In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Joyce Zhu, CEO of Numa Foods. Numa Foods sells healthier Asian nougat candy, is based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, and has been in business for two years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business?
Joyce: The name “Numa” means daughter and mother in Chinese, as our story started in my mother’s kitchen. In early 2017, I was working a travel-heavy job in management consulting and was having difficulty satisfying my sweet tooth in a healthier manner.
Making it her mission to solve my problem, my mom began making these deliciously creamy and chewy treats she had as a little girl for me and I quickly realized how nutritious and travel-ready they were. Not only did they satisfy my sweet tooth, they also provided a much needed vitamin and protein boost while on-the-go.
We believe that many others have the same problem I did and are branching out to help solve it whilst introducing a piece of our culture and family.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
J: We made our first batches in our own kitchen, hand cutting, packing, and sealing each piece, then sharing it with our friends and family. We have since scaled and improved upon that recipe for a larger scale facility, but we will always stay true to our values of natural and fresh.
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
J: We could not find a manufacturer that could produce our product to our standards and in small enough batches, so we rolled up our sleeves and set up our own dedicated facility in Lansdale, PA, where we produce our nougat in small batches ourselves. We source locally whenever possible and are continuously improving our recipes and procedures based on customer feedback and seasonal changes.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
J: New Jersey farmers’ markets with hand packed and sealed product in cellophane bags.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
J: We’re now on Amazon, specialty stores across NYC, and in King Kullen stores on Long Island City.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Numa Foods?
J: We’ve made so many mistakes learning to become masters of our own trade – broken equipment, improper material handling, recipe scaling failures, supplier issues – and we always pay with our time, money, and, worst of all, dissatisfied customers.
However, we’re learning in strides and are proud of how far we’ve come through these lessons and failures and grateful for a large group of wonderful customers who have supported us even through those times.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Numa Foods?
J: Receiving all of the overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers breathes fresh confidence and excitement in us, as it affirms that we’re on the right track. Our first five star review on Amazon was a huge celebration moment for us because of all the hurdles we had to jump through to get there!
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
J: Be patient and continuously iterate on your product.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
J: Diamonds need pressure.