A crew of smiley models in baby-pink jumpsuits caught my eye while I was wandering FounderMade CDS–they stood out from the rest of the booths manned by black-clad New Yorkers. After the refreshing pop of color, the second thing to grab my attention was the delicate packaging of what I thought was a new skincare product, but would later discover is a beauty protein bar. Kalumi was founded by models Chrissy Blair and Jayla Harnwell after looking for a solution for their on-the-go lifestyle and careers that were taking a toll on their bodies. Kalumi hints at the future of beauty, where artfully packaged food and vitamins have a place next to skincare products on Sephora shelves and glow is achieved not with highlighter, but with smoothies.
BeautyMatter had the chance to chat with the creators who began a business and joined the ranks of beauty and wellness crossover products. Read on for our Q&A:
What inspired the creation of Kalumi? How did your careers as models inspire this all-in-one beauty and food hybrid? As a couple of best friends in the modeling industry, we were constantly sharing our tips and tricks for great hair, nails, and skin. We both had been battling eczema flare-ups and suffered from sensitive, blemish-prone skin and brittle hair and had to wear a ton of concealer and hair extensions to feel pretty. There is a lot of pressure to look flawless in our industry, so we knew we had to do something! This need drew us to marine collagen, which we found outrageously beneficial. One day at a NYC café, we spoke about ways to make it easier and yummier to consume. Literally the next day we went to Whole Foods and grabbed our favorite ingredients like sweet potato, lemon, and cashew and whipped up our very own formulation of “lemon love.” The first attempt was gold and we ended up making them weekly to take on set. Next thing we knew, all our model friends and make-up artists wanted some too. That’s when we knew, there is a market of health and beauty seekers out there who will appreciate the product and also need it in their lives.
Your Beautyfood bars are the first wellness protein bars to use marine collagen. How did you discover this ingredient and what are the benefits? We started drinking bone broth to help support a healthy gut, which in turn supports a healthy glow. This led into finding a more convenient way to get similar benefits. Under Jayla’s mum’s recommendation (who is a well-respected naturopath and holistic doctor in Australia) to start taking hydrolyzed collagen, as it is easier for our bodies to absorb, we came across our preferred choice which was hydrolyzed marine collagen. Using marine collagen over other sources (beef, pork) was the obvious choice for us. Not only is it the most bioavailable source of protein, it is the best type of collagen (type 1) for hair, skin, and nails, and it is more sustainable. Our marine collagen is derived from wild-caught north Atlantic codfish.
Another unique ingredient in the bars is fair-trade yacon syrup that is sourced from a family farm in Peru. Why did you decide to use this ingredient and how did you find the farm? We created this bar for ourselves originally, so we didn’t want to use harmful sweeteners like a lot of other protein bars contain. In the beginning, everyone called us crazy for using a syrup that was so expensive. All we cared about was creating the best possible product, using only the best possible ingredients. We knew that if we were willing to pay for quality, so would our customers. There are SO many bars on the market that contain inflammatory sweeteners that claim to be natural like stevia, brown rice syrup, agave, dates and, possibly worst of all, sugar alcohols, to sweeten their product. We know our Kalumi babes do their research and we wanted to only use the best of the best! Organic yacon syrup is a root vegetable native to Peru. It is low GI, metabolism boosting, and has a delicious, natural sweetness. Other companies don’t use yacon because, sadly, many often value profits over a truly nutritious product and many consumers have gotten use to eating super-sweet-tasting products, so they have to use high amounts of sugar to taste good to their consumers.
What does wellness mean to you ? Why do you think beauty starts from the inside out? Total wellness is loving yourself. Taking the time to treat yourself, look after yourself, and respect yourself. If your soul and body are nourished, that is when we flourish. Unfortunately in this day and age it can be easy to neglect ourselves and our health with everything we have going on. We are all so busy, we tend to forget to put time aside to nurture ourselves. Whether that is doing a workout class we love, cooking a delicious meal filled with love, or catching up with friends that feed our spirits. Kalumi offers a unique, delicious, and healthy way of rewarding yourself with health, and ultimately, beauty.
All your ingredients are ethically sourced and non-GMO, and the bars don’t require refrigeration to save energy. Is green and clean a crux to your brand’s mission? It sure is! Living consciously is a strong part of Kalumi.
The bar’s packaging is sleek and minimal, with pops of color and sweet illustrations to accent the modern typeface. The packaging elevates Kalumi compared to other bars. What was the motivation behind creating a chic wellness bar? The motivation was to create a luxury experience for consumers but through a high-end, healthy product, which you don’t see much. Why can’t beauty-boosting foods also be thought of and enjoyed as a beauty product? I love the feeling I get when I buy myself a new, creamy moisturizer or a radiating highlighter—why can’t we have that same experience with a product that boosts our glow naturally? The inspiration for the design came together through studying our favorite high-fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar … we wanted to combine a fashion feel to really chic-up the product. She’s a special product so she should totally rock that wrapper.
You list sustainability as a motivating factor behind the brand; does your packaging support this? Being as sustainable as possible is certainly important to us and as we grow we will be able to broaden that more and more. Our main focus is sustainably sourced ingredients. So many collagen sources are not so sustainable in that land animals require a lot of water and contribute to environmental issues.
What’s your current perception of the merging beauty and wellness landscapes? Wellness and beauty go hand in hand, so it was only a matter of time. Food, exercise, sleep, and our mindset all affect our appearance. It’s so exciting to see that people are really starting to see the connection between the foods we eat and the reflection of it in our skin, bodies, energy levels, and overall well-being. We love to see brands like HUM nutrition making waves in large beauty retail accounts such as Sephora.
Your Instagram is super feminine and features fashion imagery. As a non-model, to me it feels like you are looking to target aspiring models—is this your main market? Who is your target demographic? We like to feature happy, vibrant women on our Instagram who are living the Kalumi lifestyle. The Kalumi babe is constantly on the go, hard-working, and understands the importance of health to achieve natural beauty. We like to create a “vibe” on our feed and invite all women to join the movement!
As a startup with little experience in food or beauty, how have you been so successful? What has been your biggest challenge so far? Your biggest achievement? We saw a huge gap in both the food and beauty industries. The food industry is fraught with cheap, nutrient-lacking snack options that are filled with empty carbs and sugars. The beauty industry lacked a convenient and delicious ingestible beauty option for people on the go. It has been taken so well because people love the fact that they can eat one delicious snack and get so many amazing benefits out of it. We feel a sense of achievement every day when we see people eating their Kalumi BEAUTYfood and loving it—that’s all we ever wanted!
You are sold at GOOP and Free People, two major retailers in the health and beauty space. What’s next for you? Can we expect more Kalumi products in the future? We plan to make Kalumi the Glow-to for all your snacking and beauty needs! We will be launching a “healthstyle” plan early next year. We sat down with top holistic doctors, dietitians, personal trainers, and other models and combined all their amazing knowledge on health with our personal discoveries and experiences through the modeling industry and our person health journeys. It is a complete guide to rebalancing and resetting the body and finding the specific “healthstyle” that is best for your type—we are not all the same! It also will include healthy recipes and tips and tricks for achieving natural beauty and a happy soul! Also, stay tuned for a new bar flavor dropping early next year!