Daniel Puckett is co-founder of Boom Foods and co-creator of the Boom caffeinated protein bar
Born and raised in Seattle, attended West Seattle High School and California Polytechnic State University. Grew up playing sports and cooking up new business ideas. Business has always been very interesting to me and I have tried my hand a few times, from a lemonade stand to a restaurant software and now a caffeinated protein bar.
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John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and this is a very special edition of The Impact Podcast because we’ve got with us, Daniel Puckett. He’s the founder of Boom Foods. Welcome to The Impact, Daniel.
Daniel Puckett: Cheers. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here. Excited to chat and get the message out there, get to talk a little bit.
John: Daniel, before we get talking about your wonderful entrepreneurial journey launching Boom Foods, and launching a new product Boom, which I just love this packaging and I love the name of your product. I want to talk a little bit about Daniel Puckett. Share a little bit about where you grew up, what informed you as you were growing up in terms of environment, what you ate, how you live, etc., and how you decided to become such a young entrepreneur with a big vision and a big dream?
Daniel: Well, at first off, I appreciate the kind words, but overall, I’m still a young guy, but started here in Seattle where I’m recording now. Jim Puckett is my dad. Some of the people who listen might know him. ban.org and e-Stewards, that whole deal. My mom Linda Farrell. She’s from the Netherlands and those two forces combined, obviously what shaped me. My dad being an entrepreneur from early on, an activist entrepreneur doing his own thing kind of encouraged me to do the same. My mom always pretty much was like, you got to do what you love, don’t ever just sit behind a desk and hate what you’re doing. So those two forces kind of pushed me to want to get out in the world and do something for my own and then overall growing up in Seattle. Pretty standard childhood. Played sports, hung out with my friends, Seahawks, Mariners games, the whole deal. So yes, it was a great childhood and I had a supportive family and kind of a good foundation that gave me the ability, the purposes to get to try to do my own thing at a young age. That’s my upbringing[?].
John: So when you get out of high school, did you go to college after that?
Daniel: Yes. So I went to West Seattle High School and then went to California Polytechnic. So Cal Poly down in SLO.
Daniel: Yes. San Luis Obispo. So I had a wonderful time there. I didn’t stick it out the whole time, unfortunately. I did start wanting to sell these bars and get the business off the ground but had a great time down there. Went with some friends from home, which always makes it a little easier. And got to leave the home state which is as much as I love Seattle, it’s nice to go check out a new area, especially California. Especially San Luis Obispo for those who have really got to go there. It’s pretty gorgeous on the Central Coast. So overall I’ve had the most blessed upbringing and young life so far.
John: How old are you now?
Daniel: I’m 22.
John: You’re 22. It’s so young, but that’s such a great age to be an entrepreneur because I tell this to all young entrepreneurs that come to me all the time. It’s all upside no downside. You could fail and fail and fail again and really it’s not failing frankly speaking. It’s just learning, it’s just lessons. At 22, this is going to succeed and other deals you’re going to do is succeed. But you’re so young with great vision and great energy. It’s such a great age to be starting a business and I highly recommend it for all those others that are out there at a desk that isn’t happy. Being an entrepreneur, and a young entrepreneur is just such a blessed position to be in. Daniel, when did you start? You’re 22 now and we’re sitting in the middle of 2021. When did you start dreaming this up and why a vegan plant-based bar? Did you grow up eating plant-based, or partially plant-based? And when did the dream start coming together?
Daniel: Yes. I’ve always wanted to kind of do my own thing. As I mentioned, my parents pushed me to be happy whatever I’m doing and for me, that meant being my own boss. I always wanted to start something, but I wasn’t exactly sure what. I didn’t have necessarily the thing, drawing me in one direction or the other. This idea came to me in my second year of college. So about two years ago now. I think we’re coming up right on two years and as far as the plant-based and the vegan goes, I think for me, I’m not vegan or plant-based, but what was so important was being inclusive to any sort of diet that’s out there. So, anyone that would get a chance to try our bar, I didn’t want them to be restricted because they prescribe the plant-based or maybe they have allergens. We steer clear of the top eight allergens. Some people put coconut in there, which we do have, but as far as the rest of the nuts, dairy things of that nature, we wanted to steer clear because I don’t want there to be an objection or a dietary restriction that’s going to stop anyone from getting to enjoy what we make or what we cooked up. So for us, it was more about inclusivity than necessarily being vegan or whatnot. So, yes.
