When raw foodie Susan O’Brien was ready to embark on a new career, she wanted to do something that would help people live healthier lives. The native Texan has had a passion for natural food since she was a child and hails from a line of small farmers. As an adult, she trained with Santa Monica raw food chef Juliano Brotman, dined on superfoods in Maui, and fell in love with how eating wholesome food benefits the body.
Starting a raw snack foods company just made sense. As founder of Dallas-based Hail Merry, O’Brien put her experience and passion to work, creating "Grawnolas," macaroons, Miracle Tarts, and more made from raw, organic, and natural ingredients.
The goodies are enjoyed by health-conscious consumers from Wichita Falls to NYC, and the company recently announced a partnership with Virgin America. Travelers can now grab an exclusive package of salted brownie Merry Bites on their next flight. Talk about luxurious snacking.
We chatted with O’Brien about Hail Merry and found out how she gets a fresh start each new year.
CultureMap: What inspired you to found Hail Merry?
Susan O’Brien: I was a practicing raw foodie back in 2006, and I loved how this new way of eating could benefit the body, especially from the raw nuts and coconut oil. Raw snacks just had this luxurious taste and mouthfeel that to me was really lacking in the world of dessert snacking.
Also at the time, I could not find any great-tasting, well-branded raw food snacks in Texas. So I saw an opportunity to create a business for myself, which I had wanted to do for a long time.
CM: How does your company fit into the health and wellness scene here in Dallas?
SO: I have been blown away by how our products continue to be on trend. Our roots are obviously in raw, but we have a strong gluten-free fan base, and now the Paleo movement is huge, and our products are loved by them as well.
Yoginis were our core tribe, but now Cross Fit people love us too. At the end of the day, it is all about the ingredients and our sourcing, which is how we keep growing and appealing to more health seekers.
CM: What wellness trends are you excited about seeing?
SO: What excites me the most is how people are finally discovering the benefits of fats and how vital they are to our overall health.
CM: What is Hail Merry doing that’s different than anyone else?
SO: A lot of food brands co-pack, but not us. We are proud to be makers and growing our small enterprise so that we can create more jobs.
The reality was that back in the day, there were no co-packers to turn to, as no one was dehydrating snacks. And certainly no one knew how to commercialize our very delicate tarts. Plus, fresh ingredients are extremely hard to manage without extenders or preservatives.
We are very proud of our intellectual property and the work done by my partner, Alison Brushaber, who’s not only a Fellow with the CIA but also a food scientist. She is a badass.
CM: What do you do to reboot and refocus in the new year?
SO: Personally, it is a process of review and elimination. I first try to eliminate any negative thoughts and quell my fears. When I keep those in check through meditation, I usually have a better chance of succeeding with my eating and workout regime.
As far as the physical cleansing is concerned, I focus mostly on sleep, hydration, exercise, and eliminating the allergens that have crept into my diet, like gluten and cheese; I love bread, cheese, and wine. For the most part, I eat really healthy 365 days a year, but I strongly believe that you should celebrate life with moments of what you love, be it wine, chocolate, or bread.
So mark the moment, appreciate the wins, then move on and stay focused.
CM: What’s on your workout playlist?
SO: Earth Wind & Fire, Florence + The Machine, JT, Will Smith, Dixie Chicks, Foo Fighters, and Steven Tyler. The list could go on and on. I love music.
CM: Favorite healthy snack?
SO: That’s easy! Hail Merry chocolate chip cookie dough Merry Bites (formally known as macaroons), or Paleo toast with avocado and sea salt.
CM: Favorite indulgence?
SO: Dinner with my man at Rise in Dallas. Bread with butter, wine, great salad, and a warm truffle souffle. I love a good French meal.
CM: Do you have a favorite beauty or self-care product?
SO: I wash my face with raw honey. I really love how it softens and exfoliates. I moisturize every night with Simply Divine Botanicals How Now Brown Cacao, which is cocoa-infused coconut oil. That’s how much I love chocolate!
I stick to products for my face that you can eat. So many things disagree with my sensitive skin.