- A Dutch treat known as stroopwafels has made its way to America, in an updated form
- Rip Pruisken came to the U.S. to study at Brown University, bringing this snack along
- He co-founded Rip Van to make a healthier version of the waffles that taste just as good
- They're now sold nationwide, including at Whole Foods and in thousands of Starbucks
A pair of entrepreneurs who met in college and made their foray into the food industry through waffles want to make snacking healthy again.
Rip Pruisken, co-founder of Rip Van, grew up in his native Netherlands eating stroopwafels -- thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle. More than a decade later, he brought an armful of the waffles from Amsterdam to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied as an undergrad. They were quickly consumed by his friends and classmates.
"Everyone loved them," Pruisken said.
The seeds of the business were planted on the university's main green at a bake sale as Pruisken sold waffles he made in his dorm room. (He still has the waffle iron he used to make the first batch.)
He partnered with friend and classmate Marco De Leon to expand production from a "Willy Wonka"-like setup in their residential hall to a more professional operation.
"Then we started making them for local stores near our campus," Pruisken told CBS MoneyWatch.
The key to the company's success is balancing its products' taste with their nutritional value. "We are really focused on removing the bad stuff -- ingredients that aren't good for you." The partners include high-fructose corn syrup in that category and "ingredients you just can't pronounce," Pruisken said.
Rip Van's latest iteration of the waffle contains just nine grams of sugar, down from the first commercial batch's 14 grams.
"We're seeing whether we can retain the taste making this delicious product without all the sugar," Pruisken said.
Their goal is to transform snacking into a guilt-free habit through foods that taste good, are healthy and easy to eat on the go. "We're excited to launch a number of other food products, so we're just getting started on innovation on those," Pruisken said.
Rip Van's Rip Van Wafels are sold at major grocers including Whole Foods and are in 9,700 Starbucks stores across the country.
Pruisken said perseverance has been key to the fledgling business's success. "It's really hard starting a company, and it takes a lot of work," he said. "So if you don't give it your all and keep on going, you're going to fail."