What do you do when you’re a cookie fan, one of a specific breed that likes crispy cookies, and you’d like them to be organic, and just can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? Start your own company of course. It helps if you’re named Crummy, and you have two brothers, ideal for creating a “Pep Boys” like logo for said cookies.
I recently had a chance to speak with Jason Wachob, the CEO of Crummy Brothers cookies, on what makes them unique, what his experience has been, being in a greener realm then in his past endeavors, what he’s learned so far, and what’s up with the individually plastic wrapped cookies?
The eminently friendly Wachob was glad to lay it out for me. He chuckled and said he might discourage people from getting into the packaged foods business, but then had many redeeming experiences to share that tipped the scales towards encouraging other ecopreneurs out there to make a go of it.
So, what makes these cookies different from all the rest? I can say first hand, having been sent a sample, that the crispiness stands out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve typically associated healthier cookies with the chewie, soft variety. Why the crispy factor? To them, it’s a personal thing. They’re crispy cookie guys. They know they’re never going to win over the ‘deli’ cookie people, and that suits them just fine. Interestingly, Wachob said that getting a deli cookie certified organic is nearly impossible, and when done, the taste and shelf life is compromised. Alternatively, to enhance the shelf life of those, numerous additional ingredients need to be put into play, making for a lesser cookie experience.
Interesting, something to chew on indeed.
That’s all well and good, but when I received my samples in the mail, it seemed to be the whole package…until I opened the recyclable paper box: Each cookie is individually wrapped, in plastic, which is both taller then the cookie and wraps around it almost 1 1/2 times. A major eco faux pas, I thought. When I asked Wachob about this, his answer was an interesting one, one emblematic of the considerations that ecopreneurs face: how to create a quality product while conserving resources.
They tested out a number of options, and found that each of them somehow compromised the product, whether it was damage in shipping, sticking to each other, or making for a shorter shelf life. I asked about the green options out there, and he said none of the ones (at least what they’ve found) were of enough quality, yet, to carry this precious cargo sufficiently. I recommended he investigate the Australian company Plantic, whose product is biodegradable, but needs no special processing to do so: You can literally pour water on it, and it liquifies, remaining ecologically neutral.
Beyond all the eco considerations, Wachob shared that an unintentional positive response was from mothers, who liked that the cookies could be packed in their kids lunches, already wrapped.
So what else is there to know about these cookies? Ah, there’s the chocolate. All of the line are based around the chocolate chip cookie framework, with some interesting “flavor profiles” as they call them in the industry: Lemon Ginger, Orange Blossom, to start. Dagoba single sourced chocolate to complete it. And as many organic ingredients as is currently possible (Wachob claims that there is no organic baking soda, at least by USDA certification standards.)
Knowing that Wachob has been a CEO of other companies, and was once a cog in the Wall Street machine, I asked how his experience has been so far in this realm, as compared to others. He said that though there is definitely some trend surfers out there, for the most part people he’s met genuinely believe in what they do, and it translates into the companies they create. For him, this has been a chance to blend his personal and professional life, in a healthy way. To be able to integrate your personal beliefs into what you do for a living has been immensely satisfying, he says. It helps to have this motivation, working 16 hour days at times. He’s also found in the greener side of the business realm that people are much more willing to listen to you, to share resources, and to be very helpful.
I’ve noticed this too, that it’s been very easy to create networks among the disparate components out there, in a very, well, organic way. My writing these words on Ecopreneurist is due in part to someone from MindBodyGreen, a consciousness skewed digg style social news site contacting me when I sent in feedback, and then when they found out I would be at the Green Festival in SF, none other then Jason Wachob, also the CEO of this site, wanted to meet me to hear more. He was really interested in what I had to say, and in learning that I write for Triple Pundit, offered up that he’d just heard from the people at Green Options Media (the people behind this and many other sites) that they were looking for writers. Voila, here I am.
I asked Wachob if he had any advice for those seeking to become an ecopreneur. He said it applied to any endeavor, but especially here: Find something you like, and if there’s a gap, or you can do it even better, go and do it yourself. In the case of the Crummy brothers, one was a president of the Sierra Club in college, wasn’t seeing what he wanted in a cookie, and figured others wanted what he did.
Wachob also stressed the importance of not cutting corners. Consumers are increasingly savvy, and they will, pardon the pun, sniff out inauthenticity very quickly. Also, Wachob said that it’s particularly effective to envision yourself where you want to be (in their case, in Whole Foods) and see how you would package such a thing. What would it look like? Taste like? Feel like? What combination of factors would what you want to present have to take in order to get your desired result?
This leads me to think about the concept of “backcasting,” or seeing the final result, then thinking through the steps from the end, back to where you are now, to get there. But that’s another story.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.