Wednesday 19 June 2019

'Sex sells and I have no problem using our resources' - the Happy Pear twins talk money, marriage and getting their tops off for work

The abs fab brothers tell Niamh Horan they are happy to use sex to sell good health

Identical twins David and Stephen Flynn, owners of the Happy Pear healthy eating brand. Photo: Mark Condren
Identical twins David and Stephen Flynn, owners of the Happy Pear healthy eating brand. Photo: Mark Condren
Phil Rosenthal filming with The Happy Pear twins. PIC: The Happy Pear/Twitter
The Happy Pear Twins Steve and Dave with Dustin the Turkey at the City Specacular Launch.
Twins David and Stephen Flynn from the Happy Pear Natural Food Market in Greystones and Marc Michel from Marc Michel Organic Life Farm Shop announced the details of National Organic Week which takes place from September 12-18, 2011.
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

I'm standing in a cornfield with Ireland's most famous identical twin brothers, Stephen and Dave - aka "the Happy Pear" twins - and they are topless. The sun is shining on their golden brown torsos as they twist and turn to the photographer's flash before he instructs them to take a few steps back to get a better shot of their abs.

Nothing could disrupt this perfect scene, I think, until Stephen accidentally smacks the back of his head off Dave's forehead during an attempt to reposition. The knock of skulls is so hard, it's audible.

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Dave screws his face in pain and looks at his brother like he is fit to kill him but collects himself and shakes it off. Then they're back laughing and joking as if nothing ever happened.

And this, I think, must be a perfect example of what it's like to live with a mirror image of yourself. A best friend, soul mate but at times the greatest test of your patience. Your readymade double will try you like no one else on earth.

The twins love each other dearly but describe "competing for our mum's love and attention from the moment we were born". They eat together, exercise together and have built a multi-million euro business but even a relaxing cycle to work can end in a gladiatorial duel.

"We had a race to work this morning because everything is a race," laughs Stephen. "I just thought, I am going to wait for Dave, this is ridiculous, we're 39 but I didn't wait - it's just so in-built."

As teenagers, their friendly rivalry meant setting boundaries around women.

"With girls one would always get there first or make more inroads," says Stephen. "It was a bit like a dog wees on a tree and puts its mark."

Alas, that didn't stop his brother from chancing his arm. At 15, Dave met a girl on the road who was waiting for a date with Stephen and he decided to take his brother's place. "I thought, 'let's see if I can get a kiss' and we got to the tree and [Stephen] comes running down the road [shouting] 'get away!'"

They last came to blows on the cusp of puberty.

Plant-based brigade: The Happy Pear twins. Photo: ©Fran Veale
Plant-based brigade: The Happy Pear twins. Photo: ©Fran Veale

"I think the last one was about 12 when you mashed my head off something and then I think we realised it's much too destructive we could really cause damage to each other," says Dave to Stephen, who is nodding. "It just changed. You wouldn't dream of it now."

These days they take a much more civilised approach to the slightest differences of opinion - the odd time even attending therapy together. "If you have been really busy you go to talk about things and how you can work better together," Dave says.

And their new-found approach seems to work a charm. Their business, 'The Happy Pear', now employs 140 staff and reported a €10m turnover last year. It is the culmination of a two-decade journey to wellness.

In their 20s, they tried everything from a Tony Robbins 'follow your dreams'-style boot camp to a month-long stay at a vipassana meditation centre where they meditated in silence for 12 hours a day. Dave called it "slaying the dragon". Stephen explains: "Because you're looking inside at your own discomfort at what comes up around different issues [then] you had to deal with them."

They also tried a multitude of diets. Within six months, they went from a lifestyle of "burgers, pizza and pints" to vegetarian, then veganism then nothing but raw foods and at one point even tried a seven-day water fast.

As Dave puts it: "We went far down the rabbit hole [to see if we] could literally eat food that would make us enlightened." Eventually they returned to Ireland after settling on a whole food plant-based vegan diet, and have been reaping the rewards.

The brothers are a walking advertisement for good health. Their muscles put paid to the idea that there isn't enough protein for a grown man in the vegan diet, while it gives them enough energy to cover a pre-dawn swim and a joint training regime that includes ashtanga yoga, circuit training, primal movements and handstands. As for fibre? They poop three times a day.

With a chain of cafes, three best-selling books under their belt and another on the way, they are still all too aware that their reputation for unadulterated happiness evokes groans and cynicism. But far from being an Irish affliction, Stephen says it's just human nature. "It's the tall poppy syndrome, if you stick your head up from the ground, people want to cut you down."

He acknowledges that they cry, feel pain and struggle like anyone else and says: "Happiness is probably the wrong brand - it's ultimately contentedness or gratefulness."

Dave gets philosophical: "The spiritual guru Byron Katie says, 'I know everyone loves me - they just haven't realised it' and I like that example because it explains people's judgments of us aren't necessarily about us, they're to do with themselves."

They will be the first to admit it's not all "sunshine and lollipops" and they have had their hard times. Now in a new relationship, Dave was married for four years before the couple went their separate ways. Though they are on good terms, living a five-minute walk from one another and speaking every day, Dave says he has learned a lot from his time with his ex-wife, whom he describes as "an amazing mother".

"I think through any kind of pressure or difficult situation, you emerge a better version of yourself."

He learned that communication is the core of any good relationship, saying: "If you can find someone that you can be open with about the things you're finding [hard]…and be honest about the little things like 'I feel a bit insecure when you do this' ... the epitome of a good relationship is being able to communicate about all those little difficult things."

For his part, Stephen, who has been married for seven years to a clinical psychologist, says he and his wife are going strong. He says: "It's easy to fall in love, it's another thing to stay in love. It needs continuous attention."

And so what of their success - with €10m revenue, can they say money makes you happy?

"Not in the slightest," says Stephen. "I'm not being factious - you need a certain amount to meet your needs - but beyond that, we're not materialistic."

At 40, they both still rent their homes, drive sponsored Renault cars, and the most lavish gift they have treated themselves to was "a second-hand bike" and "fancy mattress" for Stephen, and a "blow-up bath" for David.

"People don't tend to realise the amount of work it took to get here... we have been in the business for 14 years and for many years, we were working 70, 80, 100 hours a week - maybe seven days a week."

And it doesn't look like they're slowing down. Both vehement supporters of efforts to ease the climate change crisis, they are leading the way in sustainable packaging in Ireland, most recently launching compostable pouches for their granola and sprouts.

And they happily admit their bodies are just another asset at their disposal, when appealing to a vegan market that's 80pc female.

"We are all ultimately mammals," says Dave. "I think sex sells and I have no problem using our resources [like] we have when our whole purpose is to build a happier, healthier more connected world.

"If it's to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg and become better versions of themselves, then that's grand."

And if their customers are voting with their pockets, very few women out there would argue with that.

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