• Margaux Nielsen

Sweet Aya Bites


Sweet Aya Bites is a better-for-you snack offered in four flavors: sriracha, barbeque, sea salt, and dark chocolate-covered. The star ingredient in Sweet Aya Bites is aya, also known as tiger nuts, which has a naturally nutty and sweet flavor. The tiger nut is a staple in West African cuisine and is actually not a nut but a tuber, like potatoes and yams. StartU sat down with founder Will Iyawe-Parsons to learn more about Sweet Aya Bites and his mission to make tiger nuts a household name in the United States.


Ideation and Product Development


Will discovered tiger nuts in February 2020 when learning more about the cultural foods that his wife, originally from Nigeria, grew up eating. Intrigued by the tiger nuts’ popularity in West Africa, Will ordered some online. When they arrived, his mother-in-law started eating them like a snack, and he had to order more almost immediately.


By June 2020, Will was fascinated by the benefits of this delicious snack. Tiger nuts are Top 12 allergen-free and contain dietary and prebiotic fibers, healthy fats, and 11 vitamins and minerals. As a native Californian, Will was particularly interested in the fact that tiger nuts require 95% less water to grow than popular tree nuts like pistachios and almonds.

From June 2020 to October 2021, Will devoted himself to building the Sweet Aya Bites products by building the infrastructure, from co-manufacturers to food and packaging suppliers to logistics. Product development took especially long as Will learned how to process this uncommon ingredient and find appropriate manufacturers for roasting, seasoning, and chocolate-coating. He incorporated the business in October 2021.


Competitive Advantage


Sweet Aya Bites is the first dark chocolate-covered and roasted, seasoned tiger nut snacks to the US market. Existing tiger nut snacks on the market are offered only in the tiger nut’s raw form.


Will’s passion for nutrition and educating consumers further differentiates Sweet Aya Bites. The branding of the product line prioritizes truthful, transparent information about the benefits of tiger nuts with a focus on solutions. Sweet Aya Bites will introduce a new, fiber-rich food to the American diet, where 95% of people do not consume enough fiber. It offers an opportunity for environmentally conscious consumers to enjoy a delicious, healthy snack that does not tax already overwhelmed water resources.


The packaging and branding for Sweet Aya Bites was developed by brand strategist Dan Cady. Will credits Dan with bringing the product to life both verbally and visually. The packaging uses clean, vibrant colors meant to stand out and create a cohesive brand block on grocery store shelves.

Long-Term Vision


Over the next three years, Will expects to expand the Sweet Aya Bites product line to add more flavors. He aims to have a presence in all high-end natural food stores in California before focusing on larger retailers.


Beyond retail, Will sees potential for Sweet Aya Bites to enter food service channels like coffee shops, hotel bars, and airlines to generate more consumer interest and familiarity with the product. The company may even expand into new product categories that have potential for the tiger nut ingredient, depending on market conditions and industry analysis.


Although those long-term goals are exciting, Will is most enthusiastic about building a team and company culture. As an athlete and sports fan, Will appreciates the importance of both the team mentality and individual discipline. He hopes to build a culture founded on a commitment to diversity that empowers all employees to express their unique ideas and grow professionally. Sweet Aya Bites employees will have a growth-mindset, positive attitude, and willingness to challenge each other, including the founder and CEO.


Next Steps


With Sweet Aya Bites’ packaging in hand, Will has begun talking to retailers. Will expects all sales to take place in retail initially, recognizing retail as the long-term path to profitability. The company will focus on high-end retailers throughout California to draw in a target consumer who is excited to try new foods, looking for an alternative to nuts, and wants to add more fiber to their diet.


Over the next six months, Will plans to focus on getting into retailers, building an online presence, and securing inventory. He currently imports tiger nut but does not expect supply chain issues. The Venture Accelerator at UCLA Anderson will provide support and resources towards these goals as Sweet Aya Bites joins a cohort of early-stage startups.


Sweet Aya Bites is also looking for private investors to reach its current fundraising goal of $500,000. This capital will fund the company for two years and be split between operations and inventory. The ideal investor understands the CPG space and aligns with Will’s commitment to diversity. If you would like to learn more about Sweet Aya Bites, contact Will at will@sweetaya.com.