#115. Dada Daily adds surrealism and fun to healthy snacking. We talk with founder Claire Olshan about merging high-end design, forward-thinking recipes and accessible pricing to make a snack brand that breaks common perception. The Loose Threads Podcast features in-depth discussions with leaders across the rapidly changing consumer economy.

Claire: [00:00:01] The most exciting thing for me every day when I wake up is that Dada can be anything. It is always going to be ingrained in snacking—that is what we are—but the branches that come out of snacking can go anywhere. 

Richie: [00:00:15] That’s Claire Olshan, founder of Dada Daily, a health-oriented snack brand wrapped in surrealism. Claire previously merged her arts background with fashion to found FIVESTORY, a luxury retail store in an Upper East Side townhouse featuring new designers and unique juxtapositions. Now, with Dada Daily, she’s incorporating her nutritional studies and interest in health and wellness to create elevated snack products that don’t look out of place on the dinner table. 

Richie: [00:00:39] I’m Richie Siegel, the founder of Loose Threads, which analyzes and advises next generation consumer companies, and FaceLift by Loose Threads, a retail incubator and accelerator for leading brands and retailers. For our latest analysis and insights check out our free weekly newsletter at LooseThreads.com. 

Richie: [00:01:00] I started the Loose Threads Podcast to spark engaging discussions with leaders across the consumer economy. That’s why I was excited to talk with Claire about how she’s merging high-end design, forward-thinking recipes and increasingly accessible pricing to make a snack brand that breaks common perception. Here’s how it all began. 

Claire: [00:01:19] The landscape of retail has changed so dramatically, to a point where it’s almost hard to understand what it is right now. For me, as I said, I went into things because I was obsessed with experience. I was obsessed with my customer, and learning about them, and walking them through things and teaching them about new things. And the industry has gone farther and farther away from the human touch of that experience, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that’s not why I got into it and that’s not—my forte is not e-commerce. But I was forced to creating commerce because that’s what you do. And I was forced to build it and oversee it and do all those things, but it wasn’t my passion. 

Claire: [00:02:01] So, I mean, I have an unbelievable set of employees that are there and I’m still the creative director of it, but the day-to-day, in order to have a really robust retail business, it’s, I would say, mostly a digital space. 

Richie: [00:02:19] Why is it what it is now? 

Claire: [00:02:22] I think life right now is—puts a lot more stress on people than it used to. People are obviously running to find ways to shut off, to find ways to calm their anxiety. I think technology is changing at a much more rapid speed than evolution, as the human brain, and the human EQ and IQ and all these things, so we have to figure out ways to deal with it. So, while everything is getting way more technologically savvy, we’re actually running back to basics, which is meditation. Think about how ironic it is that in order to deal with things that are so complex we are now teaching ourselves how to sit and do nothing. 

Claire: [00:03:03] And, funny enough, I tried really, really hard to bring wellness into FIVESTORY. I did think that that might be the thing that can fill the circle, and it was so hard for me to bring wellness in. My customer wanted product. They didn’t want a yoga session. They’re like, “I just want the skirt that I saw in the magazine or on the celebrity.” And I was like, “But maybe we can talk about slowdown culture, maybe we can understand why we want the skirt,” and people didn’t really want all those answers which I wanted to give. They really just wanted the skirt. Which is funny, because it’s not that they didn’t want the answers at all—they didn’t want it from their boutiques. They wanted it from their wellness institutions, which I think is an interesting thing. 

Richie: [00:03:49] Yeah. Well it’s interesting too, to look at like, a Goop, which is kind of both. 

Claire: [00:03:51] Yes. 

Richie: [00:03:52] But some people, I guess, want separation of power. 

Claire: [00:03:55] But Goop will never be high fashion, right? Goop will sell you their lifestyle, and FIVESTORY was extremely avant-garde and high-fashion, and the link between that and wellness is very gray right now. The link between a cozy sweater, a cup of chamomile tea and a meditation? That isn’t seen. 

Richie: [00:04:17] So even just the line from, call it “contemporary down” versus—like, that gap is significant. 

Claire: [00:04:22] Yes and I think people are looking at a customer and they’re saying okay, I can give her everything in her world, and I don’t believe in that. I don’t think people want one-stop shops. I also don’t believe that companies can be good at everything. I think the customer is getting really smart, and if you’re over selling them everything they’re gonna say, like, “You’re a jack of all trades, master of none.” In my opinion, I think the companies that are doing things really well, they’re honing in on something specific, and they’re focusing, and they’re creating the trust with their customer, and they’re saying, “Okay, this is what we’re good at and this is where we’re gonna give to you.” And that’s when I said, all right I’m not going to put wellness in FIVESTORY. We’re really good at high fashion, we’re really good at making people look and feel great. We’re gonna just do it from the outside in and from the inside out. 

Richie: [00:05:11] How does that change the role of a third party retailer as well? Because it would seem like this idea of them being good and having all these different sections and so forth, like, the scope of what people want is potentially limiting. 

Claire: [00:05:21] M-hmm. 

Richie: [00:05:21] In the old days, the thing you’re saying is what that store would do. That’s what a third party—

Claire: [00:05:26] You mean like a department store? 

