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Jason Wright is the Founder and CEO of Wilde Brands, a firm that produces impossibly delicious high-protein snack chips crafted from only natural ingredients. Before Wilde, he held senior sales roles at POM Wonderful and Yumnuts Naturals. Jason was also the Founder of FEED Granola, a producer of backed healthy granola snacks. He is a CPG veteran on a mission to create junk food for healthy people.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [05:14] Jason Wright talks about the evolution of Wilde Brands’ flavors
  • [06:35] How to launch a new flavor
  • [09:38] Wilde’s startup stage
  • [13:07] Where did the Wilde Brand chips idea come from?
  • [14:32] Jason discusses his upbringing and never-give-up mentality
  • [18:47] How he got get into the food industry and eventually started FEED Granola
  • [23:20] The lessons learned from POM Wonderful and Yumnuts Naturals
  • [25:39] The process of creating Wilde’s manufacturing facility and managing their distribution
  • [30:06] Wide’s journey in the Whole Foods
  • [34:06] Tips for attracting the right talent
  • [37:09] Wilde Brands’ advisors and ambassadors

In this episode…

Do you love snacking? Where can you get healthy and flavorful snacks that you can eat without feeling guilty?

Many people love snacking but are nowadays more cautious of what they consume. This was the case for Jason Wright, who loved comfort foods, especially potato chips. Knowing they were full of unhealthy ingredients, he got on a mission to replace the potato with chicken breast. He shares his journey of creating all-natural, crispy, flavorful chips from chicken breast.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider, Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with Jason Wright, Founder and CEO of Wilde Brands, to discuss healthy snacking on chicken breast chips. Jason talks about the evolution of Wilde Brands’ flavors, how he got into the food industry to starting FEED Granola, and the process of creating Wilde’s manufacturing facility and managing their distribution.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, founder of I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs leaders today is no different I Jason Wright of Wilde Brands, probably my favorite chips on the market of all time. And I’m not just saying that I actually ran into Jason’s brand at the CrossFit Games. And I was like, chicken chips. And we’ll go into more about it. But it’s like, wow, something healthy that I can eat throughout the day. That’s perfect. That’s right up my alley plus any protein. But before I formally introduced Jason in the background on the company, I just always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast Jason and speaking of chips, I Cameron Healy, who founded KETTLE Chips, and he talks about his journey, not an easy journey. You think, oh, they’ve made it there. And all these stores. He talked about manufacturing issues and all sorts of issues is fascinating to hear how he grew it. And then also I love that my favorite snacks on the show. Leaving low-fat foods behind with Suzie Yorke. She’s founder of Love Good Fats. So they’re like a delicious, I guess I don’t know if you call it a snack bar, but it’s delicious is chocolate peanut butter. I had mastering the ancient art of Kombucha with Holly Lyman, one of my favorite Kombucha brands, Wild Tonic. Amazing. And then one of my favorite stories. Jason was I was at the sweetened snack shop, doing interviews. And I interviewed James Cruickshank of Treeting Cards. And he was seven, think he was seven at the time, I was so impressed with them, and just what he was doing with Treeting Cards and he was trying to save up money for a gaming console, and have to try and lie these candy cards. So it’s like a card. It’s Treeting that he give but like there’s a pack of like, candy that was attached to the greeting card. And I thought it was really innovative. It was so cool to see a young entrepreneur at that age. So who knows where he’s going to be when he’s older. I think I looked at their site the other day, I think he’s 16 now so that maybe that was like yeah, like, a while ago that I interviewed him. But just check those out, and many more and and this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. How do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast, we do the full strategy, accountability and the production execution. Behind the scenes we call ourselves Jason kind of the Magic elves that make everything happen to make it look easy for the hosts, they can just show up and talk. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships, I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I have found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire on this planet and share with the world what they’re working on. That includes Wilde Brands and Wilde Chips. So I’m excited to introduce Jason Wright. He’s the founder and CEO of Wilde, impossibly delicious high-protein chips. It’s crafted from chicken breast. It’s got egg whites, and bone broth super healthy. I was always trying to get my fill of protein every day, as my trainer says. So this is a perfect thing for me to have. He’s on a mission to change the way we snack by proving that comfort foods doesn’t have to equal junk food. He’s a seasoned executive. He’s worked in this industry for a long time, actually in general. And he’s also a patent holder. So, Jason, thanks for joining me.

Jason Wright  4:08 

Hey, Jeremy. Thanks for having me. And what a great introduction. I don’t know if all that is true. I don’t know if a seasoned vet is what I would call myself. But I am an entrepreneur who will not take no for an answer. And so I think that’s how I got here today.

