The Story Of A Boy Whose Temper Tantrum Led To A Venture-Backed Food Startup

nicky bronnerNicky Bronner, co-founder at UNREAL Candy

A few years ago, then 13-year-old Nicky Bronner woke woke up the day after Halloween to find that his dad had taken away a big chunk of his Halloween Candy.

He was outraged. 

So he set out to prove his father wrong, but he soon realised that his dad was right. Candy is bad for you.

“It’s the only time I ever admitted to him he was right,” Nicky tells us. “I asked him why it couldn’t be done with just peanut butter and chocolate (Bronner’s favourite candy). That’s where the basis came from. We wanted to do [candy] the right way.”

Now 16 years old, Nicky is managing the task of co-running a startup with his father, two-time entrepreneur and angel investor Michael Bronner. 

UNREAL offers a line of candies that are just as delicious as their mainstream counterparts, but without all the junk. 

UNREAL doesn’t use any corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, genetically modified organisms, or preservatives. Instead, it uses all natural ingredients and is made with 40% less sugar than candies from major brands. 

But just because UNREAL’s candies are healthier, it doesn’t mean you should wolf down an entire bag of them. 

“It’s still candy,” Nicky says. “It’s better but we still prefer that when you want something to eat, you grab an Apple. But we’ve done our best so that when you want a candy bar, it’s a nice alternative [to traditional candies].”

Since Nicky is home-schooled, he’s not able to work full-time on the company, but hopes to become more involved in the company’s marketing efforts. 

But thanks to Bronner’s connections, UNREAL Candy already has a pretty impressive roster of celebrities who stand behind Unreal’s mission to unjunk candy. That includes musician John Legend, Square founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, actor Matt Damon, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and football player Tom Brady. 

“People respect it so they want to get behind it,” Nicky says.

In a little less than a year since launching, Unreal has made its way into about 18,000 stores nationwide, including major retailers like CVS and Target. It expects to be in 25,000 stores by the end of this year. 

Other than celebrities, UNREAL Candy has also attracted some venture capitalists. Its raised “tens of millions” of dollars from Khosla Ventures and Raptor Consumer Partners. Over the last year, investors have put in nearly $350 million into food startups.

In the future, UNREAL plans to move beyond candy and unjunk traditional snack foods.

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