Richie: [00:05:27] Yeah, a department store, whatever. They’d be good at all these different things, and that seems to be getting like, sliced up basically. 

Claire: [00:05:32] I shouldn’t really be quoted on this, but I don’t give a shit. Like, I don’t think department stores should have wellness centers. I think it’s too much for the customer. I think the customer—and this goes back to exactly we were just saying—we have too much stress in our lives, regardless. Walking into a place where they’re just attacking you in every way, and saying, here’s a wedding dress, and here’s a home appliance, and here’s a place to meditate…it’s just like, what? I don’t even know where to start. 

Claire: [00:06:01] Then it goes back to the idea of a mall, and malls are obviously getting a bit more proficient in what they’re incorporating, and they’re more, as we can say, like, “Goop-ish,” in the sense that they’re creating a linear line between the experiential and the retail and the coffee places. You could have a variety of offerings, they just have to really be all weighted maybe in one perspective or a mindset. 

Richie: [00:06:30] Some sort of purpose. 

Claire: [00:06:30] Yeah. Or a purpose. 

Richie: [00:06:30] Right, versus just averaging everything. 

Claire: [00:06:33] Or just saying like, oh this customer does all these things, I’m just gonna throw all these things in a place because I just want to suck as much money out of them as possible. 

Richie: [00:06:41] Which is like the private label, etc., kind of mentality.

Claire: [00:06:45] Yeah. 

Richie: [00:06:45] So you have this realization seven years in that you want to start to work on this different piece which doesn’t fit into what you have. How quickly did it crystallize for you, or how drawn out was the process of knowing, at least, kind of what version one would be? 

Claire: [00:06:57] So I actually concepted the idea when I was about 13? 13, 14. It sat dormant. I actually still have like, a little bit of the writings of what I wanted a health food company to be. I then went back to it many years later, and it started off in a very different place, like all businesses do. I have to say, the best advice I can give to anyone is pen to paper, pen to paper, pen to paper. Pretty much in every walk of your life, but especially if you have a business idea. The more you write, the more you hash out, the more you highlight, go back, you see that there are things that come out almost like subliminal messages in writing. 

Claire: [00:07:34] It was concepted as a retail store because that’s all I knew. And I was like, I’m gonna open a retail store on the Upper East Side, and I had all these ideas, it was gonna have to do with like, crystals, ’cause that’s what I was into, and nut mixes and…Do you remember those stores, World of Nuts and Chocolate, where you could, like, pour your own? There was like, a thing of almonds and a thing of—

Richie: [00:07:56] Kind of like, Whole Foods has, but as a store. 

Claire: [00:07:57] Yes. And I was like, I’m gonna make a new, cooler version of that. I mean, as I was writing this all down and reading it and reading it, I was like I’m not gonna do that. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to get back into retail, I actually want to create my own product, that’s what I want. So I talked about it a lot. I talked about it too much, to the point, and I remember it, crystal as day. I was walking through Washington Square Park with my husband—and I was just yapping about this company I really want to start, and this is what I think, and this is what I wrote today—and he looked at me and he was like, “Are you gonna fucking do this or not?” And he said it to me with such conviction I started crying like, on the spot. And I was like, “Why are you yelling at me?” And he’s like, “No I’m just gonna be the person that’s gonna say to you right now. If you want to do this, let’s go over there to that coffee shop and sit down and like, write down a business plan. If you don’t think you’re gonna do this, don’t ever bring it up again.” And it was so black and white, and I was just like, I really want to do this. And he’s like, “Okay, let’s go sit down in that coffee shop.” And that was the first time that it really happened. 

Claire: [00:09:02] And then I got really excited. And then I started talking to people. And then I breadcrumbed. And as I said, I wrote a lot, but I was also bread-crumbing my way to the idea. So I would internalize what I wanted it to be, but then I would talk to as many people as I possibly could within the health and wellness space, and get as much advice as I can. And take everything with a grain of salt, because I do feel that if you’re strong and confident enough in your idea to start something then the company should stem from you, and you have to be super-true to your gut. And then talking to too many people getting too many opinions is actually just gonna water down, it’s gonna make it, you know, not legitimate and not authentic and, in this day and age if you don’t create something authentic people just don’t want it or they’ll see through it. 

Claire: [00:09:49] So I did that for a little bit. That was April, I would say that September I was kind of ready to go. I soft-launched the following-following September, and then I officially launched March of 2018. So it took a while. 

Richie: [00:10:03] Describe what that concept was at that early stage. And then, where do you begin spending your energy? I assume it’s with product. 

Claire: [00:10:11] Yes. So I decided I wanted to create my own product because I had a really clear vision of what I wanted. When it came to the branding, the voice, the messaging, it all was pouring out of me, and I was like, I need to own the customer, I need to own the messaging, I don’t want to be on a shelf in Whole Foods and not be able to relate everything that I’m feeling right now. And then I just spent a lot of time and effort on the actual product. So I started with kind of pillars of the company, because I think, at the end of the day, everything you do has to stem from what your mission statement is. So I started with two big brand pillars. 

