“People say to us, ‘My kids don’t eat anything out of a package. I make everything from scratch,’” says Silvia Gianni. “I say, ‘If I could smear peanut butter on an apple slice every time my kids want a snack, I would. But when you have three kids, that’s not always going to be possible.’”
To deal with that problem—the lack of children’s snacks that are nutritious as well as tasty and convenient—Gianni, 38, and her friend, Katie Jesionowski, 33, last year launched My Superfoods. The company, based in Summit, where Jesionowski lives, now has its cookie-like MySuperSnack granola bites in Whole Foods markets in the Northeast and is on pace to reach $275,000 in wholesale sales this year.
In 2009, Gianni, then an investment banker, and Jesionowski, then an advertising executive, met in an online community for women pregnant with twins. Living in downtown Manhattan, they started meeting for coffee and, after giving birth, bonded over the lack of healthy baby foods. As their tots grew and they moved with their husbands to New Jersey, they refocused on what they felt was an unfilled niche: healthy snacks for kids ages 2 to 12.
“First we started playing with recipes; then we’d literally take what we made in the kitchen to the playground” to see what the sippy-cup set thought, Jesionowski says. Before they found a winning formula, she and Gianni, who lives in Warren (and also has a son, Tristan, 1), tore through 20 versions of granola bites and several food scientists, including one who wanted to add glycerin to the product to give it a longer shelf life. Now, Jesionowski says, “It tastes sort of like a muffin or a soft cookie. And the packaging also attracts kids.”
Each of the three flavors—blueberry banana acai, chocolate chip and apple raisin—comes in a colorful, 40-gram, tear-open pouch ($2.99) with its own identifying child character drawn by a Brooklyn cartoonist friend of theirs. “Kids don’t want to eat anything in beige packaging,” Jesionowski says. “That was something we had to consider, because we’re competing with Fruity Pebbles.” Another challenge was differentiating MySuperSnacks from other kiddie treats that woo parents with health claims. “That’s where our whole nutrient-dense idea comes in,” she says. “Our granola bites are actually good for kids.”
Instead of replacing corn syrup with organic cane sugar, they sweeten the granola bites with brown rice syrup, which has a lower glycemic index. They replace hydrogenated oil with organic canola oil; wheat flour with a blend of oat bran, ground flax seeds (which are high in Omega-3 oils) and amaranth flour, an ancient plant that packs Vitamin C as well as a more complete protein than most grains.
“The stuff we use is actually nutritious,” says Gianni. “When you buy something like Annie’s cheese crackers, they’re better for you than Goldfish. But they’re not really trying to step up the nutrition a notch like we are.”
Though MySuperSnacks are now in 20 states, the cofounders are still the company’s sole employees. A plant in Vancouver, Washington, makes the product and ships it to the MySuperFoods warehouse in Newark. From there, the women ship, or in some cases hand-deliver, cases weighing up to 40 pounds to health food stores in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
My SuperFoods aims to be super in deed as well as name. The company donates snack packs to food banks in every state where the product is sold. That includes SHIP—Summit Helping its People—and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, in Hillside.
Gianni and Jesionowski also want to make life easier for busy moms. “One of the things we did was list the nutrition facts on the package as a single serving,” says Gianni. Adds Jesionowski, “We know most people aren’t going to make two servings out of a single 40-gram pack. We didn’t want them having to do any math. We thought they’d appreciate that.”Click here to leave a comment