Poorvi Patodia (DC’98), founder of Biena Foods, has developed a unique roasting process for protein-rich chickpeas that come in four flavors—barbeque, cinnamon maple, honey roasted, and sea salt. Prevention magazine recently named the snack one of the “Trendy Foods You’re About to Start Eating.” The chickpeas are available online at bienafoods.com as well as at Whole Foods Markets, CIBO Gourmet Markets, and a growing list of natural food stores primarily throughout the Northeast and West Coast.
So, tell me about this trendy snack.
We take whole chickpeas and roast them until they are crunchy. It took us more than 500 test batches before we got our flavor blends just right. Aside from being delicious, what makes roasted chickpeas different from most snacks out there is the nutrition profile. It’s a super healthy snack that’s high protein, high fiber, but low in fat, so it gives you lots of energy without all of the other things you don’t want, if you’re trying to eat healthy.
I see you worked in the food industry before launching Biena Foods in March 2012.
Yes, I went to business school to make a career transition into consumer products. For anyone who wants to have their own business, I think doing a stint in consumer products and learning the business side of things is a big help. There’s nothing like making and selling a physical product; it really teaches you the fundamentals. So that’s how I got my experience. I was a brand manager on the Splenda team at Johnson & Johnson, and it served as great background for this role.
Why roasted chickpeas?
With my South Asian heritage, I grew up eating lots of lentils and chickpeas. And when I was grocery shopping a few years ago, I couldn’t find a healthy snack that I thought would taste good and satisfy my urges like I knew roasted chickpeas could.
Have you always been health conscious?
My dad was always heavily into nutrition and health. I remember back in the 1980s, we were eating wheat bread and brown rice way before it was a trend. To complement that, my mom is a phenomenal cook. She dabbled in catering for a number of years and is known in the Boston area. Each of them contributed to my perspective on food and nutrition as an adult. I didn’t even grow up eating normal snacks. My mom made all of my snacks from scratch.
What is the toughest part of being an entrepreneur?
There are no guarantees of success. You’re just working your heart out and putting yourself out there constantly. You spend all of this time, developing the packaging, getting all of the key pieces together, but still you never really know if it’s going to work.
Are you optimistic about the future of your company?
Definitely! We’ve had phenomenal sales for 2013. Besides that, it’s a good feeling knowing that we’re making it easy for people to eat healthy, make healthy choices without feeling they have to give up snacking. So far, we have lots of satisfied customers.
—as told to Lisa Kay Davis (DC’09)