For four years straight, Penn Staters party, binge drink, eat late-night Canyon slices, and, more or less, destroy their bodies in the process. Naturally, one former Penn State student once had about four days of fun before her stomach gave out and she couldn’t keep up.
Around this time, Jennifer Meyers developed severe IBS. She couldn’t eat anything — gluten, soy, dairy, alcohols, eggs…you name it.
“I wanted to feel like I could still be part of the party that was happening at Penn State,” Meyers said. “So I thought, ‘How do I integrate myself back into this society and also make it fun for other people to understand what I’m going through?’…because what I went through was insane. It was horrible. I was in the hospital 12 times a year. I mean, I’d go out to three parties, and then I’d be like in the hospital with a stomachache.”
Rather than letting her diet restrictions stop her from living the Penn State experience, Meyers chose to get heavily involved with everything else the university had to offer. Between THON, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and starting her own radio show, “Happy Hour Fridays at 5 p.m.,” Meyers was doing it all.
The catalyst to Meyers’ healthy food journey, though, started with her involvement in Valley Magazine. Meyers rose to a leadership role rather quickly, and she started creating recipes for its health and wellness column.
“I would drive my car to Wegman’s, I’d spend six hours there, and I would read the back of every single product,” Meyers said. “Every single fruit, nut, and seed. I became like this savant. I started this silly little Instagram called ‘Healthy, Fit, Delicious,’ and this was before all the food Instagrams happened. So, I started it. And then I would run into people at parties and they’d be like, “You’re Healthy, Fit, Delicious!”
Fast forward to 2021, and Meyers launched Earth Sugar superfood confectionary in Phoenix, Arizona. It specializes in raw organic desserts, energetic snacks, clean label confections, and adaptogenic pantry items. Each product is handcrafted with fruits and plants, and never contains natural flavors, additives, preservatives, or chemicals.
But, Meyers’ Earth Sugar journey was far from straightforward.
During her second semester of senior year, Meyers was a part of Penn State’s Hollywood program, which ultimately landed her a job with CBS.
“I was backstage at the Grammys. I’ve met every single celebrity. I’ve worked all the red carpets. I was at all the movie premieres,” Meyers said. “I was doing PR for Alicia Keys, Sam Hunt, Hans Zimmer, Steve Martin. Celine Dion told me I was beautiful once.”
Meyers was working her ass off — living the dream! Yet, all she could think about was the health column and Valley Magazine.
“In the off time that I’m working in LA, I’m spending seven hours at the farmer’s market, learning about zucchinis,” Meyers said. “I felt like a fish out of water in Hollywood.
“I’m working 10 hours a day, doing silly things for silly celebrities like curling Khloe Kardashian’s hair extensions. That’s what I do,” Meyers continued. “I’m a really happy, awesome person, and I have a lot of knowledge in a field that makes people feel better. And I was like, ‘Fuck it.’ I quit that job, and I flew back to New Jersey.”
Meyers took a job at a gym and was also helping individuals lose up to 80 pounds through food plans and creative, tasty recipes. Meyers became a healthy Willy Wonka, if you will. Regardless of food allergies, she spent hours blending together joy and happiness into her recipes and brand.
“I didn’t want to do anything else because I just started building this concept,” Meyers said. “It became so loud in my head. There was no escaping it anymore.”
Meyers also worked as a director of R&D at Lavva, a vegan food yogurt company. Despite studying journalism, she ended up in science. This job was the last bit that give her the guts to bring Earth Sugar to life.
Meyers booked a one-way ticket to Phoenix with 10 shirts and her blender amid the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meyers messaged the only person she knew in the area — a guy she never met in person but talked to twice in high school — to pick her up from the airport. Thanks to a love story out of a movie and quite a bit of courage, Meyers and her new boyfriend road-tripped back to the East coast to retrieve her belongings.
“We drove down to Florida and across Arizona. During that time, I had my notebook, and I was just writing recipes,” Meyers said. “I was collecting ingredients on the way, and I was talking to Joey about this company that I wanted to start.”
