales because all of my friends were in the medical industry at that point; whether they were doctors or dentists or on the sales side but I realized that the medical system was pretty broken and…

10:01 MK: How so?

10:02 CY: Well, you’re in this operating room and I had an opportunity to be in 1000 or so surgeries over the course of the two years with Johnson & Johnson and I was training the doctors on how to use these devices and what I was disappointed at is that it definitely, it’s sick care rather than healthcare in the sense that there’s not much incentive to actually make a person better because the only way that a hospital makes money is if they’re sick, if the patient is sick and so I was… And I felt like I was actually part of the problem rather than the solution because although our devices were very good, Johnson & Johnson had basically a monopoly on all the products that we sold and so the only way to make more money is to at least defend the business from other people or to upsell doctors on additional products. So unfortunately, my job was basically to sell them a product that frankly, they didn’t need, it was this powered echelon. It was…

10:53 MK: So tell us a little bit more about it. I feel we have jumped ahead a little bit too far. I’m still like, “Okay you’ve been working on CrossFit, you didn’t wanna do that anymore?” And then you start working with surgeons and working with Johnson & Johnson. How did you even get there?

11:07 CY: Yeah well, the good thing is when you have a sales background, it’s much easier to get these sales gigs and so I actually sold Cutco knives in college and with the CrossFit experience, I was able to network into this medical device field, which was pretty competitive but the reason why I wanted to do that was because I really did feel I needed to see how the medical industry worked and it is really cool to actually be in an operating room and to understand and talk with the surgeons and the medical staff on how they’re doing these procedures and be able to help out when the time is necessary and I don’t wanna completely bash what I was doing. We did have value but it wasn’t nearly as much as I thought it should have been.

11:48 MK: So what type of medical equipment were you trying to sell?

11:52 CY: Trying to sell. [chuckle]

11:52 MK: Or were you selling? I’m sorry. Excuse myself.

11:56 CY: Yes, no, it’s okay. I’m actually… Language is really powerful and I’m trying to be very and look at me, look…

12:02 MK: Yeah, I’m gonna be mindful of that.

12:03 CY: I just said the word trying But anyway, so they were a number of different things. Johnson & Johnson was the world leader in sutures, so any stitches in surgery, 90% of them was Ethicon is the actual device maker. So Ethicon makes sutures, they make these endoscopic cutters. So if you’re gonna have your colon taken out or a lung resected because of cancer or a hysterectomy or whatever, any of those require these either energy sealers, which is basically to cut a large artery without having it bleed or if it’s larger tissue, then you’d need actually something that cuts as well as staples the tissue. So we were selling these devices and they’re pretty expensive so they’re $800 per device and they’re single-use only.

12:47 MK: Wow!

12:48 CY: Yeah. So every single surgery, you have to order a new one and so, it was my job to basically defend against reprocessing which I didn’t really like ’cause effectively reprocessing should be what happens.

13:00 MK: And there was no competitor that was trying to do that?

13:02 CY: There was.

[chuckle]

13:04 CY: But it’s my job to go against them. So I felt actually that they probably from a sustainability standpoint and a cost standpoint, that’s what we should have been doing. Now I mean yes, I could have just switched companies but Johnson & Johnson is a really good company and frankly, I thought that I probably had a better experience than 90% of other people in the medical device industry but I figured at the end of the day though, the point is 90% of these patients who were landing in the operating room, if they had had better diet and lifestyle and exercise choices 10 years before and if we had had a system that actually helps those people get there, they wouldn’t have had to be in the operating room in the first place.

13:41 MK: Yep.

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13:42 CY: So I was like alright, I don’t wanna be here.

[laughter]

13:45 CY: I want to… Yeah, I want…

13:46 MK: You’re too late in the cycle. You wanna…

13:48 CY: Exactly. Much more preventative healthcare. So I actually moved back to Minneapolis where I’m from to create a patient engagement physical therapy platform.

14:00 MK: What was it called?

14:00 CY: It’s called Koach.

14:00 MK: Koach.

