I don't know about you, but I live for a good snack. I was recently introduced to a brand that I believe is preaching the right message for adults and kids in the food and beverage space. Like its namesake animal, Good Zebra (GZ) animal crackers are intentionally crafted to embrace the beauty of black + white, meaning there's nothing shady about these little crackers.

Made with organic honey, they throw some serious shade on their refined sugar predecessors that mom used to pack. You know what I'm talking about.

I also love the voice of this brand. They don't take themselves too seriously, and they know exactly who they are. In my world, good branding is good business, so I wanted to share the inside scoop on this awesome, woman-lead company, founded by Erika Szychowski, that's changing the snacking game.

LM: Why did you start GZ?

ES: I believe refined sugar is at the root of all evil - I also believe packaged snacks are a necessary evil as we all move too fast and need to carry worthy snacks along for the ride and/or grab them where we need them most: in motion. (94% of Americans snack daily).

Because of my personal belief encouraging me to eliminate refined sugar from my diet I found it rather difficult to identify ANYTHING to eat in a bind that didn't have sugar in it. Like all great things - the moment you see a void, you have to trust that there are millions of other people coming to the same realization. So I jumped on it!

Launching Good Zebra allowed me to merge my passion for baking with my vision for a female-led company and deliver product that was suitable for my own personal choices. It was a way for me to escape the next corporate jungle gig and offered an opportunity to disrupt the snack industry.

We started with traditional animal crackers and transformed this iconic childhood favorite into the world's first Spirit Animal Crackers. We made them healthier by removing refined sugar and adding in a punch of protein. We're risk-takers and rule-breakers, and we're out to flip the cookie industry on its little sugary head.

LM: What is the future of the food industry, trends, etc. that you see?

ES: Health and wellness continues to be a massive trend in every imaginable aspect - apparel, fitness and food. I believe as we eat more packaged food, the dominating food industry trend is to make what is inside those packages better for the consumer.

Consumers are particularly interested in adding protein to their diets, and protein-packed portable snacks are hot right now. Good Zebra's Spirit Animal Crackers are the first animal crackers with 12g of protein per serving and sweetened only with honey and coconut sugar. There is nothing processed or refined in our product, and they are made with over 70% organic ingredients. We see an opportunity to reinvent beloved heritage products and transform them into something for today's lifestyles and consumer appetites.

LM: How important is marketing and branding to your company and what are you doing differently to get noticed?

ES: Just like we're transparent with our healthy ingredients, we are loyal to our brand and what we stand for. We don't apologize for who we are. Our stark black and white packaging and tattoo-inspired animal cracker designs speak to that philosophy. Appealing to the wild animal inside of all of us, what's inside each cookie is inside both me and my team.

To answer more directly - I am a brand warrior - having worked my way up within 3 other industries as a branding / marketing leader - I figure this is my core competency to bring to Good Zebra - we do it right or not at all - testing our own limits and pushing the boundaries - I got tired of asking for permission or apologizing for sticking to my gut - so here we go!

Also, as a side note, we are taking an organic approach to marketing as well - relying on social media, public relations and event sponsorships to engage directly with our customers, and seeking opportunities to share our story.

LM: How did you come up with the name and/or animal concepts for GZ?

ES: It all started with a turquoise papier-mâché zebra head that I had in my office for years. During meetings, if I wanted to end a discussion, I would jokingly say, "Talk to the zebra." It became my personal work brand. When I decided to launch a snack company, I started by defining what the brand had to embody:

  • Fearless
  • Female led
  • Protective / kind
  • Disruptive / loud - no longer asking permission
  • Loyal
  • Transparent
  • Active
  • Snack oriented
  • Vegetarian

With the help of google, dictionary.com and a bit of creative thinking [let's be real, it included some vodka and urban dictionary too] we found zebras are:

Fearless: Don't freeze in danger

Noisy: disruptive / loud and definitely not asking permission

Female led / protective: move in a harem and huddle together when in danger

Loyal: Very seldom alone

Active: Move around a lot

Snack oriented: Grazers

Vegan: Herbivores

Transparent: Every zebra carries unique and different stripes

And just like that, GOOD ZEBRA was born.

The 11 animal cracker shapes are inspired by tattoo art. And unlike the caged circus animals of the past, our animals roam free and wild. Each animal offers its unique strength and insight on a soulful level and a good dose of humor.

LM: What's next for GZ new product lines or just expansion into new markets?

ES: As a new brand, we're currently focused on creating distribution, digital demand, retail opportunities and critical awareness for our core line of Good Zebra Spirit Animal Crackers. However, we intend on growing the brand first with flavor extensions and introduce new products as quick as we can.

LM: After this conversation I have been seriously re-evaluating my snacking choices and making better decisions when the cravings strike. I believe Good Zebra is on trend for what the market wants because as a consumer, I'm more concerned now than ever about what I'm putting in my body. I'm grateful to have found a company like GZ who is championing that mission. Just don't ask me to share, you'll need to get a bag of your own.