Enjoy food, enjoy travel and enjoy life. You're listening to travel gluten free by Elikqitie.
Okay, my friend. Today, we have a really fun guest on. I'm going to give you a little bit of background. So Cereales Andinos is a family owned company that sprouted in 2006 in Ecuador. The company worked behind the scenes for industry and government for almost nine years until in 2015 when they decided to prepare a research and development project focused on food exports. They had a food brand they were working with and decided to redesign the brand to the name we now know called Celifood. They obtained the--ACCP certification, which is a food safety certification, and they're also gluten free certified and are now working on non GMO and kosher certifications. Their goal is to be gluten free company from South America. For the past two years in South America, Celifoods has become the number three brand in the healthy cereals in retail, behind Nestle and Kellogg, and in 2018 they launched their expert product, Quinoa Munch to the USA.
You can find Quinoa Munch on Amazon, and they will soon be selling in high V's grocery store in Iowa. Our guest today is in charge of business development. He was born in Ecuador. Then lived in the UK since he was 11 and then moved to Spain and returned to Ecuador at 28 to help his family with the business. His aim is to catapult his company and his delicious Quinoa Munch into the international realm for all to enjoy his tasty product, especially our consumers here in the US. So without further ado, I'd love to introduce my featured guest today, Esteban Tapia from Celifood Company. Esteban, welcome to the travel gluten free show.
Thank you for having me here.
I'm so excited to have you on today. I wanted to tell you--and thank you for making the time to come on the show today. I wanted to tell you first how much my daughter loves your Quinoa Munch. I got it from Amazon and brought it home, and my daughter is 19 and she's Celiac, so it's nice because I know it's safe for her to eat, but the thing about my daughter is she's super picky about the food she eats. She either hates it or loves it and it's hard, it's hard for me to get stuff into your diet that's healthy, and so I'm super excited when she liked your food and then she ended up, she was going back to Florida to visit her grandfather, and she ended up taking almost all of my Quinoa Munch out of my pantry, so that's a testament to how good your Quinoa Munch is for sure.
I'm very happy to hear that.
Let's jump into some questions. I wanted to find out definitely about your product, so you're Quinoa Munch is gluten free vegan. You say you have real ingredients and no added preservatives, which is really good to know is that's very clean eating, which is really great. I wanted to ask you first before we get into the product a little bit, are you gluten free and what is your background or experience with people who are gluten free?
Well, I'm not gluten free. I am lactose intolerant and we basically found out when we did the project in 2015, there was a constantly growing gluten free community that was not being really well attended, and that's sort of when we decided to work towards this. And just to recap, in the past two years, we became the number three healthy company in healthy cereals company in Ecuador. We will plan to do the same thing in Columbia soon, and we wanted to expand to the US, which was the main market that we thought of when we did this project.
Do you have formal training in culinary school or did you just kind of jump into the business? Did you learn as you were going along with your family?
I, yeah. I do not have any culinary training. I'm actually more focused on marketing and graphic design, and I started working with them on the graphic design part.
Are you an employee of the family or is this your family business?
No, I am an employee of the family. This is owned by my uncles. Three of them set it up, as you said before in 2006, and they mainly wanted to work with Quinoa, and they really want to avoid or artificial ingredients. And They did quite well, and at first they were working for some industry. They were suppliers of Nestle and they were suppliers of some other government projects that were focused in [inaudible]. And eventually we decided to also launch our own product which is when we did the R and D project.
Interesting. And then when the family was trying to find clean products and clean ingredients, what was your most challenging part about finding those clean ingredients for your product? Did you have a pretty easy time finding it? Did you look locally first? How--what did that process look like?
Yes, it was a little bit difficult to find the ingredients. We tried to--especially the certification part, not too much certification going on in Ecuador, and so we're one of the first companies that were certified gluten free in the country. And we run our own tests, so all the ingredients that we buy, we check them periodically to make sure that they have the gluten free. They are gluten free.
It's nice to know that you, the company is so careful about having gluten free products and that they're safe for celiacs. So I have another question for you as well. So you've been working with the, I guess your extended family because it's your uncle's business for a while. Um, where does your passion come from for business and what do you feel is your biggest contribution to Celifood?
