Co-founded by Wharton MBA students Breanna Atkinson and Jared Golestani in 2020, Kokada is a startup that produces sugar-free, gluten-free, and nut-free coconut spreads that serve as an alternative snack option for those looking for healthy yet sweet snacks.
Kokada was selected among food startups and national brands, such as Wonderful Pistachios, Patagonia Provisions and Sun-Maid, that required a screening process led by a panel of nutritionists, professional dietitians, and nearly 2,000 taste-testers.
Good Housekeeping is a lifestyle magazine publication dating back to 1885 that aims to provide readers with science and evidence-based product research, reviews, and solutions for household needs. The Good Housekeeping Healthy Snack Awards is an annual accolade given to brands that have excelled in their respective food-type categories out of hundreds of entries.
“It feels unreal when we found out we won,” Atkinson told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “We didn’t hire a recipe developer to make our recipes, so it is crazy to be told that our recipe, our product, and branding we have done is now featured in one of the biggest magazines in the country.”
The inspiration for Kokada first came to Atkinson in May 2020 when she was searching for a quick and healthy snack alternative she could eat while juggling her career in management consulting and as a professional athlete on the Jamaican Women's National Volleyball team.
“I was traveling constantly for both consulting and volleyball, too, so I never really had the time to cook or eat beyond snacks,” Atkinson said. “I started looking for refined sugar-free snack options which both tasted good and were healthy for me. Eventually, it led me to create Kokada.”
Atkinson and Golestani started selling Kokada in farmers markets in North Carolina where they lived back in October 2020. In January 2021, Kokada began selling their original coconut spread in retail stores in North Carolina, eventually landing them in Target’s Forward Founders Accelerator program in May of the same year.
Launching a food startup during the pandemic presented its own challenges as Atkinson and Golestani grew their business while also navigating supply-chain breakdowns, delivery delays, and emotional and financial demands. However, their business began to take off after winning the NOSH Pitch Slam competition last December and has presently been featured on prominent news sites like Good Morning America.
Kokada has three flavors available for purchase on its website and Amazon: original, brownie, and cinnamon toast, with two new flavors set to launch in November.
“It’s addictively delicious,” Wharton MBA student Haakon Brekke told the DP. “With Kokada, you don’t have to sacrifice the taste for it to be healthy.”