Jeremy Weisz  4:30 

Yeah, I mean, we’ll talk about what you’ve learned. I mean, you worked for POM as a national sales manager. You worked for Yumnuts Natural. I mean, you work for so many brands, and help them grow. So now you’re helping your own company grow. I kind of wanted to start, Jason and we’ll talk about the idea but talk about first of all the evolution of the flavors so you can see if you’re watching the video. You can see we are looking at my favorite personally is sea salt and vinegar. And we’re seeing buffalo chicken and Himalayan pink salt, chicken and waffles talk about your favorites, but also like what you start with what was the original product and the evolution of the flavors.

Jason Wright  5:14 

When I created Wilde, we started with traditional potato chip flavors. So salt and vinegar and Himalayan pink salt, were my first two products. As we started developing new concepts, we learned that if we take classic chicken dishes, and try to use that as inspiration, and then create a healthy snack, based on that chicken and waffle, based on buffalo, based on Nashville hot that consumers really connected between our product crafted from chicken breast, and the flavor that they could recognize on what, a classic chicken dish. So that really started to hit home with consumers. And that’s what we do, as today, we take classic chicken dishes, and we use that as inspiration. And we bring to life a very healthy snack that reminds you of that classic chicken dish.

Jeremy Weisz  6:16 

So you started with the sea salt and vinegar, Himalayan pink salt. How do you decide how many more flavors? Because I mean, it’s expensive, right? I mean, to launch a new flavor, how do you decide to launch a new flavor? Do you test it? How does that work?

Jason Wright  6:35 

Yeah, we start with, again, the classic chicken dish. So like internally, we’re launching barbecue. That really, it’s kind of a summer staple, barbecue, backyard grilled chicken. And so that really was a flavor, we felt like we needed. We had a lot of fans asking for that flavor. We also were working on new concepts. Spicy Queso was one, again, something that you could imagine that would be on chicken. But to your point, it does get complicated when you have that many flavor profiles, and you own your own manufacturing facility. And so it becomes complicated. How many flavors can you possibly manufacture in a week? And so, I think we’re in a good spot right now we have six unique flavors that all sell very well. We’ll be adding maybe that seven kind of towards the end of the year and spicy queso, I think that’s where we kind of stopped for a little while we pause. And we kind of, just stick to those seven core items for a while. And I do think that there’s a, I always like to say sky’s the limit with Wilde because we could think about around-the-world flavors, think about in other countries and you got maybe a Korean barbecue. You know, you just have so many options that you could do. So I think there’s a lot of flavors that you could do with our product. But for right now I think we’re going to kind of pump the brakes at seven.

Jeremy Weisz  8:20 

What are your favorites, you have some think around you there. I don’t know if you could hold it up.

Jason Wright  8:25 

So I’m like a fan, chicken or Buffalo has always been my favorite. This reminds you of a buffalo chicken wing. It also always tell people this is all the love of wing night monos your napkins truly remind you of a buffalo wing. And then the one that’s coming out and something I’ve worked on very hard is barbecue. I did not want this to taste like your traditional barbecue potato chips. So this really takes the grilling the kind of smokiness to peppery like a backyard barbecue and it really puts it into Wilde Chips, you know, barbecue, Protein Chips. So I think we captured everything that you are going to do this summer when you break out the grill and you use your favorite barbecue sauce on chicken breast. And I’m excited for people to try it.

Jeremy Weisz  9:27 

I want to talk about the first batch that you made versus the process to come out with the barbecue flavor. So take me back to the first batch.

Jason Wright  9:38 

I would love to reach out to the folks who tried to first batch and apologize because this product had never been done before. And when you don’t know what you don’t know, you make mistakes. Things happen. It takes time to figure out it takes time to perfect it. And the first batch is that can remember the texture was not, it was in the kitchen. Yeah, I started in my apartment in Boulder, Colorado. I also worked with a local friend of mine who had a kitchen, he does a lot of work for other brands, for products. And he had a kitchen there in Boulder. And so we worked there to try to come up with what I call it a day, the Wilde potato. So we had to take chicken breasts and fuse it with egg white bone broth, we had to figure out how to create our version of a potato that we were going to slice it like a potato chip. I was working with Colorado State University at the time, they have a great Meat Science Program. Colorado State University, I was going up working with Professor Bob Dellmore. And it was just trying to figure out how would we do this product. You know, the first time we made Wilde outside of our kitchen there in Boulder, we made the Wilde potato at Colorado State University. They have some equipment there that we were able to take advantage of and use. And then we shipped that down to a port ramp facility. And we went down to run it and we basically made a huge mess, we shut down the facility, due to all of our product kind of got captured within their fryers, because it just we did not need fryers for this product. But in the early days, we thought we did. And so when we tested the product, basically all the product we put into the fryer married together and made one big. I don’t know for lack of better terms massive Wilde chip, and it burned.

Jeremy Weisz  12:11 

The equipment wasn’t used to the type of texture ingredient that was going through.