Well, I've always had a passion for the design of the product, and the fact that I've been living in a couple of different places has allowed me to get a little bit of insight of what works around the world and what doesn't. So that's the seed that I wanted to plant in our family company, and that's mainly the focus of where I started working with them. I was advising them of what products would be interesting to bring out. I was advising them about how to market them, and eventually they listened, so I started working with them on the graphic design parts. Then we started, we set up a team where we also designed some product, and they actually had the Quinoa Munch back then, but it was not the Quinoa Munch. It was missing a few things. It actually had lactose in them, which I kind of hated because I'm lactose intolerant, and it had, so it wasn't Vegan, and it also had quite a high amount of sugar, so we were working around that. We were trying to reduce the sugar. We're actually using sugar cane now, something that's called [inaudible], which is derived from sugarcane. We've been trying to avoid all the ingredients that are not healthy.
One of my uncles says that he wants to create products, or he wants to sell product that he can feed his children, which is sort of the basis of what Celifood would became. Now it's a bit challenging to work towards international markets, because international markets require a lot more things than we have, but we're working towards them, such as non GMO and such as kosher. We will also be working towards other certifications a long time, and it's not an easy task. Like I said before, ingredients are not certified in Ecuador, are not commonly certified in Ecuador, so finding them and getting them in the right shape and teaching our suppliers how they should prepare things was and is one of our main challenges, but we do have a product that we're very proud of, and we're very happy that we can show it around the world. We're actually selling in Chile, we're selling in Lebanon, we're selling in South Africa now. We will be in Iowa soon, and hopefully we will be over the US. We are actually selling through Amazon, and it's growing. Every day we have more and more sales, and so we're very happy with the results right now.
Great, and I'm hoping you guys come out here West sometime soon. Hopefully, maybe we'll be able to get you a distributor out here, because I love your socks. I think they're really great and my daughter loves them as well.
I'm very happy to hear that. We generally tend to, to always send the snacks before so that people can try them out.
Okay Estaban, so on your Instagram, I can find that Celifoods has been around the world. I see it in front of the Eiffel Tower and in front of beaches and different exotic places. And your Instagram bio reads, "Certified gluten free and Vegan Quinoa snacks made with real superfood ingredients from the Andes, healthy, nutritious and tasty. Elevate your food." So one of the things I love about your snacks is that they're vegan because probably you know Vegan is getting to be really, really big in America right now. So when did you decide to choose to go Vegan with your snack?
Okay. That was actually during the expo West in 2016, where we both the first trial of our product, and we realized that there was still missing something which was the lactose part. I was very happy to come back home and told my, my family that we should work on a non-lactose product, because like I said before, I really hated that it had lactose back then. The fact that it had no lactose allowed us to also become Vegan. And we try to avoid anything that's animal in the factory anyway. So once we got rid of the lactose, it also became a vegan product. We try to always use as natural ingredients as possible. The Passion Fruit one has real passion fruit pulp that we bring into the factory, and we use that as a, to caramelize the top part of the snack. That's why they're a little bit crunchy, right. And that's sort of the path that we tried to take.
Same with the chocolate. We weren't too happy with the chocolate, because we found that it had one tiny artificial ingredient that was part of the chocolate that we buy, which is the [inaudible]. It's less than one percent, but we're also working towards getting rid of that. That's another ongoing project that we have at the moment. We are working towards fully natural, fully Vegan, fully gluten free products. Before you also asked me about how gluten free it was, and it's actually, like 0--3 PPM. We have lab results of that, and we can always test 5 PPM, which is what we generally only do. They are certified for only 20 ppm in NSF international, which is the certification that we got in touch with a US company.
So you actually certify at a level way below what you need to. Because at three PPM, that's extremely small.
Right. There's not many certifications for three PPM. The US companies work with what the FDA calls gluten free, so the FDA goes gluten free 20 ppm. However, we do have lab results of three PPM which was required when we export to Chile.
That's really great. Um, it means your product's very safe. I want to talk a little bit more about because I'm such a fan of chocolate, your Ecuadorian chocolate. And it's obviously from Ecuador, but how do you source it? Like do you source it from small family farms? Like were--tell me about your, where you get your chocolate from?
Well, Equador is a country of chocolate. So there's a lot of options, and we are, we used to buy from small farmers. We actually used to buy everything from small farmers. Now we're working with various vendors. Some of them are bigger companies that buy from those small farmers. We had to add this because of the certifications, especially the Hassop--Hassop is a food safety certification, so it needs to have traceability of where it came from and how safe it is. In order to be able to have traces of any documentations, more farmers have a bit of a difficult time keeping that up. But bigger companies and factories do. So we generated from the factories that buy from the small farmer
So the factories have the paperwork they can say is safe so that you can get, have that certification for your food.