Richie: [00:10:47] Which were what? 

Claire: [00:10:48] My first pillar was about stripping down the restrictive nature of the health food industry. I’ve been obsessed with health food for a very, very long time; I got a degree in integrative nutrition during this whole crazy journey, and everyone and anyone who knows me knows that I am really into it. So what happened was, when health food ended up becoming this sensation, I reacted to it in a different way than I thought. I thought I was gonna be really excited that I could do all my lotions and potions and things on every corner, and my wheat grass shots, and have the convenience be a really amazing thing for me. But what happened was, I ended up getting really angry that there was this word, “no,” affixed to like, everything and anything everyone does. Everyone was obsessed with no dairies and no glutens and no sugars. And, you know, no lectins and ketos and paleos. 

Claire: [00:11:39] I didn’t understand that what was happening in a world that to me was about joy, freedom, and enjoyment was becoming this, you know, really boxed-in math equation. And I didn’t want to go out and say whatever everyone’s doing is bad, because I do believe that human nature needs restrictions in some way, shape or form, but the way it was being relayed was just not my message. I was like, okay, one big pillar I’m gonna do is, I’m going to name my company off of an art movement, the Dada art movement, because the Dadaists of the Dada art movement, they strip down all the rules of the art world before them. 

Claire: [00:12:21] A really famous one is Marcel Duchamp. He put a urinal in an exhibition and it was blasphemy, but I do believe that was the beginning of modern art of our time. So my whole thing was, let’s strip down the restrictive rule-oriented nature of the health food industry and bring joy and freedom into eating. 

Richie: [00:12:40] Right. ‘Cause so much is defined by what it isn’t, today. Right?

Claire: [00:12:43] So much is defined by what it isn’t. And so much is defined by this idea of a diet. It’s almost like if you elevate yourself and you’re looking at high level, everyone’s just in a diet all day long. And in ten years we’re gonna look at keto and gonna be like oh my god, they killed people. You know like, it’s not a good way to live. I wanted to strip it down in a very clean and a very focused way. And this is one thing I focused on when I was getting my degree is that, just eat clean. It’s really not a hard thing to do. Don’t eat processed food, don’t eat garbage. You can have access to clean food on a lower budget now. I mean, I know when Amazon bought Whole Foods it was just like, a big thing and everyone was really upset, but it actually is amazing, like the prices now are really good. And I wanted to just spell it out for people, really simply, like, let’s just go back to basics. 

Claire: [00:13:33] And so that was a big pillar that we stood on. And then bridging it to the other focus of my life is that I wanted what we snack on to be beautiful. We have a hashtag it’s called “Elevate your snacking moment,” and snacking is a cultural choice like any other. It’s a choice to how to get dressed in the morning, where do you get your smoothie, where to eat out, where to go on vacation, you know, where to work out. Picking a snack is the same thing. But why has snacking had this weighty-ness and this taboo of sitting on your couch by yourself, eating a bag, being ashamed of it, throwing it out in the garbage outside, cause you don’t want everyone to know that you ate a bag all by yourself on your couch. We just have these ingrained notions of snacking. 

Claire: [00:14:16] But I did have a light bulb moment one day, and that was like, kind of the best day ever. 

Richie: [00:14:22] What was the moment? 

Claire: [00:14:23] The moment was that I was going to really take this idea home by saying that snacking should be such a beautiful moment experience that you should bring them to the dinner table. And I had this weird vision of like friends sitting around a dinner table. Bottle of wine, you know, everyone’s talking, candles being lit, and a woman brings over like a bag of Dada Daily Brussels Sprouts, and opens it up and pours it in the bowl. And people aren’t looking at her like, oh my god she just put potato chips as an hors d’oeuvre? Or, oh my god, that’s a side dish. But like, oh my god, that’s so chic, leave the bag on the table. Or, what is that, I want some. It was really like a visual moment rather than a literary [one], I was writing but I was also thinking it. And I was like, wow, I’m going to create a lifestyle brand built on this concept. And that’s when Dada became more than just a snacking company. It was this new way of bringing joy into food. 

Richie: [00:15:28] It’s funny ‘cause when I looked at it, I thought it was a dinner parties thing. And that’s the point, I assume. 

Claire: [00:15:33] So we created this dinner party hacking set, and I would say that nine out of ten people when I talked to them about it, they said, “This is a terrible idea. You can’t make snacks and napkin rings.” One, no one fricking uses napkin rings, my grandma uses napkin rings and that’s it. And snack companies don’t do this. Jury’s not out yet, but I still believe that people want more from the tribes and companies that they follow. And so I said to myself, why can’t we be this millennial Martha Stewart? I mean if you think of Martha Stewart, and she’s amazing, but she used to go to the farmer’s market, and she used to get her ingredients, and she used to get her florals, and she said, ‘“This is how you arrange a floral, this is how you cook a pie, and this is how you do this.” And in my mind I’m like, that’s five hours in my day, who the hell has five hours in their day? 

