Kalumi’s protein bars are packing a powerful retail punch.

By Rachel Brown

After the beauty food brand launched in January, Free People picked it up in March and sold out of some 500 bars within a month. Goop followed suit for its holiday selection and was relieved of 100 variety packs in days. Now, Riley Rose has brought in about 500 units of Kalumi’s three flavors — Lemon Love, Sweetie Pie and Cocoa Kiss — and shoppers better grab them immediately before they’re gone.

“We’ve been really focused on e-commerce on our website and high-end retail, places like Riley Rose that offer an experience for customers,” says Chrissy Blair, who founded Kalumi with fellow model Jayla Harnwell. “Riley Rose is the retailer of the future. Retail stores are realizing that an experience for the customer is really important, and Riley Rose gets that. It’s created a place where girls can go with their friends and moms, get their makeup done and try new innovative snacks. It’s an all-around place for pampering.”

Blair and Harnwell poured $50,000 into developing and producing Kalumi. On the road constantly for their day jobs, they were annoyed by having to carry around collagen powder in bags that could burst in their purses. They believed they could improve upon the messy powder by formulating convenient, cool and tasty alternatives to the prevailing collagen products. They turned Blair’s small New York kitchen into a protein bar laboratory and devised a recipe with ingredients from a nearby Whole Foods they later turned over to a manufacturer to replicate.

“We wanted to create snacks that weren’t filled with chemicals and fillers that we could take with us on the go,” says Harnwell. Blair chimes in, “The way I’ve pampered myself is through nutrition and healthy eating. After a shoot, I would get kombucha or a nice, healthy meal. I saw something really high-end about what I was doing, but I didn’t see it marketed that way. It was marketed in a hippie, food-type way. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this product is so special. Models love it. It’s truly great for your skin, hair and nails. Why don’t we package it like a beauty product?’”

If there’s an impediment to beauty retailers signing up for Kalumi’s bars, it’s their margins. “A lot of people in beauty retail, they want 50% to 55% margins, and the grocery standard is usually 30%. We aren’t going the grocery route and, if we work with a high-end grocery store, they’re happy to have the 40% margin. If we work with a beauty retailer, we tell them, ‘You are going to sell more of these at a much faster rate,’” explains Blair. “It’s not a foundation that’s going to last someone six months before they buy a new one. Customers are going to come back to buy Kalumi tomorrow, not in months.”

At $5.99 per bar, the price of Kalumi’s bars is $2-plus above many protein bars on the market. Blair and Harnwell reason Kalumi’s ingredients – it sweetens with metabolism-boosting yacon syrup — and meal replacement capacity make the bars worth the price. “We wanted to price it to keep the business afloat, afford to keep reinvesting in it and make retailers happy based on the way margins are supposed to look,” says Blair. “We knew it wouldn’t be the price of other protein bars, which we kind of liked. We wanted people to ask: Why is it that price? They’ll see that we don’t use stevia and have three times more protein than sugar. They’re going to have to take that extra look at the label.”

As Kalumi heads into next year, Blair and Harnwell are finalizing three additional bar flavors, and one will make its debut early in 2018. They’re also considering putting together an exclusive flavor for a retailer, pondering different food formats and enhancing Kalumi’s digital content.

“Our vision for the brand is to be the go-to for healthy snacks that double as beauty supplements,” says Harnwell. “We want to create a lifestyle brand where people can come to our website to get advice on health and beauty. We are introducing a healthstyle guide tapping into naturopaths and holistic doctors, models, hairstylists and makeup artists.” Blair weighs in, “A lot of people roll their eyes at health freaks, but we want to make it fun and fashion-y as well as educational.”

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In a consumer study, 96% of women saw an improvement in the texture of their skin.