You have two--let's start talking about the products a little bit. You have two different flavors of Quinoa Munch. You have passion fruit and chocolate. The chocolate one was definitely my favorite, because I'm just such a big chocolate fan. Um, I do like the passion fruit though. I like it because a lot of things that I tried that are fruit flavors are really super sweet, and I'm not a fan of super sweet. So I loved your Quinoa Munch, the passion fruit, because it's kind of a little on the--like you can really taste the tart of the passion fruit. I mean, it's a little on the tart side, so I like it because you can taste the corn flavor still comes through and you can taste the passion fruit, but it's not overwhelmingly sweet, and it's not overwhelmingly fruity. So I liked that a lot. So. So tell me a little bit more about how you picked the two flavors for your Quinoa Munch and a little bit about more about your products.
Well, these were the main flavors that we thought could work out, introduce a product in the US. We have four flavors in Ecuador. One of them is vanilla, the other one is cinnamon. The--we didn't bring cinnamon because it tends to be quite um, a festive flavor, and it kind of stands out by itself. But chocolate tends to be very loved, especially by younger people. And passion fruit tends to be quite curious. People that are always trying to try out new things. And just as you said, the flavor is a little bit faint. You mentioned that our products do have corn, at the moment they are higher percentage of corn than Quinoa because again, Quinoa is an acquired taste, and not everyone likes it on the first try, so we were also thinking about that. Like, we tried to design it so that the product will be easy to introduce to you and then we'll, we'll bring out new products later that have higher percentage of Quinoa and different flavors too, so the cinnamon will come out soon, and we will also bring some savory snacks in the near future.
Oh, I'm excited about the cinnamon, because when you said Vanilla and cinnamon, those are like two of my go-to flavors.
We will not bring out the vanilla one. We were not able to find Vanilla that was natural and could be certified under our Hassop and gluten free. So we're, at the moment we're staying away from that one.
Gotcha. So, so you will, you will be introducing cinnamon.
Yes, we will bring cinnamon.
Sounds good. And then you have a couple other different products. You have, I saw on your website they're not yet available in the US that are the quinoa flour and quinoa flakes. So tell me a little bit more about this because I saw those on your website.
Sure. Quinoa flour, it's certified gluten free. It's perfect for when you need to make bread, or you need to make some pastries. You do need to add some other flour that's a little bit softer, such as rice flour. Quinoa Flour adds protein value to it, and together they're both gluten free.
I actually just made some cookies with Quinoa flour like two nights ago. And I love quinoa flour. I actually really love the taste of quinoa because it gives you kind of like a nutty flavor, background profile, whatever you call it. And then um, but it is higher in protein, so it has a little bit less carbohydrates. I'm assuming because it's lower carbohydrates, it's not going to spike your blood sugar. Like rice flour will obviously spike your blood sugar. But yeah, you do have to--I mixed it with the quinoa flour with the rice flour and made these cookies, and my friends who are not gluten free were eating them, and they absolutely loved them, so I love the flavor profile of quinoa because it gives you a little bit of a different taste and texture, and I think it is really good for making breads and cookies, because you get that extra protein and that extra little bit nutrition in that instead of just having like a carbohydrate rich flour to use. So I really like that for the taste. And so are you planning on bringing the quinoa flour to the US or is that something is just exclusively for South America?
No, that will come soon. We started off, we started off with the product that was a little bit easier to rotate and easier to pitch because it's something that's not that common or at least not too commonly seen in the US yet. The quinoa flour will come soon. The quinoa flakes as well. Make enough next--it's interesting, because they're precooked, so you can also put them into salad so you can use them as, the same as you would do with oatmeal. So if you put it into a bowl with some cinnamon in it and maybe that's a bit of water or milk, you can get a perfectly good...
Oh, like a hot cereal.
Porridge out of it. Exactly, like a hot cereal.
Oh, that's cool. I've never tried that before. That's, that sounds really interesting. We're going to stop here for a really short break, and we're going to recognize one of our other affiliates, and when we come back we're going to talk to Estaban about the future of Celifood and a special offer he has for you, my travel gluten free friends.
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Oh, so Estaban. So you have brought the company really far. You've rebranded it, you have it certified, it's now Vegan. So you have no animal products in your Quinoa munch and your other products as well. What are some future things that you are planning for Celifoods, big or small? Anything you can reveal to the listeners of travel gluten free? So you're--you're planning on introducing cinnamon to the United States, which I'm also excited about because I'm a big cinnamon fan. What other things are you planning on bringing out in your food line? Either in South America or the United States?
