NJ Siblings Pitch ‘Shark Tank’ Their Popular Popcorn Alternative

The founders of Like Air Baked Puffcorn—a healthier, safer, melt-in-your-mouth snack—share their Jersey-born product in an episode airing this Friday night.

Siblings Kevin Atieh, Steve Atieh and Allison Lin in a grocery store with their product, Like Air Baked Puffcorn
From left: Siblings Kevin Atieh, Steve Atieh and Allison Lin, who created Like Air Baked Puffcorn in 2020. It's available at local and national retailers.  Photo: Courtesy of Like Air

Update: Like Air got a deal in the January 19 episode of Shark Tank.

There’s no snack more timeless than popcorn, but some nibbles are better and safer for you. Like Air is one of them.

Founded by Basking Ridge natives, siblings Steve Atieh and Allison Lin, in 2020, Like Air Baked Puffcorn is a popcorn alternative that is just as snackable as popcorn—without the fuss of kernels and not-so healthy ingredients. Amid their snack’s growing success, the siblings made it to ABC’s Shark Tank; in the episode that airs this Friday, January 19, they’ll share the story behind their decision to create a healthier, safer popcorn alternative.

Both siblings, along with their brother Kevin Atieh, who later joined the team as Like Air’s CFO, have professional backgrounds in finance, not the food and beverage industry—which didn’t stop them.

After Lin had her first daughter, she wanted to create a healthy and accessible snack for children, many of whom have restrictions when it comes to snacking in and out of the classroom. Not only is popcorn is a choking hazard for children under four, but the kernels can also have detrimental effects on people of all ages.

Like Air Baked Puffcorn

Photo: Courtesy of Like Air

Like Air, on the other hand, “kind of melts in your mouth like air,” Lin says—differentiating it from other puffed corn snacks on the market, such as the crunchier Pirate’s Booty. Snackers ranging from ages six months to 106 years old, as Lin likes to say, can eat it without the worries or restrictions of popcorn.

Other puffed corns on the market also use unhealthy ingredients like MSG and other artificial flavors, ingredients and preservatives—whereas Like Air uses natural ingredients and is safe for those with dietary restrictions.

Across all four of Like Air’s sweet and savory flavors—including classic (similar to buttered movie-theater popcorn), white cheddar, pancake and cinnamon bun—each cup of Like Air is only 50 calories. The sweet flavors are free of all nine major allergens and are made in a nut-free facility. The snack is also non-GMO, certified kosher and free of gluten.

The cinnamon bun-flavored Like Air Baked Puffcorns

Cinnamon bun-flavored puffcorns Photo: Courtesy of Like Air

Like Air, now based in Madison, launched a few weeks before the pandemic, so the product was originally just sold on Amazon until the summer of 2020, when it became available in some stores. Its first New Jersey retailer was ShopRite.

[RELATED: Basking Ridge Resident’s Banana Loca Thriving Since ‘Shark Tank’ Success]

These days, Like Air is sold in 3,500+ stores nationally, including larger retailers like Sam’s Club, Stop & Shop, Kings and Wegmans. It can still be purchased on Amazon and on the Like Air website.

A great deal of Like Air’s success is due to social media. The company’s strategy has remained consistent since 2020: daily giveaways, gifting five winners and a friend of their choice free packs of Like Air. Steve Atieh says there have been more than 14,000 winners already.

Like Air also offers a one-time rebate program, where customers can purchase a bag and then send in a copy of their receipt for reimbursement. “It’s really a risk-free trial,” Lin says. They’ve reimbursed more than 20,000 bags so far.

Like Air’s success stood out to Shark Tank far before the siblings felt they were ready to pitch the product. A casting producer contacted them in February 2021, but the siblings postponed their application until 2022. They were selected to film in 2023.

The siblings will appear on Shark Tank this Friday night, January 19, at 8 pm on ABC. Viewers with live TV subscriptions can also stream the episode on Hulu.

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