John: I like it. And for our listeners who just joined us and our viewers, I’ve got Daniel Puckett. He’s the founder of Boom Foods. You can find Daniel and his great products at www.eatboom.co. eatboom.co. These products are really cool looking. There it is right there. I’ve eaten these bars. I’m a fan. I’m going to tell my story a little while, but Daniel, you started dreaming about it two years ago. How long did it take you? And how did you come up with a recipe, the name, and also the shape because all these unique– First of all, I’m shocked the name was available. I love it though. I love the name. Secondarily, how did you come up with the square, but first how did you come up with the recipe?
Daniel: Yes. So overall, I’ll go a little bit back in some more context. The idea itself, I was sitting in my entrepreneurship class, which is a great thing. Cal Poly has that. And our professor brought in this guest speaker who was the CFO of Clif Bar at the time. Might still be, I’m not totally sure but he came in, so great speaker. He came in and was telling the story of Clif Bar and their struggles and their successes. And then he said something that really kind of struck a chord which was that all these smaller bar companies that provide kind of a functional benefit; we’re just eating up their market share and doing super well. And by functional benefit, essentially it’s something beyond just the snack. So whether it’s a probiotic or immunity or energy in our case, they were doing super well and consumers we’re loving the combination of the convenience of a bar with that extra benefit. And so as a caffeine-addicted college kid, that set up a light bulb. I was like, “Oh, my God. Yes. We got to combine these two.” And so right away, I ran to the store. Well, actually first, I ran home. Looked up how to make homemade protein bars, granola bars, and essentially, they were saying it’s just some dates, nuts throw it in a blender, you can make something happen. So, I had the brilliant or not so brilliant idea to use instant coffee as my caffeine source. So took that recipe, added the instant coffee, and just started blending up these not-so-tasty but effective early, early Boom Bars and started giving them out to friends. Kind of getting feedback and overall, they were like, “All right, it tastes a little weird. I can definitely taste the instant coffee grains in there,” but they loved the idea. They were like, “I can eat these subs for a cup of coffee or energy drink.” So they loved it. So from there, I was like, “Okay, so we got something going here. We got to make a better recipe.” And I wasn’t going to be the one to cook that up because to get something from a blender to a package, I did not realize how many steps and how difficult that can be.
So we reached out to a food scientist and by we, I mean my co-founder who I had brought on at this point who’s my good friend Lucas, my big brother in my fraternity at college. So we reached out to a food scientist and we were like, “All right, we don’t have much money and we don’t have much of a recipe, but here’s this idea,” and she was super excited about it. She hadn’t heard of it. Kind of thought of it almost as a challenge, and took us on for way less than she normally would and we just started developing a recipe with her. And it was a ton of fun and then to answer your other question about the name, I started with Bullet Bar which is a little more aggressive. Not as great. It was kind of my co-founder and I going like Bullet Bars. It’s okay, but it’s not quite there and just brainstorming and brainstorming. I think he was probably the one that at one point was like Boom. What if we put boom? There’s bang but what about boom? And obviously, it’s a universal word. People say it all the time. That kind of conveys that energy so we loved it and like you said shocked that it wasn’t taken. I mean I was pretty surprised about it, but yes, we locked up Boom, started rolling with that because we thought it was a heck of a lot better than Bullet Bar. And then, yes, as I said, we were just kind of developing the recipe with this food scientist and slowly but surely getting to the product that you’ve got a chance to try and hopefully some of you guys listening [inaudible].
John: How long was the recipe process, back and forth taste testings, everything?
Daniel: Honestly I would say about a year. I would approximate that and even then, up until the final hour, little tweaks to make it slightly better, and we’ll probably maybe revisit it again and keep trying to improve. But yes, that whole process is kind of interesting. So first our food scientist say, “Okay, you guys know nothing.” We were like, “Yes, you’re right.” And so she had us go and try every single bar out there. So I went to the store and the cashier probably thought I was nuts, but I bought pretty much every bar on the shelf and tasted, textured, made notes, and then gave those notes to her. I was like, okay, we want something that’s differentiated. Something that’s got a nice soft texture, but maybe some crunch in there and pretty much just got the handcraft that we were looking for in a bar. And then pretty much give her some guidelines and what we were good with to use for ingredients, what we wanted to steer away from. There are restrictions that we wanted to be vegan and try to be as inclusive to everyone. She started whipping up different kinds of iterations, and she’d mail them out to us. We’d take our notes, give them to our friends, send it back and that went back and forth. And then what was super fun as we got to go up to Burlingame where she was based, so up in the Bay Area and do some one-on-one sessions where we would just be in the lab trying a whole bunch of different bars. Going through maybe 5, 10 iterations in a day. Getting super caffeinated, but that’s where the real magic happens. Just those tiny little tweaks. What I was saying, overall pretty long process. Like a good year or so.