Claire: [00:16:19] I was like, no I want someone to buy a kit, and I don’t care if you’re having dinner with Oprah or your sweaty workout friend from SoulCycle, I want you to invite your friends over, I want you to open up a thing of Dada, pour it in a bowl. Bring out a bottle of wine, and all of a sudden your friends come over like, “Oh my god we’re having hors d’oeuvres? This is so fancy of us.” And then I want you to invite them to the table, and there would be a napkin ring and a place card and this cool hand candle, and all of a sudden it really didn’t matter if it’s the Queen of England or you know, your sweaty SoulCycle friend, they’re gonna say like, you really thought about this. It didn’t matter if it was a paper napkin or a silk napkin, and it also doesn’t matter if you ordered Sweetgreen or you ordered caviar and baked potatoes. Dada was gonna be this moment, we were gonna take the thinking out of this whole idea of a dinner party, and this dinner experience, where to some people that’s real mental gymnastics. They think, “Oh, dinner party? I could never.“

Claire: [00:17:14] Especially men, especially younger people, it’s not that big [of] a deal. It’s really about the people around you, and I would say it’s about eating clean, but we’re doing half the work for you. You just have to, you know, put the baloney in the sandwich. We’ve done the first half, our truffles would be the dessert, and we think that whole experience should be joyful but also really easy and quick to do. 

Richie: [00:17:40] Talk about the distribution piece, because you sell online, which is, I’m guessing, where it started, but it sounds like that juxtaposition of high-low is going to filter through a lot of how you think about that, as well. 

Claire: [00:17:50] Yeah. So I really needed to land something high so I went straight to department stores. I went to department stores I personally really admired what they were doing, and I like, made them drink the Kool-Aid and they all were super excited. And once I nailed that, I was like, okay, now I’m gonna go low. Meetings with a bunch of distributors, high on bodegas, the Citarellas, the Balducci’s, King’s Markets of the world, but the distribution hierarchy and navigating that landscape is wild. I don’t know if anyone really understands how crazy it is. 

Claire: [00:18:31] People say to me like, “Oh, why don’t you just like, go and get into airports?” I was like, I’d have to do like, the equivalent of like 17 Ironmen to get into OKT in the airports. Or, “Oh, just like, what about like, a Whole Foods?” And I was like, UNFI? That’s a crazy distribution to get into, and when you get into them, they own you, and they can exploit it, and they can do whatever they want. So that’s been a very, very steep learning curve for me. But what I have found is there are smaller distribution companies, and through word-of-mouth and through just taking meetings with everyone and anyone—you know, if you’re getting into CPG, just meet with anyone who works in CPG in any realm. People are really kind in this industry to the point where I’ve asked competitive brands for their advice on things and they’ll go as far as to say, “Oh if you’re going to this fair, this fancy food show, you know, you could take a meeting at my booth at anytime.” And my eyes were just like, open, and I was like, this is amazing. 

Claire: [00:19:30] So that’s where my muscle’s going in the next few months. Hustling, demoing, you’ll find me in the aisles of a grocery store. That’s what I love to do. Going back to FIVESTORY, I wanna be boots on the ground, talking to people, serving them food, talking to them about how they eat. It’s so funny how everyone thinks of this as a complete 180 from what I’ve been doing. It’s like, exactly the same thing, I’m just taking something that I would say is gutteraly my obsession and just going out in the world and trying to enhance that in other people. 

Richie: [00:20:09] How does price point then inform your ability to make all those distribution pieces a reality? And then, how have you thought about that?

Claire: [00:20:17] When I started I was very scared. It was just me. I didn’t have a team, I’d never worked in food before. And as I took all those meetings it’s still just you. My runs were small, my prices were high and I just didn’t want to get pegged as that, oh, you know, luxury snack. And I was like, I don’t wanna be a luxury snack. I think in this day and age consumers want value from every single thing they do. I always said this about a FIVESTORY product: when someone came in and said, “Oh, I need a dress for a wedding,” I said, “No. You need a dress. If you only wore it to weddings you’re not getting value added. I want you to wear to a wedding. I want you to wear it to brunch. I want you to wear it…” 

Richie: [00:20:56] Tiffany Haddish effect. 

Claire: [00:20:57] Yes. I need you to get as much value from your one dollar to your five thousand dollars that you possibly can. And that’s also what I wanted with Dada. I wanted people to buy this snack and say, “I feel like I’m at a dinner party but I also feel like I’m at my desk.” I wanted people to really understand that there’s so much more that goes into what we do when we build a culture around our snacks. 

Claire: [00:21:22] So in the beginning, $7.99 was the best I could do, and I would say I was pretty much breaking even on that. And it was really high, and I had a lot of push-back, and it was killing me on many levels. One because people who wanted to try it couldn’t afford it and people who loved it couldn’t keep buying it. And people weren’t buying it at all because they’re just like, “Who are you to like, even to make a snack for eight dollars?”

Richie: [00:21:44] Was that single serving? 

Claire: [00:21:45] It was one bag. It was two servings. It was a two ounce bag, which I then also realized, you either do single-serving or you do a multi-serving. So then, going forward, obviously the company’s a lot more legs now, and I’ve leveraged our scale and our manufacturing partners and our supply chain and now our margin’s in a better place. So our opening price point for a single serving is gonna be $4.50, and our multi-serving is $9.99. 