14:01 CY: K-O-A-C-H. The concept was basically that people who go to physical therapy, they don’t really do their exercises so they don’t actually get better, which is why they end up having surgery in the long haul or they just don’t get better. The problem however, is the same payment structure that I was alluding to earlier. There’s not much money in physical therapy because there’s no real procedures that they do so the real money is in the orthopedic surgery. So the problem was, we made this really cool app that actually worked but there was no one to pay for it and because customers…

14:31 MK: Were you trying to sell to the consumer directly? Or through insurance companies?

14:36 CY: Yes, that’s the problem. It’s just a convoluted structure. It’s like you can go to the physical therapist but they don’t have any money. You can’t really go to the consumer, to the actual patients because you need access through the PT and most patients aren’t really willing to spend their own money ’cause they expect it to be included in their service. You could potentially go to the insurance company but that’s a two-year long sales cycle that I was just not prepared to do.

[chuckle]

15:01 MK: Welcome to healthcare.

15:01 CY: Exactly and that’s way oversimplifying it but because of that I was like, “Oh man, what do I do?” And as this was starting, my friends were like, “Geez Connor, can you tell me how to eat healthy or work out or whatever?” And so I was like, “Well, fine. On the side, I’ll help you guys.” I’ll actually create a nutrition lecture series for them. So I had over the years read 200 or 300 clinical journals on nutrition, had some decent contacts as well.

15:26 MK: Was that all of your own passion for a CrossFit and fitness in general?

15:29 CY: Yeah, I mean I had gotten into the Paleo space back when I was around 20 years old so what is that? 2009 or so. So pretty early on and I just got really, really excited about nutrition, inflammation understanding also with my Biology background it was really exciting to understand the mechanisms behind this so things like inflammation, gut microbiome, it had been and still is a very, very big discussion of topic and how that impacts gut-brain barrier, that kind of thing.

15:58 CY: And so all of these things are really, really exciting to me and so I would put out these nutrition lecture series and people are like well, this is fine Connor but honestly, we know what to do and even if we don’t know what to do, it’s not really relevant because in the middle of the day we can’t act on it. We need something, we need an actual solution to our mid-day lunch problem. So can you make something? Or can you recommend a product that’s on the market currently?

16:22 CY: And frankly, I just did not trust food companies ’cause over the last, I don’t know, well forever really, health food has been more like health marketing and the fundamental basis of health marketing is that you try to convince a consumer that a small change is actually a really big change but you need to conserve margins because it’s really, really expensive to put high quality ingredients in a product.

16:44 MK: Well plus they still wanna have their meals to be super tasty and then before you know, they put a lot of sugar and everything else.

16:49 CY: Exactly. If you have four aspects here, you have nutrition, you have taste, you have price and then… Well yeah, I guess that’s it. So if you have those three, most times, a food companies going to opt for taste and price at the expense of nutrition or they could do all these things but then they’ll just kill their margin. So we opted for that option [chuckle] we opted for killing our margin initially, having a much lower, lower margin than most other food products to be frank.

17:18 MK: Hold on. So you immediately came to the conclusion hey, there’s nothing out there at all. There’s nothing I can really recommend or that I would be willing to put my own reputation on the line for so I have to really make my own thing.

17:31 CY: So this is around the time that Soylent became a thing and…

17:34 MK: And Soylent is following FDA guidelines. That was the controversial thing about it, at least initially, they were.

17:40 CY: Yeah. Soylent from a… I don’t agree with their nutrition philosophy, from a marketing standpoint, they’re one of the best companies you could probably ever take notes from. I think that…

17:52 MK: Why do you think that is?

17:53 CY: Oh well for one, to market to a group of people who had never been marketed to. There’s no large company like Kellogg or Kraft who’s thinking to themselves hey, a really big community is Reddit. That’s just not how they think, they think totally differently and so…

18:09 MK: But from what I understood, their target audience was not just eating frozen pizzas instead. So Soylent seemed like the more healthy alternative.