After designing a logo and perfecting her recipes, Meyers debuted at her first farmer’s market in October 2021 and made $11,000 in a month. Earth Sugar received an extreme level of attention in Phoenix, and it’s been history ever since.
“My goal was to have the products be actually delicious, instead of them being fake good, like, shit,” Meyers said. “I always said that my belly was somewhat my blessing.”
Meyers ensured that Earth Sugar wasn’t just a healthy alternative, but a dessert preference for everybody, regardless of their diets.
“There’s no creativity in the health food space. No one has made something new. ‘Let’s remake this and remake that,’” Meyers explained. “No. Let’s develop really delicious things that people think are really damn good and are purchasing because they’re delicious. And they just so happen to be good for you and not damaging. That’s something other companies aren’t doing.”
When Meyers worked in R&D, she realized that the people making our foods aren’t chefs — they’re scientists. They’re making sugar and standing over test tubes. After acquiring this knowledge, she couldn’t look back.
“You have these snack bars, like Clif bars, RXBARS, all these things that are taking up space in people’s daily lives. Every day, we eat a bar, and that is every day eating a piece of poison because that is what it is. Even fruits and vegetables, you kind of can’t monitor how they’re being grown,” Meyers said. “All that information is less fun, which is why I decided to color the brand with rainbows, flowers, and sprinkles. Now I’m talking to kids…I’m getting the attention of people who love Oreos, the colors, and the feel of going to the candy store.”
Earth Sugar’s messaging is unique because it tries to focus on the positives and not be “anti” this or “anti” that. Restrictions can be damaging, and food phobias are real.
One of Earth Sugar’s most popular items is a caramel candy “microcake.” It features a soft almond crust, date butter caramel, and a cacao coating. Other popular sellers include the classic crunch and choco cherry Super Barks. The bars are an “all-day” food — perfect for breakfast, a snack, or a dessert.
As a student, Meyers was involved in THON and always imagined that one day her fictional company would give back in some way, shape, or form. Now that Meyers is finally making her dreams a reality, Earth Sugar is donating 500 Super Barks to THON 2022. Additionally, Earth Sugar will donate $5 to THON for each order placed online with the code “FTK.”
Meyers is extremely grateful for the community she’s fostered in Phoenix and the love that she’s received.
“That’s my goal. I’ve always wanted to make people smile,’ Meyers said. “I do everything that I’ve always wanted to do.”
Fresh and whole foods are expensive in this country, yet affordability is a fundamental value of Earth Sugar’s brand.
“I learned so much about the access to food in this country. It’s challenging,” Meyers said. “In the beginning, this was all that I thought about — all the ingredients that I sourced, the farms that I work with. The fruits are local, and I really tried to figure out my supply chain. When I came up with this first recipe, I needed to work my ratios in a way where we hit that flavor, and it’s affordable for everyone.”
“We also package it in a way that makes sense,” Meyers continued. “I built them in a way that they’re physically so filling that you can’t binge eat them. People eat my snacks, have half a bar, and they’re full.”
Earth Sugar is run by a small, tight-knit production team. As the company grew, it converted a two-story apartment into a commercial kitchen. Three days a week are spent producing before products head to the markets Friday through Sunday.
Meyers shows up every week to the markets wearing pink, with a load of stickers, and even a karaoke machine. Earth Sugar is having the party that Meyers had always wanted to have.
She credits Penn State and Valley Magazine as the places and things that gave her the tools to do what she wanted to do. College, to her, was a place of practice and curiosity.
As for advice, Meyers encourages Penn State students to take the leap and go all-in.
“Whatever you’re good at, do it,” Meyers said. “My core mission is to empower people to do what they want to do. People say there’s nothing to lose when you’re young, and it’s so true. Once you’re out of college, find out who you are. Put yourself in weird-ass places, take new jobs, and go on all the dates. You only know what you’ve been exposed to.”
“If you have ambition and a dream in your head, just try it,” Meyers continued. “There’s always going to be a job to take and money you can make.”