Claire: [00:22:10] Listen, $4.50 is not cheap. It’s not supposed to be Lay’s. It can’t be Lay’s. 

Richie: [00:22:16] Which is a dollar? 

Claire: [00:22:17] Probably like a $1.75. But, I mean, you open a bag of our snacks and you see beautiful bright green Brussels sprouts, there’s value to that. Busting with health, instead of the opposite of like, oozing with oily fatty saturated garbage. And so that was really important to me. 

Richie: [00:22:38] Talk more about the products, ’cause we haven’t actually mentioned them at all, in terms of what did you want to start with, how did you gravitate to them, what did you want people to taste and see, and just kind of that whole development piece. 

Claire: [00:22:49] I’ve always been a vegetable freak my whole life, I just think there’s just so much energy in vegetables and fruits. And on a cellular level it’s changed my life, so I really wanted to create a vegetable-based snack. I would go to health food stores and see tens of, 20s, 30s, of snacks on the wall and they’d all have a vegetable big, front and center, on the package, and then you’d open up any thing and it would be a square or a triangle and you’re like, “Where the hell are the vegetables?” And you would look at the ingredients and there were, the vegetables were in there somewhere, maybe fifth or sixth on the totem pole of ingredients, but I didn’t understand why there wasn’t anything like really authentic and clean. 

Claire: [00:23:33] So, one pillar of our snacks that I decided I wanted to do was, I said if you open a bag of any of our Dada snacks we will hold the integrity of the vegetable that we say that we are. So, you open up a bag of Brussels sprouts, you will just see, as I said, beautiful green Brussels sprouts coated in super foods that I’ve studied in school and I’ve really thought that should be in people’s diets every single day. And not everyone has an Instagram life where they make a gorgeous smoothie, and they have the time and the effort, and they drink it and like, we can’t all put these powders and things into our everyday life. So we coat it in spirulina and moringa. We added almond butter so we have 12 grams of protein and ten grams of fiber because, to me, fiber and protein are really important in snacking. You go to snacks because you’re feeling hungry so they should fill you up, so you’re not just snacking and snacking and snacking. And then our second product is Cauliflower Popcorn, which is just cauliflower freeze dried, and we put amazing nutritional yeast and herbs and spices. I’m really excited about the fact that people can understand the integrity of the company just by the product itself. 

Richie: [00:24:42] Are these formulations, are you assembling pieces that already exist in a new way, or was there like significant R&D and so forth, and gaps to fill to the point where you could actually do this? 

Claire: [00:24:57] So, with the brussels sprouts, the reason why I thought it was the most brilliant idea in the whole wide world is because no one’s ever done it before. The reason why it was the dumbest idea in the whole wide world is because no one’s ever done it before and there’s a reason no one’s ever done before. It’s extraordinarily hard to dehydrate a Brussels sprout. 

Claire: [00:25:16] I learned in a very public and very devastating way that if you dehydrate a Brussels sprout the stem gets harder and harder and harder, to a point where it will feel like a pit. I didn’t know this when I was R&D-ing. I didn’t have a food technician on my team, and it just never came up with the manufacturers because, again, we just didn’t know better. I ran 2,500 bags of Brussels sprouts with a huge freaking pit inside, and then I sent out the Brussels sprouts to 500 influencers, only to find out when I opened up my first bag that it was almost inedible. 

Claire: [00:26:00] It was the scariest, worst day of my life. I would say I went to bed and I cried for like maybe a day and a half. I mean to say failure slapped me in the face in the first minute or two of launching this business is an understatement. So the R&D on that product was, it actually took me a year and a half, because we just nailed it, I would say a month ago. We just nailed it. And now we nailed it to the point where like, I wish I could literally get an airplane and just sprinkle them over the country so that everyone who had bad Brussels sprouts can eat these, but it was a real lesson about myself. While it really did get me down, it didn’t kill me, and it really is a testament to if it doesn’t kill you [it] makes you stronger. 

Claire: [00:26:45] But, a lot of shit happens in the beginning of building a business, and you can either focus on that or you can focus on the glass being half full and having the opportunity to do this, and having the courage to do this. And you can have it be something that defines you and changes you or can have something that just kills you and takes you down. So the R&D was interesting on that product. 

Claire: [00:27:07] On our second product, on cauliflower, [we] learned a lot of lessons with the first one, it was super-quick. And that I have to say, I learned so many lessons that it was so quick, I was at the manufacturing facilities day one, eating on the line, making sure everything was okay. The second something was off, being like, okay, let’s go back to the drawing board. And that happened in, I would say, two months we figured out the product. 

