It all began as a hobby 20 years ago in Diane Orley’s Birmingham basement. Her sister had recently returned from a trip to India, and was eager to share the details of a process she’d learned for making delicious and healthy nuts.
“It’s an ancient tradition in India where you soak the nuts in water for two days and then dehydrate them for two days, and that maintains a vital enzyme for digestion,” Orley explains. “So I bought a dehydrator, and began making them for my friends and family.”
It wasn’t long before Orley became an entrepreneur. “It was the smallest little nothing business,” she laughs. “I started with just almonds, then walnuts and cashews, and I would mix dried blueberries and cherries with them and make more of a trail mix. I literally put some nuts in a bag and sold them to friends and neighbors.”
Orley’s “nothing business” changed significantly several years ago, when her niece got involved. Like her aunt, Laurel Orley was a healthy snacks aficionado, and she had a successful background in branding and marketing.
“She just said, ‘Do you want to take this mainstream with me?’ ” Orley recalls. “She told me there was nothing like it on the market, and she wanted to create a category. I said absolutely, and we went full-force.”
Daily Crunch snacks quickly became a reality, and the ladies soon brought in two more partners. “Diane’s Kitchen is a female-founded company,” Orley proclaims. “We worked on R&D and packaging with a company in Maine, and we launched March 5th last year, right at the beginning of the pandemic.”
That turned out to be a positive during those early, scary days, when virtually everyone in the country was staying behind closed doors and relying on home delivery services.
“We have a large presence on Amazon, (and) we were one of the top sellers in the snack category in the first month or two,” Orley says. “We also have direct sales through our website, and then we have retail. We were already in about 300-plus retail outlets around the country, and we just added 350 CVS HealthHubs. Now Meijer is putting us in 1,500 checkout lines in 150 of their stores, which is huge.”
It’s a stunning success story, but it can’t be fully told without including an unspeakably sad event that occurred during Orley’s rise from basement to pinnacle.
“I lost a child to suicide seven years ago, but what that has done for me is it just powered me up to get busy and be an advocate in the mental health world, and destigmatize mental health,” she says. “We’re giving a portion of our profits to The Support Network, which is a peer-to-peer support group. The networks are up on about five or six college campuses, and we’re standing with a lot of schools. Now more than ever, we’ve got to work on those kids and their mental health.”