After quietly making healthier food products for other companies, Chew chief executive Adam Melonas and his team are broadening their attention to foods they can sell directly to consumers. And actually talk about.
Chew just launched its first direct-to-consumer brand, called Fastfood. And Melonas, a triathlete, is the No. 1 tester: These foods — gels, gummies, and beverage mixes — are geared for endurance athletes and have been formulated in part by trial-and-error by Melonas during his various Ironman-related quests.
As he turned his cycling hobby into a triathlon obsession a few years ago, Melonas noticed most nutrition products for the sport had too many processed ingredients, and many caused sugar-related energy crashes. He tried long rides while munching on natural foods, like peanut butter, with mixed success. The status quo irritated him enough that he saw a business opportunity.
Melonas said to his employees at Chew labs in the Fenway and Cambridge: “I want to create the highest performance product we can possibly create [but] only made of real food.”
That was almost two years ago. Now, Chew is shipping its first products under the Fastfood line, available through the lovefastfood.com website. “I’ve been the guinea pig since the inception,” he said. “I can attest to the fact it works.”
The key ingredient is galactose, a form of sugar that helps “even out” the energy from the sucrose and fructose sugars in these products, preventing the crashes. Pro triathletes Joe Skipper and Jesper Svensson have already signed on for their 2023 seasons. About six of Chew’s 40 employees focus on Fastfood, with more hires on the way. While most of Chew’s research will remain confidential, conducted for big food manufacturers, Melonas hopes to launch two more consumer-focused brands in the next 12 months.
Next up for Melonas is securing a deal with a US manufacturer to meet the hoped-for demand for Fastfood products, to augment his existing manufacturing capacity. He’s also launching a marketing campaign and approaching independent retail shops to carry the products.
The Australian native came to Boston from Madrid about 12 years ago, recruited by local businessman Michael Bronner to help launch Unreal Brands, a maker of healthier candy. Melonas, a former chef, met his wife, and fell in love with Boston’s innovation economy. And he started Chew here in 2013.
“There’s nowhere I know of where you can be so close to some of the most extraordinary individuals,” he said, “rule-breaking, paradigm-shifting people, within such a condensed space.”
A homecoming, of sorts, for accounting vet Martin
Kevin P. Martin Jr.’s accounting career has come full circle: He started out at a big national firm that became KPMG, working in One Boston Place in the mid-1980s. Now, he’s back in the Downtown Crossing tower, leading the Massachusetts operations for accounting/advisory firm CohnReznick.
Martin’s path back downtown began in the fall of 2021, when the accounting firm he led, Kevin P. Martin & Associates (named after Kevin’s father, its founder), merged with CohnReznick. Together, the two firms had about 250 employees in the state, across his old firm’s offices in Braintree, Danvers, and Fall River and the CohnReznick office in downtown Boston.
Then, this month, Martin was promoted, taking over from Ed Kindelan as CohnReznick’s Massachusetts managing partner. “I’m back at One Boston Place,” Martin said. “In many ways, it was a coming home.”
Martin’s not resting on nostalgia. He said his goal is to make CohnReznick the “brand of choice” in the region for companies looking for an accounting/advisory firm — an alternative to the so-called “Big Four.” He wants to trade on his deep connections in the city, and expand his firm’s philanthropic work.
“We’re an entrepreneurial, nimble organization,” Martin said. “I think we can move very quickly and seize opportunities.”
Steer looks to boost local engagement at EDC
Liesbet Steer starts this week as the new chief executive of Educational Development Center, the Waltham education research and development firm. But she’s already talking about how she wants to better engage the Boston area’s business community.
Steer was recruited by EDC’s board from the Education Commission, a global initiative based in the D.C. area, in anticipation of the retirement of chief executive David Offensend after seven years. (Steer will continue to live in the Washington area.) The nonprofit employs nearly 1,600 people around the world. While Steer is quite familiar with EDC’s global reach, she wants to build its connections in its home region. She’s particularly hopeful about convening meetings with other local businesspeople now that EDC has moved into a new, 44,000-square-foot location at 300 Fifth Ave. in Waltham. EDC has already collaborated with the likes of the Boston Children’s Museum and GBH, as well as some larger regional projects.
“We would love to explore . . . what the needs of the business community are,” particularly with regard to workforce development, Steer said. “We have all [been] isolated during the pandemic. It would be wonderful to create opportunities to engage and host the community.”
Boston gets a new women’s networking group
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Cultural Centre board president Martina Curtin found a new executive director for the Canton organization. Recruiting former Norfolk County sheriff Jerry McDermott from Ark Behavioral Health in Quincy as the top staffer relieves her of some responsibilities there and frees up time for her new initiative: a woman’s networking group called Mná Mheiriceá.
The name translates to “Women of America,” and while inspired by the history of immigrants from Ireland, it’s open to women of all backgrounds. The first event is set for March 9 at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Curtin launched the networking organization with cofounders Aoife Griffin and Megan Greeley. Niamh Shuman of Invest Northern Ireland, will serve on the new organization’s board, and the Northern Ireland economic development agency is sponsoring the launch event.
Curtin said the group is in the process of applying for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, launching a membership drive, and seeking sponsors for other events such as book discussions, coffee meetups, and wellness retreats.
“I bounced around the idea with other ladies in the city,” Curtin said. “We just felt there was a void for professional women beyond the status quo of networking events.”
FORGE jumps the state line to Connecticut
Laura Teicher is forging a new path for Connecticut entrepreneurs.
Teicher, the executive director of Somerville’s FORGE, trekked to Bristol, Conn., last week with vice president Adam Rodrigues to hail FORGE’s expansion in that state. FORGE helps connect startups with local manufacturers that could become clients, and also provides grants and other services to spur the local manufacturing sector’s growth. FORGE’s Hartford office will be the first for the nonprofit outside of Massachusetts; its other locations are in Somerville’s Union Square, Lowell, and Springfield.
FORGE is receiving a subsidy from Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s administration for a two-year pilot program. Speaking at the press conference, held at Novo Precision, Lamont said he wished he had a FORGE to help him out when he got into business decades ago. (He launched a telecom company in the 1980s that he has since sold.)
He is also wishing for something else: some of Massachusetts’ economic prowess. General Electric famously left Connecticut for Massachusetts in 2016; Lego recently announced it is doing the same with its North American headquarters.
“I know you’ve had great success in Massachusetts,” Lamont said, referring to FORGE. “I’m always envious of what’s happening there. But you’ve come to the right place here in Connecticut.”