We will bring out some savory versions of our products too. We will bring the products that we have in Ecuador, such as the flour and flakes, and we are preparing some new options. However, they're still in development, so they're a little bit secret.
So you can't say about any of the other products yet.
One of them will be a breakfast product and the other one will be snacks product. So they're both the same, same lineup of the things that we're doing.
So are you planning on having your Quinoa Munch like in cereal, in a box at some point?
In Ecuador we actually sell it as a box. That's why when we started talking, I mentioned that we are the number three brand in Ecuador. Sometimes, right, we're number two brand in the healthy cereals.
That's funny because that's after my daughter tried it, that's immediately what she did is she just took the rest of the bag, dumped it in a bowl, put her almond milk in with it. She's like, this is a great cereal.
And it is. You can actually eat it as a snack or as just a bowl of cereal. So when you're Celiac, one of the things we commonly do is carry food with us, because we never know if we're going to get stuck not being able to get something. And so I love, that's one of the things I love about Quinoa munch because it's so versatile, so you can take it while you're traveling. You can eat it on the airplane as a snack or you can take it with you and put it in a bowl with some almond milk or coconut milk or whatever you use for breakfast.
It's such a versatile food, and it's easy to carry because it's in these little packages so you don't have to worry about it spilling or getting messy or anything like that in your suitcase. So I really love your food because it's so portable, and it's perfect for travel, and I'm actually going to be traveling with it, uh, in January when I go on a cruise. So I will be taking your food with me for sure because it's, it's so easy to take, take and just walk around and eat or have on the plane or whenever you need it. So that's really great.
Oh, that's awesome. Very happy to hear that.
All right, so we're going to do some wrap up questions, and which we always do at the end and part of what we do as a wrap up at the end are guilty gluten questions, but you are not gluten free so I can't ask you this guilty gluten questions. And we did ask you about your future plans. So, um, my next question for you, Esteban, is what is your ask of the audience? Um, obviously you want them to go out and purchase. You're selling your Quinoa Munch, but what do you have--would you like them to follow you on Instagram? On social media?
Oh, that would be perfect. We are a little bit active in social media and especially in our Instagram. We're starting to grow on our Facebook page too. Both of them are Celifood EC, as in ecuador. We would love to hear from all of you. We actually started this product because we heard from all of you. We found a blogger that was complaining that all the products were, all gluten free products were lacking on nutrition. That's where we brought out products that a little bit had more nutrition into them, which was the superfood version of them. Yeah. We would love for people to follow us on instagram. We're also starting our Facebook group. We would really enjoy people interact with us, that you will tell us what what you like about the product, what you don't like about the products, because we are constantly innovating. We, one of the main things that we do is we believe in in change because we did that. We changed the way the company works in less than two years, which sounds like a lot, but it was actually a very short time. It was crazy how much things had to change so that we became a company that was able to export. We would love to listen, especially to the gluten free community. Our social media manager is actually a celiac, so she sat writing from time to time about things that we could do better or that the market needs. So we would love to listen to more of you about that too.
On your social media platform, where can people find you?
Yes. Where, you can find us in CelifoodEC in all of them. We have twitter, instagram, facebook, pinterest. Search for us. We will be there.
And so Celifood is C E L I F O O D for our listeners, so a website. Your website is celifood.com. Is that correct, Esteban?
Yeah, it's correct. In social media will be CelifoodEC. So C E L I F O O D E C.
Yep. I just look for that and you will find them everywhere on the social media platforms. Esteban, you had mentioned that you have a special offer for the listeners of travel gluten free podcast. Would you like to tell our listeners what your special offer is for them?
Sure, we will give you a 30 percent discount with the discount code that Elikqitie will offer to you for the following 15 days, so enjoy it as much as you can and you said for your Amazon purchases.
And definitely share that code with a friend because 30 percent off is a really great deal and you will absolutely fall in love with Quinoa Munch. I know you will. Um, I love it. My daughter loves it and my daughter's super picky so she hardly likes anything. So if my daughter's that picky your, and you have picky kids, your kids will like it too. So definitely take advantage of that thirty percent off that Esteban is offering for the next 15 days. Well, Esteban, it's been really great having you on the show. Thank you so much for making time in the middle of your night in Korea to come and talk with me today on the travel gluten free podcast.
You're welcome. Thank you very much for having me here. And I'm always open for any more questions or anymore information that you would like, so please feel free to contact me.
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