John: And your partner Lucas, co-founder came up with the name during that year’s process.
Daniel: Yes. I think we switched to Boom pretty early on. I think it was while we were still making them ourselves. We were just like, okay, Bullet Bar. I just don’t like guns, this. Let’s try to find something that’s a little stronger. Maybe a better connotation, and yes, we came up with Boom. I’m not exactly sure who, but I think it was him. Yes, then from there it was Boom Bar from there on out.
John: I know I bought these from you. I bought a case of them from you and a sleeve of them. And two weeks ago, I was at my desk, had a business dinner the night before, I gave blood that week and there was also over a 100 degrees, like it up[?] to be in Fresno during this time of year and I was fading. At this time of day, I had two or three podcasts to tape and I had one of these bars and I’ll tell you what, not only was it delicious, but man, it did the trick. This Boom Bar does the trick, but it’s also very delicious. What I noticed is two things here. A, the size of the bar, and I love protein bars. And being a vegan and traveling a lot, you got to get used to that whole deal and for convenience sake, and living on the run and odd hours, but also, I noticed the shape and I noticed the ingredients from the front. Please explain to our listeners, viewers, myself, how did you come up with the shape and why the ingredients are on the front because they’re typically on the back?
Daniel: Yes 100%. I didn’t quite get to that shape question. So the shape for us, it was about we want to be as differentiated as possible. I think a lot of bars are kind of that longer rectangle, more of a candy bar shape and we wanted to differentiate and kind of show that we’re something a little bit different. So we went with a little more of a square and not only was that just differentiation from a standard candy bar or whatnot, but also to set ourselves apart as a bar as a whole. We are a bar, but first and foremost, we’re a caffeine product. To show people, okay, it’s this quick, couple bite-sized product. We thought it set us apart ever so slightly and I kind of like doing that. I like just going a little bit away from the pack. If it’s a good product, it only helps you. So that was kind of the leading thought behind the shape of it. And then, as far as the ingredients on the front, we want to be as straightforward as possible. Show people exactly what’s in it. As a consumer, as all of us as consumers, I think the things we care about are like okay, what does this product do for me, and then what’s in? Does that sit right with me? So I didn’t want people to have to flip over and either be unpleasantly surprised or you don’t have to read this small text. We want to put it right on the front. So on the front of our packaging, it says the calories, the protein, the caffeine content, and then the ingredients because that’s what people care about, and that’s what people want to know. So, rather than try to hide it, I think not necessary that’s what other companies are doing but that is kind of inadvertently the standard way to do it. We want to put it upfront so I appreciate you asking that question. I think it’s an important part of our whole kind of brand ethos if you will.
John: Well, it’s funny. I think your generation is part of this whole ESG Circular Economy Revolution and one of the pillars of good ESG behavior and circular economy behavior is radical transparency. I think you’ve nailed it. I think others are going to follow you. I mean you can’t be more radically transparent than adding in size type that a 58-year-old guy like me could still read on the front of your bar the ingredients. I don’t think it comes better than this and I think you’re going to be on the front end of a trend that others will follow you because this is called radically transparent disclosure of everything that’s in there. There is no guessing. There’s no after I eat half the bar, I turn it over and I freaked out and this is everything right there before I even put it in my mouth and that’s really good stuff. I think that’s great entrepreneurship and great business practices as a whole. I think your generation is going to lead the way on that. I think it’s going to really pave the way[?].
Daniel: I hope so and I hope for now it differentiates us and it’s something that our early adopters really respect, but I really do hope it happens across the industry or all Industries because it’s important. People need to know what’s in their products, know what they’re using, know what they’re eating. So, yes, I really do hope that other brands follow suit. We’re certainly not the first but it’s definitely not standard, a common practice. So I hope it becomes commonplace because why do we always flip it over? It’s natural instinct for everyone to flip it over and go read the tiny font. Let’s just put it on the front. Make it easier for people. Make people make informed decisions. I think, hopefully, our generation can do a little bit of that.
John: I think you are and you’re starting it and that’s always good to lead on those kinds of things. Talk a little bit about your founder, Lucas. Where’s he live now? How do you guys operate the business? And when did you launch this thing, officially launched? When did you and Lucas launch this?
