Better Sour, a new candy company dedicated to celebrating culture through sour flavors from around the world, will debut at Natural Products Expo West 2023. Co-founded by CPG veteran Bella Hughes and Semira Nikou, the company has raised an oversubscribed $1 million pre-seed round to support the brand’s launch.

The founders, who are daughters of Iranian immigrants, are lifelong best friends and grew up in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Better Sour is rooted in the nostalgic flavors from the founders’ childhood, with sour being a central flavor in Iranian cuisine and also found in the tropical fruits and snacks they grew up with in Hawaiʻi. Hughes and Nikou focused on sour gummies after spotting a gap in the candy aisle despite a rising interest by consumers for global flavors.

“We’re positively obsessed with the flavor sour and are excited to create space for more diverse and inclusive flavors in our favorite category: sour gummy candy,” said Hughes, who serves as head of business development. Nikou, the company’s CEO, went on to explain, “We’ve noted a lack of innovation in the candy aisle, with even the better-for-you set focused on Western-centric flavors. We created Better Sour as a response to the rising interest in global flavors and heritage-rich brands. Better Sour is the candy for today’s multicultural landscape, self-described foodies, adventurous eaters—and above all, Sour Seekers.” 

The company is launching with two mixed-bag SKUs. One is a nod to flavors popular in the Middle East: pomegranate, apricot, and plum. Its second SKU pays homage to sour fruits and snacks from the Asia-Pacific region that are enjoyed across the Hawaiian Islands: guava, calamansi, and ume plum. Coming in a custom, sun-shaped design inspired by the brand’s lady sun logo found on its packaging, the gummies are 100% plant-based and made with clean ingredients free of any artificial colors, flavors, or dyes. Each 1.8oz bag contains only 3g of sugar and 60 calories.

Better Sour unveils at Natural Products Expo West with limited samples from March 8–10 in North Hall booth 1344. The brand will then head to its hometown of Austin, Texas, showcasing its candy at SXSW Creative Industries Expo, booth 1540, from March 12–15.

The founders bring deep industry experience from the worlds of CPG, brand-building, international trade, and law. Hughes has spent nearly a decade in CPG, most recently co-founding Shaka Tea and leading it through an exit. Nikou, an attorney, comes to CPG after working as a senior associate at a leading Washington, DC law firm. 

Additionally, longtime industry veterans Chris Robb and Mike Schall have joined as advisors to Better Sour. Robb is the director of business development at Dirty Hands, in addition to having co-founded multiple ventures including New Barn Organics in 2014, a leader in the plant-based movement with top-selling SKU in the organic almond milk category. Schall is a consultant for B. Riley Financial in its Los Angeles-based Food and Beverage practice, who previously was managing director at FocalPoint Partners, a middle market investment banking firm (acquired by B. Riley Financial), and before that was an advisor and senior principal of global growth and business development at Whole Foods Market.   

“Bella and Semira’s brand ethos and distinctive product proposition of better-for-you, global flavors and inspiration for inclusiveness makes Better Sour an outright disruptor for better-for-you-confections. Their origin story and proven ability to execute with excellence gives us great confidence in their plan. We’re honored to be a part of what will be a fun and fulfilling journey,” said Robb and Schall.

Better Sour will focus primarily on brick-and-mortar and, beginning next month, will be available through Pod Foods, with more details on its retail partners to be announced in the coming months. Better Sour is proud to be a women-owned business and recently obtained its WBENC certification.

Better Sour’s branding was designed by Group Chat with design and illustration by Kirsten Young and copywriting by Sam Corbin.