18:18 CY: Yes and it is and so if you… But…

[laughter]

18:23 MK: All relative, right?

18:24 CY: Exactly and if that’s what you’re going for, then it’s fantastic and then of course, there’s the positioning that you should just replace all of your food with Soylent. That’s the thing that I really disagreed with. I didn’t think it was responsible and I was angry about it for a long time. In fact, some of my friends actually felt pretty bad when they were drinking the majority of their calories from Soylent and I’m like, “Guys, you need to eat real food here too.”

18:48 MK: There are some pretty scary blogpost or even YouTube videos out there of people trying to just go on Soylent for several months which just looks terrible, the result.

18:57 CY: Yeah and it’s like but that’s what gets stories. So they had a fantastic community of early adapters who really did have a need and then they had a really controversial stance. You should free yourself from food and then if you have that controversy, sure you alienate 80% of the population but you galvanize the other 20% and so that was really, really successful and then of course they had really good data analytics to figure out what’s good and frankly, if you don’t actually care about the contents of your conversation and you say, “I just wanna start the conversation,” it works but I was never willing to do any of those things.

19:34 CY: Soylent is now a billion-dollar company and so they’ve grown super well and I’m happy for them. I think I can actually say that. I am happy for the fact that I do think that they have made a step forward, both in their nutrition quality, as well as to try to have certain people who used to eat a lot of pizza now not. That is a good step forward. What I’m trying to do is to say, “Hey, there’s this huge market.” In fact, I would say the growing market of people who actually are health conscious, who really do demand high quality ingredients stuff, who wants super low sugar, who want non-GMO, they don’t want gluten or soy and they wanna have a decent amount of healthy fats and so all of these things combined, that’s kind of where I feel like to borrow the Wayne Gretzky quote is that’s where I feel like the puck is going and so that’s the direction we’re going for and so, yeah, it does certainly cost more because of their ingredient quality but I feel like in the long run, that’s where the growth happens.

20:26 MK: So how did you get started then? You were talking little bit earlier about it of not pre-mixing everything. So how do you even go about it? Did you create your own nutrition lab?

20:36 CY: Yes. Yes, it’s called the kitchen.

[laughter]

20:38 MK: And I bought ingredients on Amazon. It didn’t actually take me long to get basically a framework for a formula for what would be a very good place to start. So then, I had to buy raw ingredients on Amazon so just the individual ones and then I would just pre-package them in my kitchen and then I would sell them for $5 each to my friends and they tasted awful at first but they solved the problem because ultimately, if my friend was like, “Hey, I have brain fog when I have Soylent and I can’t work for another… “

[overlapping conversation]

21:07 MK: It’s not like Soylent tasted any better though.

21:09 CY: Yeah. So from that perspective, it was a win and he’s like, “I’ll just do whatever ’cause it reaches my goals.” So over the next few months, I iterated on the flavor to the point where more people actually liked it and then, a very significant portion of my house started using it basically everyday and so with that, they’re spending $120 to $150 a month on Ample.

21:30 MK: But only for lunch, right?

21:31 CY: It doesn’t really matter.

21:31 MK: Or a meal in between not for an entire day.

21:33 CY: Correct, one a day. In fact, I limited it. If someone wanted to pay me for more, I’d be like “So how many days are you gonna… ” They’re like, “Hey, I wanna pick up three Amples. Pay for three days, right?” Yes. Because yeah, I wanted to be very clear on that. People should eat real food and that’s nothing to say that there’s a bad thing about any food product but it’s just our biological systems are adapted to have a variety of food and healthy whole foods are the most validated foods that we’ve had over millions of years. So to stick with that is probably a really good thing.

22:06 CY: So we had this group of people and so from there I basically went out, raised $50,000 from an investor and then got into an accelerator program called 500 Startups and then from there, hired on our director of operations and basically, we’re just we’re like you know what? We have this group, this cohort of people in San Francisco but is this just a San Francisco tech phenomenon or is it something that can scale beyond that?

22:29 MK: And you first customers really only came through your own network and through word of mouth?

