Lighting Up the Dark World of Packaged Food

Published on: October 21st, 2016

Kristy Lewis stands in a field of sunflowers.

A cerulean-skied homestead, third-generation farmers and vast fields of organic food — these are all images that come to mind when buying produce from the Boulder Farmer’s Market or a local CSA. But this is a story that only reigns true for fresh fruits and vegetables; when we think of packaged food, the image is much hazier.

Quinn Snacks‘ co-founder and farm-to-bag pioneer Kristy Lewis is on a mission to make packaged food just as transparent as farm-fresh produce. “People are still reaching for snacks — whether it’s for a movie night, a sports game or a day at the park” Lewis explained. That’s the reason she co-founded Quinn snacks: a new kind of snack company that connects consumers with the farmers that grew their food.

Quinn snacks began with a simple desire to clean up microwave popcorn, which is traditionally brimming with preservatives and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. That dream came to life in an unheated Boston attic in 2011, and ever since, the conscious snack company has expanded to five different flavors of microwave popcorn. Quinn Snacks has also broadened its product line to include pre-popped popcorn, pop at home kernels, and most recently, gluten-free pretzels. The latter is especially notable because it’s the first Non-GMO Project verified, whole grain, ancient grain pretzel on the market that maintains a traditional pretzel taste.

Staying transparent in its operations requires Quinn Snacks to be extremely fastidious when choosing suppliers, and the company sources in the U.S. whenever possible. “We push very hard on our growers and farmers so we can have a positive impact on the environment,” Lewis said.

The farm-to-bag page on Quinn Snacks’ website offers detailed information about all of their eco-friendly farms, which provide ingredients like Philippine fair-trade coconut oil, Chinese monk fruit, and rbgh-free butter from Kentucky. The time and money required to uphold such standards may contradict traditional business standards, but Lewis stands by the company’s mission. “It’s this kind of radical transparency that will transform the industry and help to rebuild a food system that people can trust,” she explained. Lewis also maintains the conviction that reforming our food system won’t happen without a unified effort. “We all have to believe that we can change the industry in order to do so.”

It’s that reason Boulder is so important to upholding the mission of Quinn Snacks. Lewis credits local residents for helping the company overcome challenges and achieve its goals. “We have a right to know where our food comes from. That’s what we’re doing at Quinn, and the Boulder community is one of our biggest supporters,” Lewis said. Quinn Snacks’ modestly-sized team of seven is rooted in what Colorado has to offer. “Every single person that works here loves the natural foods industry, our special community and our mountains. We live and breathe Colorado.”

Although the change-driven food company hasn’t yet reached profitability, Lewis is quick to assure that their mission will always come first, no matter what the future holds. “I will tell you this: when that time comes, we will never sacrifice our mission for more pennies.”

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