NEW YORK — Behave Foods Inc., a New York-based startup, is introducing a sophisticated yet playful twist on healthier candy for adult consumers. Founder and chief executive officer Mayssa Chehata partnered with celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner to develop the recipes for the brand’s reduced-sugar gummy bears, which are sweetened with monk fruit and chicory root fiber and feature lychee, passionfruit and raspberry flavors.  

“We wanted to introduce flavors people maybe haven’t seen in candy before but are still going to be really delicious, really juicy and fruity and fun, something that’s more elevated and different from what people have seen before in the aisle,” Ms. Chehata told Food Business News. “Knowing this is candy and this is an indulgence category, I knew we couldn’t compromise on taste, and that is what ultimately led me to connect with Elizabeth.”

A Food Network star and award-winning pastry chef, Ms. Falkner provided not only culinary expertise, but also experience in consulting consumer packaged goods companies, which was key in scaling production, Ms. Chehata said.

Mayssa Chehata, founder and chief executive officer of Behave Foods Inc.

“She really brought a wealth of knowledge not only in how to make something taste incredible on benchtop in the kitchen but what that was going to mean for scaling,” she said.

Many lower-sugar offerings in the candy aisle are sweetened with artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols or stevia. The use of monk fruit differentiates Behave from other better-for-you brands while bringing a different taste profile to the category, Ms. Chehata said. A serving contains 3 grams of sugar, 6 grams of net carbohydrates and 90 calories.

A marketing veteran with prior stints at Daily Harvest, Uber and SoulCycle, Ms. Chehata said branding is an important element of Behave products, which have bold, minimalist packaging with irreverent messaging.

“We really wanted to introduce something that could resonate with that adult consumer who may have felt pushed out of the candy category because of the products or because of how much sugar is in it,” she said. “Or from a branding perspective, you go into the candy aisle, and there are so many brands that are kid forward. We want to bring that freedom back into the candy experience for adults … and we hope adults will share it with their kids, too.”

Behave is debuting online at The company planned a direct-to-consumer launch prior to the pandemic, Ms. Chehata said.

“Even pre-COVID, that was going to be our strategy because we want to develop community and a one-on-one relationship with our customers,” she said. “I think you lose a little bit of that control, of the ability to own how your brand is going to show up once you get into retail.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Chehata said future product development may include additional flavors as well as a plant-based formulation (the products currently contain gelatin).

“We’re looking outside of gummy as well,” Ms. Chehata said. “Elizabeth is in the kitchen cooking up lots of different kinds of innovation and new product lines and product extensions. We have our eye to the future and our eye to future product lines, so more to come there.”