22:34 CY: Yes. So we did an Indiegogo campaign to test the demand and I figured if we’re gonna lock down a good contract manufacturer, as well as if we’re going to determine if this business has legs, the success case for both of those is just getting sales through an Indiegogo so…

22:51 MK: And how did that turn out?

22:52 CY: Great. We sold almost $400,000 which was…

22:55 MK: Oh, that’s incredible.

22:56 CY: That was the number one food and beverage campaign of it’s time on… So we broke the record for the food and beverage campaign.

23:03 MK: Nice.

23:03 CY: So that was really cool. So from there, we raised a million dollars and then we got a woman named Julie Zimmerman and she actually has been fantastic. So she was former VP of R&D for a few billion-dollar companies, including General Mills and Target and then recently Clif Bar. And so she had a lot of experience and so she’s basically been able to take the product from conception to well, where it is right now and so yes, we launched this product initially…

23:27 MK: And initially, what was the first product? Was it the original line or did you start with Paleo or Keto or what did you go with?

23:35 CY: It was original. Well, I was actually thinking about launching with a Keto line at first. The problem is Keto is, it’s actually a food science problem. A ketogenic meal is really difficult to formulate because of the ratio of fat to carbohydrate and there’s less options on an ingredient sourcing standpoint.

23:54 MK: What do you use? A lot of nuts?

23:55 CY: Yes, so there’s macadamia nut oil, there’s coconut oil and then there’s high oleic sunflower oil and so high oleic sunflower oil basically means that it has significantly more monounsaturated fatty acids than the inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids. So there’s almost none of those but the way that you do it is because oil is usually liquid at room temperature or it’s solid but either way, it’s not in powder form and so the way that you have to do it is, you basically spray it against a carbohydrate. That’s the industry standard but if you’re trying to create a Keto product, by definition you wanna be able to spray that not against carbohydrate.

24:30 CY: So for us to get creative about how to make that happen was really, really important. So finding other substrates to spray it against and actually validating those with our ingredient suppliers is some of the, I guess you could say IP around what we’re creating and that’s what’s basically allowed us to have such a super low carb count and then, I would also say that just with Julie’s experience, we’ve also been able to get it taste good and mildly sweet with only less than two grams of sugar.

24:58 MK: Do you use any sweetener?

25:00 CY: Yeah, so we use monk fruit and stevia but most times that you do just stevia or even use monk fruit, you’ll have that kind of stevia after taste. It doesn’t really taste normal.

25:08 MK: Yeah, a lot of people hate that.

25:11 CY: Yeah, exactly. So it’s like a 25-variable equation that you have to solve ’cause there’s 25 different ingredients in there and they all interact with each other in very complex ways and so, you have to just work with it over a long period of time to kind of figure out the relationship between these ingredients and those are what eventually make a great product. That means that you don’t have to add, let’s say, sugar alcohols to the product to just make it more sweet.

25:32 MK: Yeah and I’m guessing you’ve been tweaking the different formulas over time and I’m curious, what has been your process and do you have a nutritionist or a food scientist even on your team right now?

25:43 CY: Yeah, so Julie is a food scientist and then we have another food scientist, Kenny, who also works and so both of them have a lot of… A food science is usually you’ll have to get a master’s degree to kind of understand the chemistry behind why certain flavors work the way that they are. I would say also that food science has kinda gotten a bad rep over the last…

[overlapping conversation]

26:02 MK: Why is that?

26:03 CY: Well because most food science, the perception…

26:06 MK: Manipulating people?

[laughter]

26:08 CY: Yeah. Well, the perception is that it’s from large companies who are trying to make really unhealthy things hyper-palatable, which I agree, I don’t think that that’s a good thing to do but I think at the same time, we’re still gonna have food products over the next 50 years, 100 years, whatever. So how can you get stuff that is traditionally seen as healthy to actually taste good? That actually does require the help of a food scientist. So if that’s your goal, then you can actually make healthier lifestyles more accessible because it doesn’t taste like crap.