Daniel: Yes, so Lucas, one of my best friends. Like I said, he was my big brother in my fraternity. Always looked up to the guy. When I had this idea, it was a no-brainer. That’s who I want to jump into this with. One because like I said, best friend, but also just a very, very intelligent guy, and he really complements where I maybe fall up short. I like to think of myself as maybe big idea, creativity, let’s push the big idea, 10-year plan and he’s great when it comes to operations, putting one foot in front of the other. So having those complementary skill sets is huge and he’s down in Huntington Beach, California at the moment. Just overall like I said, smart guy. He graduated in finance. Something that I know nothing about, which apparently is helpful when you’re running a business to have someone that knows numbers. So he’s been great and then as far as officially launching, we launched on Friday, June 11. So pretty recent. Pretty new. It’s been going super well. A lot of good feedback. Yes, it’s funny. So much time leading up to it and then all of sudden it’s out there and you’re out in the world and it’s a whole different experience being someone that’s building a business and now someone that has a business even a small one. So it’s been a ton of fun.
John: For our listeners and viewers, we’ve got today with us Daniel Puckket. He’s the founder of Boom Foods. You can find Daniel and his partner Lucas and their great products, the Boom Bars at www.eatboom.co. Daniel, why? There’s a lot of people are going to watch this, or listen to it or read it because it’s going to be in all three forms and say, might as well just drink my coffee instead of eat my coffee, or drink a cup of coffee or something with caffeine in it to get a little buzz. Why is eating caffeine different than drinking it and how is it potentially more beneficial?
Daniel: Yes. So I don’t think we’re naive enough to think we’re going to kill the coffee industry. I’m in Seattle, home of coffee if you will, home of Starbucks, all the big guys [crosstalk].
John: You’re not putting Starbucks out of business anytime soon?
Daniel: Not quite. It’s long term. I’m young like you said. I got a lot of [crosstalk].
John: Right. You got a long way to go. You can do it.
Daniel: Exactly, but overall, I think there’s a lot of reasons, one, to eat your caffeine if you will. Some people when they drink coffee they’re going to have either jitter or they’re going to have a crash or one of the side effects. And it always kind of feels like this dance with coffee. You either have one cup and you didn’t quite get there or you had two or three and now all of a sudden you can’t focus on what you’re doing. You’re all jittery and then you crash an hour later. So when you’re eating your caffeine, it seems like such a simple solution, but it really takes away a lot of those problems. You combine that real food with the caffeine. So it’s going to solve any stomach issues you might have. Eating that real food kind of allows those jitters to be subsided. You’re getting a real dose of caffeine, but you’re also getting some food to settle you down. And then you’re not going to crash because you’re getting that long energy from the macros that you need, the proteins, little bit of carbs. So it gives you that all-day energy from real food, but also that spark of caffeine that we all kind of crave and need.
So overall, I think it’s just a beneficial thing to have out there. The fact that it wasn’t an option before and we’re trying to make it one, I think is exciting. And then going away from coffee a little bit, maybe that’s what you have in the morning but a lot of people are reaching for maybe something not as great later in the afternoon. You said it’s 108 degrees or something in Fresno. Most people, they’re maybe going for a bottled coffee or an energy drink and those, unfortunately, are just chalked full of crap. Like it’s chemicals, it sugars and it’s really not what your body needs. That’s guaranteed to make you crash a little bit later in the day. Guaranteed to not make you feel great. It’s not what your body wants or needs. So, as far as replacing those, I think we have a real shot and that’s kind of our goal is to give people a better alternative to those grab-and-go kinds of caffeine drinks that are out there because those are really not so great for you folks.
John: So, now you’re a couple of months into this barely. What are the next steps? What’s the rest of 2021 look like and what’s 2022 and beyond look like for you when you put it up on a whiteboard?
Daniel: Yes so I think for us right now, we’re really trying to test kind of our messaging. What’s resonating with people? Is it real food plus caffeine? Is it caffeine and protein? Is it the convenience factor? You can just throw it in a bag and go. What is the kind of key points that people really like and then, taking those and deploying them into our marketing? So going on a podcast like this, getting a chance to talk about it, putting it into some digital ads, whether that’s Instagram or Facebook, and really starting to get the message out there. The messages that people really care about and then from there, it’s marketing, trying to get some traction, get some more feedback. Potentially make another product, whether it’s a smaller or bigger version of this bar but yes, for us, I think it starts with listening to the customer. Like you said, we’re super young. We’re super new. So listening to what the customer likes, what they need next, and trying to just be there and provide that. So that’s our plan. I think we want to be really patient and really just try to be the best business. Be a customer-first, business if you will.
John: When you go to bed at night and you dream about where this is going to be on display one day, and you will. You’ll get it wherever you want to get it. Where would be the dream place to be selling this at point of sail across America? Like what would be your favorite? Where look at it and you finally got accepted in that location and you walked in that store, and it’s there and you say, “Ah, now, I did something. Now, we’re on a roll. We’re going to go someplace.” What’s your dream? What are you and Lucas dreaming about as to where to get placement for this great Boom Bar.