Claire: [00:27:29] And then our other two products are sweet. So I’m a chocoholic as well. I had realized on the market there were either chocolates that were marketed as healthy, but really just regular chocolate. And then there [were] like sugar-free chocolates but with a ton of chemicals in them. And then there [were] chocolates that were healthy-ish, but there was nothing that was really, really mindful of sugar. I find that sugar is the epidemic of our generation and I’m really, really, really against it. So I never found that there was chocolates on the market that were mindful of the sugar content, of where their sugars were coming, of all the elements. Like okay, we’re gonna use natural sugars, we’re not just gonna dump a boatload of natural sugars, we’re actually gonna use such minimal amounts that in our nutrition label it says zero sugar because the traces are so low, and they do come from a natural source, and we haven’t used any like, [erythritol] or alcohols to create it. So that was a really fun process. Again that took a long time. 

Claire: [00:28:30] Our two other products are a schizandra berry chocolate truffle and a matcha latte truffle. And we serve them in two varieties of forms, we have a truffle which is in the shape of eyes and lips. Really beautiful, goes back to the dinner party experience, you give that as a dessert, it’s this really chic in cheeky way of serving people. And then we have it in a bar form. We put them in little cigarette boxes, which is also a little like, witty nod to like, healthy/unhealthy way of eating. We put them in little bars, or call them little cigarettes, and they’re just doses of chocolate so you’re not sitting there with a big bar trying to break off a square, did I eat two squares, three squares, how many calories did I eat? You just have, you know, your dose for the day or your dose for that moment. 

Richie: [00:29:15] Where do you expect people to eat these things? Because you talk a lot about the dinner party, but there’s also the daily part, and it seems on the go. And even as you were talking before, it seems one of the ironies of snacking is they’re advertised in such a sedentary way, but today they seem to be used in such an active way as well. 

Claire: [00:29:32] Yeah. And what’s insane is that the percentage of millennials that actually snack instead of eating meals is just going up and up and up every single year. So going back to that term that everyone says not to do what I’m doing is, I kind of want to be everything to everyone. Like I want to be at that dinner party or that dinner experience or that social experience, but I also want people to take that experience and bring it with them every day. I want it to be with people right before they go to sleep. 

Claire: [00:30:00] And then our matcha latte truffle, you know it has eight grams of pea protein in it, it has matcha, it has maca. So maca is a root, also an adaptogen that is really, really proficient in Chinese medicine, and it helps the stamina focus and energy. So for me, like 4:00pm every day, as I said, is a weakness time for a lot of people. You should be eating something mindfully but it should also be delicious and amazing and exciting, and sometimes at 4:00pm people want to kill themselves and they want to jump out the cubicle window, like, maybe you can bring that little magic from your dinner party or your social experience into your daily life. So I see the snacks being as I say, super-high on the social spectrum, and also super-low on the solitary spectrum, but kind of holding all of the same experience to it. 

Richie: [00:30:50] One of the more interesting things about that is, if you go back to the fashion world, it seems that so much of what’s considered “high” is because of its juxtaposition. In terms of, if a dress is in a FIVESTORY or a so forth, it’s considered this very high-end thing. If that dress is on a rack at Walmart it’s considered something much more inferior. It seems that you kind of hold that integrity no matter where it sits, and that seems very different. And I’m curious, one, why do you think that is, if you agree? Then two, do you think that’s emblematic of being in a different market, or entirely just how the product itself manifests visually?

Claire: [00:31:30] I think it’s about creating an entire culture around something. The product itself, it doesn’t really matter—obviously the product matters to me, but it really doesn’t. And I always said, when I started FIVESTORY I built this insane beautiful townhouse, and I had never worked in the fashion industry before. And I was calling people, and I was like, “Hi, I’m building this store,” and they’re just like, “Who are you. You’re 23 years old. You’ve never worked in this industry before. Like, lose my number.” And I remember one day saying like, if I have to sell a Bic pen at FIVESTORY, it’s gonna be the most beautiful Bic pen you’ve ever seen. 

Claire: [00:32:04] And it was because of the context in which it was, and the thought that I went to pick this out, and the curation, even though that’s an overused word, it really is the curation. So I do believe that if you create this culture around something, you could sell anything. It’s almost editorializing snacks. Think about opening a magazine. The way they put things together, the way they created a dinnerscape, the way they create a woman walking down the street, you want to be that woman. And then you read the credits, and if it said “Old Navy, Old Navy, Old Navy,” you’d be like, “Oh my god, I could be that woman in Old Navy?” And then you’ll run to Old Navy and you’re gonna be that woman because you saw it in Vogue. It didn’t matter if it said this is a Prada T-shirt for nine hundred dollars or an Old Navy t-shirt for $9.99, they had created this context for it. And that’s, to me, the beauty of everything I do. But really, the beauty of Dada is that I want to create this really high-level experience that takes three seconds of your time, and that’s not expensive. 

Richie: [00:33:09] Talk a bit more about the aesthetic, ’cause it’s very strong and distinct. And again, I didn’t even know it was a snacking company when I looked at it, which to some people may be seen as a problem, I have a feeling it’s probably a good thing for you. Like, I had to go deeper I guess is what I’m saying. It wasn’t just like, Lay’s with chips and so forth, at least when it landed on the website. So talk a bit more about that and maybe kind of the direct experience as well. 

