Now you can have your cookies and be healthy, too! You Again Foods founder Priya Mulvihill is making the whole idea of “food as medicine” a whole lot more delicious with her line of good-for-you, plant-based baking mixes inspired by Ayurveda medicine (an alternative medicine practice that is based upon the philosophy that wellness is dependent on a balanced mind, body and spirt).

Organic, vegan, paleo, gluten and grain free, You Again’s baking mixes check all the boxes today’s health-conscious consumers are looking for. The product line currently includes three varieties: Oat Ginger Raisin, specially blended to inspire energy; Chocolate chip, blended to bring on calm and blissful rest; Mint Chocolate, to remedy anxiety and help you feel grounded. Read more about the company’s products and mission here.

Let’s get baking! Read on to see how Priya has been managing business during the pandemic and into the New Year.

Growing up, did you have an interest in the food and beverage industry? OR When did you first become interested in food and beverage industry?

As a kid, I was never very interested in food and beverage, though, I was a picky eater. I loved vegetables but was very particular about meats, and rarely ate any. I was grateful to have home cooked meals often, with a large focus on vegetables, but as with most kids growing up in the 90’s, I loved my fair share of ultra processed junk food. I’m of Indian descent, both parents migrated to the US in the ‘80s for higher education and to raise a family, so naturally I was exposed to the cuisine of our culture, including plant forward foods, warm easy-to-digest meals, and spices like Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, Ginger, Cardamom, etc. I didn’t realize then, but these are all rooted in ancient Ayurvedic nutrition, the foundation of our brand You Again.

My interest in healthy eating began when I was in my final year of college, living in a house with nine of my best friends, and found myself engrossed in health & fitness magazines, recreating the recipes I’d find and following the diet and fitness plans. This started my obsession with nutrition, clean eating, fitness, and distance running. Fast forward four years, as a Certified Public Accountant, I left public accounting to move into the Finance departments for Natural Food Products in the CPG space, like RXBAR and Your Super to follow my passion in the healthy food and beverage industry.

Where did the inspiration for your product come from?

While my passion for nutrition and health started innocently in college, it developed into a dangerous problem. My love for distance running took off and culminated into racing, competing in marathons, hitting PRs, training for multiple hours a day, and taking center stage in my life. This coupled with other workouts and caloric restriction led to malnutrition, and what I’d later learn to be anorexia. I was 26 years old with early onset osteoporosis, no menstrual cycle, debilitating gut issues, and severe anxiety. After serious running injuries and intervention from my family and friends, I sought treatment in a specialized eating disorder therapist. Unfortunately, while I thought I was healing my relationship with food and healing my hormone imbalances, I instead was turning to fad diets as a solution, which only made matters significantly worse.

Eventually, I found a functional medicine doctor to help with my gut dysbiosis and hormone function. This was my “aha” moment. I learned the importance of healing the body holistically, starting at the root of the cause, and understanding the mind and body connection, specifically the impact that stress, both physical and mental, can have on our gut, hormones, and bones. I started a functional and natural approach to healing, which included incorporating herbs and adaptogens like Ashwagandha, Maca, Turmeric, Spirulina, Ginger, and Reishi into my diet. I was curious and intrigued so began studying the origins, which led me to Ayurveda. Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic medicine practices, dating back 5,000 years ago to India. In Sanskrit, it means “Science of Life” and teaches us that we are all unique and should honor our differences by how we eat, move, sleep, and think. Finally, I had found a theory that made sense to me and my healing journey. I began finding “food freedom” by sprinkling these powerful adaptogens into baking to find better-for-you ways to eat whole ingredient desserts that are equally delicious and nutritious. I shared these recipes through my social media platform, receiving interest, but realizing that most people were not familiar with these ingredients nor where to find them or how to use them. That is when the idea for You Again Baking Mixes was born. We are a functional baking brand inspired by ancient nutrition and Ayurveda. We carefully crafted our mixes to include powerful ingredients known to complement your lifestyle, and inspire calm, focus, and performance back to… you again.

Can you tell us a bit more about your product? 

You Again provides three functional and customizable cookie mixes. We start with a foundation of nutrient dense whole food ingredients like almond flour, sprouted oat flour, pure Vermont maple sugar, or coconut sugar, and then layer in superfoods like Spirulina, Raw Cacao, Peppermint, Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon all supplying crucial vitamins and minerals. Finally, we sprinkle adaptogens like Ashwagandha, Reishi, Cordyceps, Maca, Lion’s Mane, Chaga into each mix to provide both a delicious baking experience and the health benefiting properties provided in these powerful ancient ingredients.