Daniel: Wow. Well, I love, love that question because I think it’s one, something people don’t always think about and two, I think we maybe have a slightly different answer than a lot of food startups that are out there. I think a lot of people want to get into Whole Foods or get into the most prestigious local market or whatnot. And for us, I think it’s being on every 7-Eleven checkout stand. Right next to Fiber Energy, close to the energy drinks because it’s great to be in Whole Food. It’s great to be in those specialty markets but a product of this quality, a better option for you should be available to everyone. Should be available when they need it, when they want it. So for us, I think it’s being accessible and to me, that’s convenience stores. That’s running in, you’re late to work, you grab it. Maybe you’re a construction worker, you’re headed to the site, you grab it. Not necessary that Whole Foods or these other places are snobby or inaccessible. It’s just I want to be there for the everyman, the every person that needs that energy and is looking for something a little healthier or slightly differentiated. So for us it’s 7-Eleven. I know we’re going to get there which is going to be awesome but yes, love that question.
John: When you and Lucas think about entrepreneurship and I know you study this but also you had it growing up with your dad being an entrepreneur and a successful one and one that’s made a great impact on this planet Earth. When you’re creating your own identity and personal brand and then this great Boom brand like what company you’re trying to model yourself after? Are you looking for Starbucks which is Howard Schultz has done amazing and great things? Bezos is doing wonderful things at Amazon. In their give-back, Gates is. You have a plant-based product that helps people be sharper, live a better and more vibrant life. Who are you trying to model yourself after or what role models are you looking to?
Daniel: Another great question. I think one that pops out of me and the name of the founders escapes to me, but the Chobani store is super interesting for those that are familiar. So Chobani does pretty much Greek yogurts, healthy grab-and-go dairy snacks, now, some plant-based snacks, but that was started by an immigrant. I think Hamdi something. It’s escaped me but, started by an immigrant who came here, took a risk, and bought this old craft cheese factory or yogurt factory and had this dream of kind of bringing one of his homeland’s food, Greek yogurt, and bring it here, making it accessible. And that’s kind of been an inspiration of someone who took a healthy option but made it palatable for the whole country. Did it the right way. He provides jobs to immigrants. He provides jobs to refugees, to inmates. He gives people a second chance. He gave all the factory workers a stake in the company. I just think that’s a company that does things really, really right and makes an impact if you will. So that’s definitely one that I look up to and then two and this is maybe on the flip side because he does receive some criticism but you mentioned it was Amazon and Jeff Bezos. I don’t actually love all their practices, but they really put the customer first and that’s something that he’s always preached. And I think it’s something that all businesses should think about doing because I think once you have sales coming in and people like your product, the magnitude of someone giving you their hard-earned dollars kind of gets lost on you and I think it never should because it’s a big deal and everyone works hard for their money. So for someone to hand it over is a pretty monumental thing from the first sale to the last. So the fact that he stayed very, very true to being customer-centric and trying to put those needs first, is always something that I’ve looked up to tremendously.
John: I think both are great role models. I think you’re right about putting the customer first. When you look at my seven core values, which were right on my email signature block. Our first core value is we’re customer-obsessed and we are because without customers, there’s nothing else to talk about. There’s no business really to talk about. So I think you’ve got that right. Daniel, we’re going to follow your success in the months and years to come. We’re going to have you come back on Impact. Maybe we’ll even do one of these interviews in person. We do that often. We’ve done it with other plant-based startups and other great entrepreneurs out there. I just want to give you the final word before we have to sign off for today.
Daniel: Right on. Well, again, appreciate you having me on and to everyone that’s listening, I appreciate you guys tuning in, hearing us, chop it up for a little bit here. But check it out, eatboom.co, like he said. Whether you buy today or just want to go take a peek. We got an interesting thing going on. I don’t know, we’ve kind of mentioned it here, but it’s a cafe to protein bar. It’s real food. It’s caffeine. It’s a really great option if you’re looking for some energy. So please check us out, but overall be nice to everyone and have a great day.
John: I’ve known your father a long time and I met you when you were a little guy and it makes me so proud and happy to have you on today. I’m so excited for you. I’m so excited for the future. I love the impact you’re making. I love your whole ethos and how you created the mission and vision of this company. I wish you continued success and thanks for making a great impact on this planet. Daniel Puckett, we wish you all the luck and we can’t wait to have you back again.
Daniel: Cheers. Thank you, guys.
John: This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by Trajectory Energy Partners. Trajectory Energy Partners brings together landowners, electricity users, and communities, to develop solar energy projects with strong local support. For more information on how Trajectory is leading the solar revolution, please visit trajectoryenergy.com.