Claire: [00:33:28] So the design element has been a real like, unzipping of my guts and spilling them out on the table. I am like, the most consistent human there is. If everyone listening had come to my wedding, it is literally like Dada in real life. And so I basically honed in on what my aesthetic is, and if I was gonna give anyone like kind of a tutorial on if you’re building a business and want to know what your aesthetic is, start writing down the movies that you love, and the places you love to go to, and where you feel most comfortable, like are you a beach person, are you a mountain person. What do you get excited for? And I just started writing down all these things. 

Claire: [00:34:07] I was like, when I land in a city, what’s the first thing I want to do? I was like, I want to go to a museum, I want to see art, and I want to see if they have a health food store. That’s where I want to be. And all of a sudden I was like, what are the restaurants that I like, where I feel great in? Why do I feel great in it? Is it because it has this vibe? Is it the red velvet chairs? And I honestly believe that everyone has an aesthetic, and everyone has a point of view, you just have to, you know, deep-dive in the right way. And I started really connecting the dots to what I love and what worlds I love to live in, and if I were to design a hotel or, you know, apartment with endless resources, what it would look like. And then I just built the company around that. 

Claire: [00:34:50] What’s going to differentiate you in the space dramatically is gonna be the best thing for you and the worst thing for you. If you are differentiated dramatically then people are gonna get confused. I personally might be overconfident. I mean like, if my parents are gonna listen to this, this is all your fault. But I believe that I can grab someone’s attention enough that they want to learn a little bit more. 

Richie: [00:35:14] And that’s what happened. It wasn’t that, I’m like, “Oh chips.” It was, “Oh this is, what is this?”

Claire: [00:35:20] Right. And I think that the brand has so much to say, that if I just led with, “Oh, chips,” people would lose the message. So they would say, “Oh, what is going on in that ad? Like, what are they doing? Are they like, naked eating dinner party like, Brussels sprouts?” That’s not one of our ads, but it could be, it just came to me right now. But like, I have always said about art, good art has to make you feel something. I think some of the greatest art in the entire world is disgustingly ugly, it makes me want to throw up, but it made me feel something. I think it was Jerry Saltz that said something like, “The best art pulls you in and makes you squirm.” And I really believe that about a company. 

Claire:[00:35:59] I think if something’s whitewashed, and pretty, and nice, if you’re in an aisle you’ll pick it up, but you’re not gonna want to join the movement. You’re not gonna want to buy everything. You know, if they came out with a candle, you’re gonna be like, “Why is my nut brand coming out with a candle?” But when Dada came out with a candle, while people are like, “This is a bad idea,” they still understood it. And all of a sudden there was this platform because it’s questionable about what we really are, there is a platform to be anything. And to me that’s the most exciting part, because I needed to create something that was long-lasting, that I could fit anything into, and especially anything I was interested into. So the most exciting thing for me every day when I wake up is that Dada can be anything. It is always going to be ingrained in snacking—that is what we are—but the branches that come out of snacking can go anywhere. 

Richie: [00:36:54] At what point are people telling you these were bad ideas that you start to think you’re onto something?

Claire: [00:36:59] The cool thing was, is that every time someone said, “I think that’s a bad idea,” they said to me, “This is the most interesting thing I’ve seen in the space, but I don’t know if people are ready for it.” That kind of verbiage was just spoken to me over and over again, and so I was like, okay, this is the most interesting thing they’ve seen in the space. That’s a pretty big thing. I’m gonna keep going on my road because I’m gonna take that as the highest form of compliment. And the second half of their “but” was I don’t know if people are ready for it. I’m gonna have confidence in people. I’m gonna have confidence in us to educate people and I’m gonna have confidence in the culture that’s being kind of built right now in this visually stimulated culture, that they’re growing rapidly, especially visually, especially ’cause of Instagram and social media, that they might not get it right now, but they’re on their way. 

Claire: [00:37:51] And not to be super-Steve-Jobs-y but like, maybe we’re giving them what they don’t even know they want. That was just a real entrepreneurial sentiment of like, I’m gonna do it no matter what and I’m gonna teach them how to snack. But for a lot of people they would listen to them and say, oh shit. Like, I gotta just make some chips and whitewash this and make it look like a few other things that people can relate to. 

Richie: [00:38:16] So the company launched earlier this spring. Talk a bit about kind of how you conceptualized that, what the goal was and where the company is today. 

Claire: [00:38:25] So I really wanted to create an experience in order to launch the company. Obviously I was like, I need to throw a dinner party, and this just can’t be run-of-the-mill dinner party. I was like, I need this to be a dinner party that’s about the whole brand. So I was like, okay, what’s our essence? Our essence is snacks. What are the essence of snacks? It’s the food, the ingredients that we’re putting in them. I was like, okay, so if the ingredients are so important and they’re the root of this tree, but the experience is also important, how do we create experience from the ingredients? So I was like, oh, we gotta make them into people. 

Claire: [00:39:00] So we personified our superfoods. I worked with actors and actresses, a choreographer, we choreographed dances, we had living turmeric and moringa and matcha and schizandra. We invited people into this unbelievably otherworldly space and we had people really experience the brand, from the cocktails they were drinking, which were bloody Virgin Moringa Mary, it was a bloody mary instead of an olive it was a Brussels sprout. I mean, we went so far. We served Dover sole in the sole of a shoe, because we were like, really wanted people to understand like, the surrealist nature. 

