Daily Crunch creates a dilly of a snack with sprouted almonds, pepitas

The key to success is building a strong support network of fellow entrepreneurs, co-founder and CEO says. Learn more about this NEXTY Award winner.

Dawn Reiss

May 11, 2024

7 Min Read
Daily Crunch creates a dilly of a snack with sprouted almonds and pepitas
Daily Crunch

At a Glance

  • Laurel Orley quickly learned that not all almonds are created equally.
  • Sharing her concern about the dill pickle flavor with another founder led to an easy, upcycling fix.
  • Entrepreneurs must have support networks to share experiences and solutions. No one can do it alone.

When Laurel Orley, co-founder and CEO of Daily Crunch Snacks, started her Nashville, Tennessee, company, she thought knew almonds.

“I assumed all almonds were created equally,” Orley says. “And I could not have been more wrong.” The mistake almost cost Orley her business. Her ability to pivot, thanks in part to a strong support network of other CPG entrepreneurs, saved the company.

Eventually, that ability to fail—and fail fast to transform—led to the creation of Daily Crunch’s Dill Pickle Sprouted Almonds and Pepitas, which won a 2024 Editors’ Choice NEXTY Award at Natural Products Expo West.

“When I found out we were a NEXTY finalist, I screamed so loud it was like borderline tears,” Orley says. “It felt like a rite of passage.”

The idea for the product came after Orley met Cleveland Kitchen, which sells fermented dill pickles, at Natural Products Expo West in 2023. “We were telling them about this flavor, but it was still missing something,” Orley says. “That's when they told us they discard the pickle ends and throw them out.”

It was a lightbulb moment, Orley says, for the company to use the pickle ends to make pickle paste. During Daily Crunch’s research and development, they decided to take some of the pickle slices and dehydrate them with the almonds.

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“It’s not necessarily the flavor, but what we did to the flavor that turned it on its head to make it innovative,” Orley says.

Daily Crunch Snacks—already sold in more than 5,000 retail locations including Erewhon, Rouses Markets, Raley’s Central Market, Hy-Vee, Wegmans, Thrive Market and Misfits Market—has launched into Target stores with its Nashville Hot Sprouted Almonds and Dill Pickle Sprouted Almonds and Pepitas.

‘Two steps forward, one step back’

Orley’s entrepreneurial journey to creating a women-owned, mission-driven small business hasn’t been all smooth sailing.  

“My motto has always been two steps forward, one step back,” Orley says. “There’s always going to be unexpected challenges. It’s just part of the journey.”

Prior to launching her company in March 2020, Orley did some market research and attended Expo West in 2019. “We planned to launch our company at Expo in March 2020, but it obviously got canceled,” Orley says.

In lieu of an Expo debut, she launched Daily Crunch at the start of the pandemic with three SKUs: Cherry Berry, Cinnamon Java and Plain Sprouted.

“When I started, I didn’t even know what a palette was,” Orley says. “I’m not even joking.”

Before she became an entrepreneur, Orley worked at Mindshare, a global media agency, where she worked on the marketing and advertising side helping brands like Unilever and Dove. Her work there had nothing to do with supply chain, packaging design, operations or retail support, she says.   

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“It was a new world, shifting gears from corporate to being an entrepreneur,” she says. “I relied a lot on talking to people who were in the business and much more seasoned than I was, who were open to talking to me.”

During one- or two-hour conversations, she’d take a lot of notes, get feedback and learn from shared experiences. She started reading books like “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” to educate herself. 

“I started reaching out and connecting with people in this space, and a lot of them ended up being other female founders,” Orley says.

In the first year of her company, Daily Crunch was certified as a women-owned business. Orley says the certification has helped her negotiate with retailers to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in slotting fees. She’s also gotten involved in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Entreprenista and the Female Founder Collective.