There is no other baking mix on the market that incorporates these ancient ingredients, and we take pride in sourcing the highest quality ingredients which are 99% organic, gluten free, and certified vegan. Our mixes are functional which means every single ingredient serves a purpose in our body. We do not include any additives or refined sugars, not even in our chocolate chips, which are made from raw cacao, cocoa butter, and coconut sugar. You will not find soy, lecithins, cane sugar, gums, high fructose corn, syrups, dies, natural flavors, or ultra-processed fillers in our products. Simply, we are on a mission to take on both ridiculous diet trends and the ultra-processed baking brands in the space by introducing whole foods ingredients and Ayurveda to everyone in a simple and approachable way. Finally, while our products are cookie mixes, they are versatile, making delicious brownies, cookie dough bars, breads, etc!

When did you decide to start selling your product? And where?

We are new to the market! We started selling in June 2020 under our previous name, went through a rebranding process, and relaunched as You Again in November 2020. Our name, packaging, and design changed, but our ingredients and mixes did not! We started selling solely direct-to-consumer and have recently launched into all six Erewhon Organic Markets throughout the Los Angeles area, plus a few small speciality markets throughout the country. We’re excited to be a part of the Pop Up Grocer event in Chicago this coming April.

What were the early days of business like?

I’d say we are still in the early days! It’s been a learning experience. While my background is in finance and I gained exposure to the food and beverage industry at my previous employers, I’m learning more than I ever realized about marketing, selling, and supply chain management! In the very very early days, I remember running to Whole Foods or Costco to buy bags and bags of almond flour if I miscalculated when to buy ingredients from our suppliers. I also remember when we first launched in June, I didn’t even have inventory ready. I thought we’d receive one or two orders (from my parents and friends), but instead, we had 40 orders on day one (which was a lot to me!) and I was up all day and night filling packages. There are so many things you learn, mistakes you make, and set-backs you endure, but it’s all part of the journey!

Do you manufacture in-house or do you have a co-manufacturer?

We manufacture at a small-batch co-manufacturer. This is one step up from our shared kitchen or home kitchen production days but one step down from a large scale co-manufacturer. In small-batch manufacturing, we have a small team that mixes and fills packages. We are very strategic and mindful about how we scale and want to always find the right partners for the stage we’re in, while being prepared for when we’re ready to take the next step.

What has been the hardest part of launching a product so far?

I have to say it’s been two main things. One is the mental component; staying laser focused in my lane and not allowing any room for negative noise, doubt, or imposter syndrome. This is hard as a first time entrepreneur and in the CPG natural food industry where there are new brands popping up everyday. You have to remind yourself of your mission every single day and keep pushing forward without getting caught up in the comparison game. Another, which is more of an “exciting challenge” than a “hard part”, is introducing something new and unique to the market, that being Ayurveda and adaptogens. The masses are still new to both, so we’ve done our research, engaged the right branding team, and crafted our messaging to educate these new ideas while also making them approachable to everyone.

How has Covid-19 affected your business?

It’s honestly hard to say because we launched during the pandemic. I do think that the shift towards home cooking and especially home baking has benefited our business, as has the focus on health and healthy ingredients which we provide. Because we are primarily eCommerce, we make it easy for consumers to find us without having to go to their supermarket. Also, many of our customers are mothers with young kids. These mothers have been impacted greatly as they’ve had to pivot to homeschooling and keeping their children entertained. Our baking mixes make for great kid-friendly activities and our amazing customers have let us know how fun it’s been to have our mixes around. Of course, on the downside, we’ve had to navigate supply chain delays, production delays, cancellation of expos we were hoping to attend, and a change in the investing landscape.

What can we expect next?

So many things! But because we are still new, we look forward to focusing on our three flagship cookie mixes for the near term. Our priority right now is on our marketing strategy, providing the best customer experience, and organic growth. We’re excited to announce that we will be available on Amazon by March 2021. Over the next six-nine months, we plan to expand into more speciality markets throughout the country to continue to build brand awareness, and hopefully gain a bigger footprint in the retail space towards the end of 2021 or early 2022, which is when we’re likely to launch our product extensions. We also are working on our seed round funding and food incubators, which we cannot share too much about yet!

What advice do you have for other early-stage food and beverage entrepreneurs?

This relates back to what I mentioned earlier about the comparison game which is so easy to fall into in the CPG world. I love this quote that I found “Every single time you set up a comparison between yourself and someone else, you lose, no one wins.” So my advice is, just stay in your lane, stay so unbelievably motivated and excited about your product and know that whether you had one sale today, or one thousand sales today, you are providing value. Every entrepreneur has their own journey and yours is different and unique, so stay positive because there will be days when you’ll be really down on yourself, even when you’re a huge successful company, but you’re doing something most people wouldn’t, taking a risk, but with high risk comes high reward! The other piece of advice I’d give is to network – talk to anyone and everyone, especially other founders in your category. Learn to work together and support each other. Some of our greatest successes we’ve had so far have come from connections made through other founders! Good luck!

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