Claire:[00:39:40] The dinner itself was like, very formal in its idea that everyone had a table and a place card, but then it was really playful in its execution. But for dinner, it just said “dinner orgy” at the bottom, and we invited everyone back into this industrial kitchen and we had the dessert literally mushed all over the counters. So everyone walked into the kitchen with a spoon and they just had to like all kind of eat off the same surfaces. And we had everyone from like, Malcolm Gladwell, to like, health and wellness influencers. And, to me, it was like the greatest moment. Even if the company didn’t even launch next day I was like, this is my finest moment. And that’s how we launched. 

Claire: [00:40:19] After that. You know it’s just word of mouth, press, getting out there. It’s the hustle. 

Richie: [00:40:25] In terms of into the next six or so months like, where do you want the business to be at the end of the year? And how are you thinking about future scale as the ambition seems significant when it comes to the high/low and making this accessible to a lot of people? 

Claire: [00:40:39] My number one ambition for 2019 would be that people see Dada and understand it. Not saying people see Dada and say oh, this is a snack company, but that people see Dada and go like, I want in. I’m not sure what that means, but I know I want in on that world. And so that’s a big thing for me. And how do I get there? Being accessible being in people’s bodegas, being able to be at arm’s length so people can experience it daily. Being high-level, being at department stores in that other type of shopping experience. And then also building out the visual component of creating this dinner party experience, but at a very, very economically friendly accessible level. So if you see any of our ad campaigns or, you know, we just did a big project with Instagram @shop, these tablescapes are really beautiful, but they’re not accessible. They’re very expensive tablecloths, they’re expensive China. I really want to build out the entirety of the table, where the snacks live, at a very, very digestible price point, so people could really create this how-to in its entirety. So that’s where I see it. 

Richie: [00:41:57] Will you cease to be a snacking company at that point?

Claire: [00:42:00] No. So, I think what we will be best at is snacks. But where they live, how they live, that’ll grow. It’ll be two arms and I think they’re gonna actually just feed each other, no pun intended, but at the end of the day we are a food company, we are a snack company. So it’s just building the world and how to add to our offerings in that world. 

Richie: [00:42:26] What is your daily eating routine of the stuff you make?

Claire: [00:42:30] So when I got my degree in integrative nutrition, basically what you have to do is, you study every possible diet out there. And so they have the gurus of these diets come to you, and you have this big lecture with them, but every week or every few weeks is a different method. And then you have to create your own. And so I created my own. The principles are really based on food combining. It’s very simple. There’s no food that’s off-limits. I don’t believe in foods being off-limits, it’s just what you’re combining with. I really believe that the things that digest the quickest should be in your body first, the things that digest the slowest should be in your body last. So, green juice is the quickest thing to digest. It goes straight into your cells, straight into your bloodstream. It’s the best thing you can ever put your body. I personally inhale green juice all morning. And then you kind of work your way up. 

Claire: [00:43:18] You have salad with stuff in it, and I personally, like, I’m obsessed with steak. My company is vegan. I personally am 80% vegan, 20% steak enthusiast. I work my way to a really big dinner. In my eyes, people need 12 to 13 hours to digest heavy foods, cooked foods, and no better time than to digest than while you’re sleeping. So, if you’re gonna eat a heavy cooked meal most people it’s like, “Oh, I should do it in the beginning of the day.” That’s actually like, the worst idea is to do a heavy meal for breakfast and then have like, a juice and a salad, ’cause you’re basically putting a gloppy, very slow-metabolizing digestible meal. And then on top of it you’re putting really, really like, fast-paced alive product that’s gonna end up just fermenting and rotting while the other things are digesting, and that’s how people gain weight. 

Richie: [00:44:10] And then, in terms of when the Dada products fall into the routine. 

Claire: [00:44:14] So I am a big snacker when it comes to like, 4:00pm, so I usually have, it depends what I’m craving. If I’m actually starting to get hungry, my Dada vegetable snacks are like, lifesavers. They have so much protein, so much fiber, they nail it. They’re very salty and good, and they really quench whatever you’re feeling in that realm, the snacky feeling. If I’m feeling more sweet, I’ll go for the matcha or the chocolate. And then I’m also like, categorically, I like things at night. Like I like to eat dinner and then I like to have something. So sometimes I will have a Dada snack after my meal if I don’t feel like, full, like weighty. And then I always, no matter what, have a chocolate before I go to bed. Not a chocolate—nobody has a chocolate, those people don’t exist and I hate them—I have two truffles or I have a bar. 

Richie: [00:45:03] Very cool. Thanks so much for talking. 

Claire: [00:45:05] My pleasure, thanks for having me. 

Richie: [00:45:11] Thanks for listening to the Loose Threads Podcast. You can read full transcripts of the podcast and join the newsletter at LooseThreads.com. Feel free to leave a review on iTunes, we always appreciate it, and thanks to George Drake, Jr. for editing this episode. We have a great roster of upcoming guests and we hope you tune in next week.