“Everybody is on their own journey,” Orley says. “You have to realize the phase that you are in with your brand at that time. I know it's really easy to compare yourself to other brands, but we constantly graduate from one phase to the next.”

Daily Crunch Nashville Hot flavor sprouted almonds can add spice to a salad.

Averting disaster, creating opportunity

Each new phase of the journey brings new, uncharted territory. In July 2021, Orley ordered approximately $40,000 worth of almonds that were shipped in a nonrefrigerated truck from California halfway across the country to her co-packer.

By the time the almonds arrived, Orley realized something was wrong. They didn’t taste right after they went through a soak and dehydration process. While several third-party lab tests indicated the nuts were in the later stage of their life, they weren't expired. They were still edible, but not high enough quality for sprouting. Since the lab couldn't identify anything wrong with them, Orley says she couldn't sell them back to the almond farm.

Then Orley realized her insurance policy wouldn’t cover much the damaged goods above $5,000. It was a turning point for her. She considered closing her business. “I didn’t know if I wanted to continue,” she says. “Because this was such a massive challenge.”

Unsure what she should do, Orley turned to her network of other CPG entrepreneurs, including her Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) CPG Forum group. Her group walked her through the steps to rectify the situation and sell off the product to customers, who would purchase the almonds at cost or slightly below cost since they were fine raw but not sprouted.

“I took a loss, but not the devastating loss I would have,” she says. “I learned a tremendous amount from this, which helped equip me to protect myself moving forward, especially with our recent massive growth.”

Orley quickly changed her insurance policy to cover $100,000 worth of goods to prevent anything similar from happening again. Orley also changed her purchasing practices. She switched almond growers and began ordering her annual supply in September, when the almond blooms are fresh.

“I no longer purchase almonds in summer,” she says. “Everything is stored in cooler temperatures, and nothing is shipped in a nonrefrigerated truck.”

The almond farmer Orley now uses has been fully vetted, is certified as a bee-friendly farm that helps pollinators and is part of The Almond Project, a program focused on regenerative agriculture. Orley says she gets amazing high-quality almonds grown by one of the most sustainable almond farms in the country.

“We get monthly updates about the bloom, about the quality and everything we need to know about the farm and how the almonds are doing,” Orley says.

That’s important, Orley says, because in the U.S., almonds either have to be pasteurized or fumigated with chemicals. Daily Crunch always ensures that its almonds are pasteurized.

“You can’t assume, as a brand, that you know the ingredients inside and out,” Orley says. “Because there's an art to really understanding how your ingredients work, their shelf life, their expiration date, the quality and the different suppliers.”

Women supporting women

As a female entrepreneur and a mom, Orley’s journey has been harder than those of some of her male counterparts.

“There are going to be people who assume that you can't be present all the time or have the financial background that maybe men do,” Orley says.

That happened earlier this year with someone who was helping her with fundraising. “He made a comment to me that was completely inappropriate,” she says. “I made it very clear to him that I had to leave at four o’clock. He showed up an hour and a half late.”

At 4 p.m., when Orley told him she had to go, “he said, ‘Let me guess, you have to go pick up your kids from school,’” she says. “The truth is, I did have to pick up my kids from school that day. I shouldn't be ashamed by that because I also work a lot on the weekends.”

Orley says the next day he pulled her aside and profusely apologized. “But it also made me realize I'm very much in this bubble of these incredible women,” Orley says. “That is not the reality of everybody in the space.”

That’s why it’s important for entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, to have other founders in their support system.

“Things like this are always going to happen,” Orely says. “But having people in your support network to be able to help you through these situations so they can share their experiences with you and you don't feel isolated and alone is so imperative in this journey. It cannot be done alone, or you will fail.”

About the Author(s)

Dawn Reiss

Dawn Reiss is a Chicago-based journalist who has written for TIME, The New York Times, The Atlantic, AFAR, Travel + Leisure, Civil Eats, Fortune.com, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, among others. Find her at www.dawnreiss.com.

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