Jason Wright  12:17 

Yeah, when you look at a port run, port run are rendered down. So they take the skin of a pig, and they render it down. And it’s create, they create what they call pellets. And so they actually follow like marbles. So the way that whole system is designed is force is for like a marble, we’ll call it that falls in and then as the port run, you know, kind of puffs up it, there’s a Thompson merger that holds it down, make sure that it’s cooked. And then it basically exit side of the fryer. And then a season and for our product, you had to do something totally different. But at the time, we didn’t know that. So we were just testing.

Jeremy Weisz  13:04 

you know, where did the idea come from?

Jason Wright  13:07 

I’ve always loved potato chips. And potato chips never love me back. And as I got older, that really presented itself. And so at the bottom of a potato chip bag back in 2017, I had this kind of Eureka moment. And this question popped in my head. And basically the question was, could I replace the potato with chicken breast, I wanted something that was healthier. I wanted something that did not lose the crunch. I wanted a classic potato chip crunch. That was very important to me, I wanted to start with real food first, I did not want to achieve this by taking protein powder and making a functional nutritional product. I wanted to create a product that I felt good about eating, but didn’t lose the taste and texture of traditional potato chips. So that was where the idea sparked. And I’m a guy that once I get it on my head, I go down the rabbit hole and there’s really no turning back until I either figure it out. Well really is to figure it out. I just won’t stop.

Jeremy Weisz  14:22 

You have this never give up mentality. And I love for you to talk a little bit about your upbringing, because I imagine it has something to do with that.

Jason Wright  14:32 

Yeah, my upbringing. I’m from South Carolina from the small town in South Carolina. I grew up, my mom and my dad split when I was very young. So my mom raised me. She worked third shift textile. And so I learned from her what hard work meant. And I watched her just never take days off and just work, basically put food on the table. And there was just a hard work ethic instilled in me since I was super young. And I just never forgot that. And then if I kind of take a step back, you know, people ask me all the time, like, why it takes so much risk. And I think you have to realize where I came from, I didn’t really have a lot to lose, you know, it’s not like I started midway or upper tier of the ladder, I kind of came from nothing started from nothing. And so I was comfortable being at the bottom, and always viewed life as they were certainly one way I could go. And that was up. So the risk factor wasn’t really a problem for me, because I was already comfortable living at the bottom.

Jeremy Weisz  15:56 

In growing up, Junior High School, what did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

Jason Wright  16:04 

It’s funny, because I always knew I wanted to own my own business, but I did not know what that looked like.

Jeremy Weisz  16:13 

Why is that? Was there someone in town or someone that you’re close with, or what was it?

Jason Wright  16:19 

I just viewed that as the ultimate kind of way of kind of controlling your own destiny. And I will tell you, right, when I graduated high school, I started selling cars, I worked at a car dealership this summer, between high school and going off to college. And I really thought that that was going to be my call. And I thought early on that maybe I was going to own dealerships. And I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed meeting people, I enjoyed the sales side of it. I looked up to the owner of the car dealership, which was a GMC, Pontiac Buick dealership. And anyway, and so that that kind of, I guess, in the early days, I thought maybe I was going to be a car dealer. But as I got into college, started opening my eyes to other things. I went down the path of working for a clothing, apparel company, and through that apparel company, I fell into modeling, believe it or not, and that got me out of the south out of South Carolina, and in New York, where I spent 10 years but in the early days of New York, and in modeling, that’s when I became very conscious and obsessed of what I was putting in my body and really realized that food made me feel certain ways, a better way than I been eating in the South. That led me to Whole Foods, discovering different types of products. And it just became my passion to eat healthy, which that’s how I got into food. And once I got into that, I just never looked back. I knew at that point, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to do something and natural foods.

Jeremy Weisz  18:33 

You were national sales manager at POM, wonderful. And then a slew of products. When I think of as obviously the pomegranate juice in the container there. What did you learn from that experience that you brought to Wilde?

Jason Wright  18:47 

Yeah, so if I back up just a little bit, I want to tell you how I really got in the food industry, which led to POM. So in 2005, I started my own cereal company. So I launched a brand called Feed Granola in the city. And fast forward, we grew a Feed to about a $2 million dollar brand. We kind of got captured in 2008 2009 downturn of the economy really got to a point where we couldn’t find funding for Feed. And in 2010 I closed down the business so I learned a lot but at the end of the day, didn’t have a lot to show for it. I was at a point where I knew some folks who worked over at POM Wonderful, wonderful brands, and they were looking for someone to come in really knew a lot about a natural channel and I knew a lot about the natural channel I grown Feed throughout the natural channel. I had met with you know all the buyers as a founder, really understood that market and so POM was wanting to do something special in the natural channels. So that’s why I was hired at POM, to come in and, and not only run the natural channel for them, but also understand working closely with whole foods, if there was some synergies on POM doing some special stuff just for Whole Foods and for the natural channel. And so that’s really what I was brought in to do there at POM.