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Meet Nichole Dandrea-Russert of Nicobella Organics in Old Fourth Ward

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nichole Dandrea-Russert.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have been a dietitian nutritionist for the past 23 years (dating myself!) with a focus on plant-based nutrition and naturally healing through a plant-rich diet. I also love chocolate. In 2006-2007, when dark chocolate started getting media attention from the research that emerged on its health benefits, I jumped on board and started making it in my kitchen. I wanted to create healing dark chocolate treats that were supercharged with antioxidants from, not only the dark chocolate, but also other superfoods like blueberries, matcha tea, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Flash forward two years later, I launched nicobella organics in 2009.

My goal with nicobella organics was, and still is, to use it as a platform to educate and inspire people to eat more whole plant-based foods for their health, the environment and animal welfare.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s had its exciting moments along with not-so-exciting moments. The fun part is creating products, sharing them with folks and having conversations around the plant-based ingredients. Many people are amazed that our products are low in sugar, dairy free, gluten free, good for you AND taste good!

However it’s definitely been a challenge getting nicobella products onto grocery store shelves. After four years of trying they’re finally on the shelves of Whole Foods, Kroger and Earth Fare. But getting on the shelves wasn’t even the biggest challenge! It’s even more difficult keeping the product on the shelves because there is so much competition for shelf space. Without demos and marketing support it can be quite challenging.

Spending time trying to keep product on the shelves has made me step back several times and think about the real reason I started nicobella — to use it as a platform to educate and inspire folks to eat more plants. So, the challenge has, in essence, been an opportunity for personal and professional insight and growth – helping me redirect my goals and energy to my initial vision.

Please tell us about nicobella organics.
My background as a dietitian nutritionist is in diabetes, women’s health and functional medicine. I created the chocolates so that they can be enjoyed by people with diabetes or those who want an indulgence as a part of a healthy lifestyle. I’ve always believed that plant-based eating is the foundation for optimal living, but there are other factors as well. I also teach yoga and feel that movement, mindfulness and breath work are also critical to quality living and health. Plant-based eating and yoga (or whatever type of movement works for you!) create a clear, focused mind helping to make the best decisions for health as well as the planet. Plants offer an abundance of live, vibrant energy, which give our bodies and minds the energy needed to function optimally every single day. That’s what it’s all about to me — living your best life every day so that you feel good about yourself, your decisions, your work, your interaction with others and your relationships. I feel that plants, movement and mindfulness can create this.

Nicobella is a lifestyle company. If you visit our blog or social media pages you’ll see that there are plant-based recipes, eco-friendly tips, yoga inspiration and more. We make truffles, dark chocolate snacks and nut and seed snacks but these are just a small portion of what we truly represent.

As a dietitian nutritionist I want to inspire folks to eat more plants. Everyone is motivated for different reasons — whether it’s for health, the environment or ethical reasons — I want to meet people exactly where they are and help them achieve their goals so that they can live their best life possible.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Peas and harp seals. This might sound weird, but ever since I was a young kid I was a little nuts about not wasting food. The ongoing joke in my family’s house was if there is one single pea left after dinner I would put it in a container to save for the next day. I don’t know if my motive was a love for vegetables or not wasting food, but it definitely represents who I am today. Also, ever since I was five years old my heart was with animals. I’d save up chore money and donate to Greenpeace because I wanted to save harp seals. All of these things represent who I am and the nicobella lifestyle – being kind to your body, the planet and animals. The way I was as a child also make me think of my nieces — I love observing their passions as a 6 and 10 year old and think that this must be a mini version of who they’ll be when they become adults — it’s exciting and fun to think about!


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