26:39 MK: Yeah. Yeah, I can definitely see that and it’s really just like how we’ve been evolutionary speaking build that we’re naturally attracted to sweet foods so that we can ramp up on our fat storage.

26:51 CY: Yeah and I think some of the issue is that in nature, we likely would not have encountered foods that had high carb and high fat content at the same time. But now we’re actually encountering foods that do and so if you’re hijacking the brain and giving it too much stimulus yeah, you do create basically addictive things. So can you create foods that tastes good but are not addictive and at least can you have healthy food that tastes good?

27:18 CY: I think those were the two questions but I would also still go back to the whole hey, it’s still really good to incorporate whole foods into the diet because ultimately I think that we probably are going to be better off in the future if we acclimate our taste buds to whole foods ’cause they change over time and they… If you, for instance, go on a Keto diet over time you actually lose the need to have that sweet tongue because your body says, “Oh, I can actually get all the nutrition basically just through savory foods. Foods that have high fat content, medium protein content and I don’t really need that, so I actually crave more salt than I create sweetness.” Kind of weaning oneself off of that ultra sweet stuff is sometimes a process that can take some time but I think that it’s actually quite worth it.

28:00 MK: You kinda have to almost re-adjust your own taste buds, right? By almost withdrawing yourself from sugar. It’s almost like you’re a sugar junky and you have to get away from it.

28:09 CY: That’s exactly what it’s like.

28:10 MK: Yeah. Great and so where’re you guys at now? You were mentioning earlier that you have a team of eight now here in San Francisco?

28:16 CY: Yeah. Currently eight. We’re adding the ninth later on this month, which is really exciting and so… Well one thing that we’re trying to do is create a much bigger community because ultimately like Ample is a food product and it’s a great food product but ultimately my main goal is to make people healthier and so Ample is a tool for that but if we can create a really great community of people who live the lifestyle of health conscious and busy and wanna be the best versions of themselves, I think that to me is the thing that’s most exciting. So in service of that, we raised some money earlier this year through an equity crowdfunding campaign through Republic so we raised about $800,000 which was a very, very successful campaign.

28:55 CY: So we’ve raised about 5 million in total but we chose this equity crowdfunding campaign specifically because it’s a really good way to kind of create more community out of our audience and so that for us right now is the main goal. Is to create this really good community of people and then obviously work with other channel partners like affiliates and everyone like that to introduce us to their networks and their communities as well. So those are what we’re doing in conjunction with the product launches both like I mentioned and also in the next few months as well, we’ll have chocolate versions of all three versions as well.

29:25 MK: Nice. Are you also working on a coffee version?

[laughter]

29:29 CY: I can neither confirm nor deny that.

29:33 MK: So how do most customers find you right now? Is it through word of mouth still or do you advertise or?

29:38 CY: Yeah, yeah. Still word of mouth, a lot of it and of course we have Facebook ads, affiliates are one of our big, big channels as well just other health blogs, whatever but of course right now we’re still online so it’s only online amplemeal.com as well as Amazon. So Amazon and amplemeal are the two places people find us.

29:57 MK: Alrighty and that pretty much brings our today show to an end. I’m sorry for having to cut it short here. We did have have actually over one half hours of pretty interesting conversation with Connor and we didn’t wanna cut it short here which is why we’re gonna have a second part to our conversation in two weeks from now in which we dive deeper into nutrition and all things that Connor believes around fitness and health.

30:21 MK: That aside, as usual, we do have everything on our show notes, everything that’s been mentioned on the show at 20minute.fitness and again, if you like our show, if you enjoy tuning in, don’t hesitate to leave us a review or better yet a five-star review and also do give us an email, do tweet to us, we would love to hear from you. What do you think about the show? And also if there’s a potential guest that you would like to see on a show.

30:47 MK: Thanks again and thank you also to our wonderful producer, Lilla Laczo. It’s been a great show today and I hope I see you here next time.

[music]

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Lilla Laczo

Lilla is a content writer and community manager at Shape.

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