Colorado-based Quinn Snacks hopes consumers devour their trust and transparency.
MOMS ONCE SERVED THEIR FAMILIES glasses of frozen orange juice, platters of fish sticks and bowls of buttery microwave popcorn without any concern.
But times—and moms—have changed. The recipients of those processed feasts are now parents themselves, and just the thought of serving Squeezeits or margarine to their organic-fed children would probably make many of them cringe.
Kristy Lewis, the founder of natural food maker Quinn Snacks, doesn’t blame the parents of the past. They did their best, she says.
“Our moms didn’t have that much available to them. When my mom was raising me in the ’80s, the natural foods category didn’t exist,” Lewis says. “You fast forward to today, you have social media and bloggers talking about Paleo and gluten-free and natural foods. There is just more information at our fingertips.”
With more information comes less trust.
“These families trusted big food companies to put out good food,” she says. “I think as I got older and I started making my own food decisions, I became addicted to reading labels. I realized that microwave popcorn is really synthetic food. There are so many chemicals and flavorings and colorings in those bags.”
When Lewis was pregnant with her son Quinn, she started craving microwave popcorn. Instead of buying a box of something processed off the shelf, Lewis just made her own popcorn.
“I kept thinking that someone would come in and clean up that category because it’s so wrong and it really needed to be done,” she says. “Then my son Quinn was born in 2010. I was on maternity leave, so I thought I would take a shot at this.”
The idea expanded when Quinn was diagnosed with a wheat intolerance and a dairy intolerance.
“Quinn changed the way we were eating at home,” she says. “We perceived something to be healthy and then we turned the bag over and it’s not.”
That was the beginning of Quinn Snacks, a Boulder-based snack food company that is attempting to rebuild trust with consumers and focus on transparency. Their mission is to “make real foods real again.” Five years after starting the business, they now peddle microwave popcorn, popped corn and pretzels.
Lewis actually founded the company in her attic in Arlington, Massachusetts, but Colorado has become a welcoming home for the start-up. With numerous other natural foods companies, tons of resources and a robust health food culture, Lewis says, it’s been a very caring base.
While she is now living in a community surrounded by natural food stores and companies, Lewis has learned over the years that just because something is labeled “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Just because it’s sold at a natural foods store doesn’t mean it’s natural. And no matter how wholesome the packaging appears, the truth resides on the label.
The ingredients in Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn? Organic corn kernels, sunflower oil, maple sugar and sea salt. No four-syllable words, no hydrogenated this or fructose that.
“The goal is taking all the other stuff out and leaving the real food,” she says.
The label is just the beginning for Lewis. Quinn Snacks recently launched the Farm-to-Bag Portal, which allows consumers to learn more about where the ingredients in their snacks come from.
“It’s all about transparency,” Lewis says. “We truly want to provide the consumer with the story of each ingredient in our products. It also pushes us as a company to become more transparent. If we have a vendor who does not want to give us information on where they get ingredients, then I won’t work with them. We want to dig deeper.
“It helps make us the brand we want to be,” she continues. “It pushes us to find the best ingredients from the best suppliers.”
Still, Lewis doesn’t want consumers to think that Quinn Snacks are just for yoga moms. Whether they shop at Wal-Mart or Whole Foods, she knows that many parents today are not doing research on products or checking food labels.
“I have a lot of conventional friends. They are lot like my mom. They trust big companies, and they trust the big companies to do the right thing,” Lewis says. “I want everyone to have access to real foods. I want to appeal to the masses.”