I had the pleasure of meeting Vincent James, CEO of The Mediterranean Snack Food Company (www.mediterraneansnackfoods.com) at Expo East in September. I was at the press/blogger cocktail party and he spotted me with a bag of Rosemary Lentil Chips (Dairy free + more). I explained to him that I was so excited to see The Mediterranean Snack Food Company’s product was not only gluten-free, but also high fiber, high protein, and low fat. The more we spoke, the more I realized we had a lot more in common than just a love of chips, but we both have an entreprenuereal spirit and teenagers the same age with anaphylactic food allergies. I returned to Brooklyn, and was not suprised to see that The Mediterranean Snack Food Company’s lentil crackers had been highlighted in the NYTimes as being gluten-free and having great taste (please note that the crackers do contain dairy and always read all labels, and if you need to, call the company to make sure there are no other allergens present).
The Rosemary Lentil Chips are fantastic, full of flavor and, to me, guilt free. The lentil crackers I passed around at our recent anniversary party were a hit. But what I thought about was how dynamic Vincent was and how I wanted to know more about him, so I sent him a list of questions, which he has answered below:
1. What inspired you to go into business for yourself?
Working for a large corporation was a great learning experience, but also very restrictive of my entrepreneurial spirit. I had never planned to stay in the corporate world long term, so when Kraft and Nabisco merged, it was the perfect opportunity to leave and go into business for myself. I had just turned 40, and knew that I had to launch Mediterranean Snacks then or never.
2. Did you start out knowing you wanted to make chips and crackers?
Yes. Since I was involved with snacks at Nabisco, I had a good knowledge of the industry and wanted to continue in the area of my expertise.
3. I notice your products are made in a facility that also makes soy products as listed on the chip bag. What cleaning processes do you take between products?
All of our products are produced using good manufacturing practices and stringent cleaning processes to segregate ingredients. We only run a very small amount of soy products, and most of those are produced on a completely separate line. Because all of our products are OU Kosher, we perform a complete steam cleaning between Parve and Dairy products. This steam cleaning totally eliminates allergens from the equipment.
4. I know I’m thrilled to have a gluten-free chip and a cracker that tastes great. Did you realize that gluten free people don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to crackers? Or was it serendipitous that you created products that were naturally gluten-free.
The creation of our gluten free products was quite serendipitous. We set out to create an innovative snack that would be both healthy and delicious, and chose to base our chips on lentils because of their great fiber and protein content. Only later did we realize that these tasty and nutritious chips had the added benefit of being naturally gluten free!
5. You have a child with a peanut allergy. How did that influence the types of products you make? How did it influence your allergen statement on the bag?
My daughter is highly allergic to peanuts, so I am very aware of how prevalent allergens are in modern foods. Our products are free of many of the most common allergens, including peanuts. We intentionally make our ingredient and allergen statements very clear and easy to understand.
6. What new products do you hope to create or release in the next six months? Will those also be gluten free? Dairy free?
We are looking forward to expanding our line of great tasting, nutritious snacks. Because so many of our products are naturally gluten free, we will continue producing innovative gluten free snacks. Producing dairy free products is more difficult, because many of our seasonings contain milk.
7. What do people never ask you that you’d like for people to know?
As a native Buffalonian (person born and raised in Buffalo, NY!), I am a long suffering Buffalo Bill’s fan. I have watched them go to 4 Super Bowls in a row in the early 1990’s, only to see them lose every time! This year, they have started out well, so we are hoping for a winning season and maybe a trip to the Super Bowl! We are keeping our fingers crossed! Go Bills (as I like to say, the only true New York Team…since the Jets and Giants both practice and play in NJ!)
A sincere thanks to Vincent James, CEO, for taking time to answer my questions and thanks to Expo East for putting on a fabulous show! The next time you’re in your local grocery store, look for The Mediterranean Snack Food Company’s lentil chips and crackers they’re full of gluten-free deliciousness! (And if they don’t have them, ask for them!)