When Poorvi Patodia had uncontrollable snack cravings when she was pregnant, she decided to create her own healthier snack inspired by one of her Indian culture’s favorite staples: chickpeas. In 2012, she launched Biena Foods, offering up roasted, plant-based chickpea snacks in a variety of mouthwatering flavors (like Rockin’ Ranch and Dark Chocolate)! We got to chat with Founder & CEO Poorvi to discuss sourcing from family-owned farms, their recent accolades in SELF Magazine and the importance of doing your research when launching a new brand.
R.K.: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
P.P.: I wanted to find a healthier option to satisfy my snack cravings when I was pregnant and found myself snacking a lot! My family immigrated to America from India, and growing up, my mother frequently celebrated our native culture through her cooking. She incorporated chickpeas into many of our meals and I loved them because of their versatility and health benefits, which is why I started experimenting with chickpeas in my own kitchen. In 2012 when the plant-based protein trend was just beginning, I launched Biena with a single store outside of Boston.
R.K.: What makes your snacks unique or something you want readers to know?
P.P.: Biena is one of the most award-winning snack brands on the market! In 2017 alone we have won five awards, such as Best Healthy Snack by SELF Magazine for our Barbeque flavor. It’s the combination of our flavorful taste experience and nutritional benefits that win people over! It’s rare to find healthy snacks that deliver so much satisfying flavor and just the right crunch. It’s been our number-one focus since we created the brand, and it is always a thrill when consumers and editors agree with us!
R.K.: How do you source your ingredients?
P.P.: Biena’s chickpeas are grown exclusively on family-owned farms in the United States. We are committed to using simple and clean ingredients that are non-GMO, all-natural, and made from scratch in the USA.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
P.P.: There are always challenges in starting a business and we are learning something new every day. There have been various difficulties along the way, like developing our unique manufacturing and seasoning processes, getting in front of the right retail buyers, growing our distribution, recruiting incredibly talented team members and board members and of course fundraising. At each step you learn something about yourself, and the journey becomes that much richer.
R.K.: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
P.P.: Absolutely. I benefited from the fact that New England is one of the top-selling areas in the U.S. for healthy foods! New Englanders tend to be focused on health and wellness, and as a result they are open to trying new snacks such as Biena. I also benefitted from the incredible talent pool in the Boston area. People are everything in the food business!
R.K.: What would you love to see in the New England food and wellness scene that you don’t now?
P.P.: More gatherings and festivals focused on health and wellness.
R.K.: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
P.P.: There have been so many amazing influencers and role models in starting Biena. When I first started out, there were leaders in the snack food industry that took my calls, offered tips, time and contacts along the way, which provided me support, but my mother and mother-in-law are talented entrepreneurs who truly gave me the courage to jump in and start this venture.
R.K.: What’s your favorite quote or business mantra?
P.P.: Be yourself, always. You do you, best!
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
P.P.: In the next two years, I hope that we can continue to strengthen our internal culture and build onto the brilliant team of people that we already have in place. As a whole, Biena wants to continue to improve the lives of our consumers by providing a nutritious, yet satisfying snack. We want to make a difference in the world, one tasty chickpea at a time!
R.K.: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness or food business?
P.P.: Do your research and truly understand how your product or service will solve problems for your consumers in a way that no other brand can. Use this to develop your fundamental thesis on why this product line and market is worth pursuing. If you can do this successfully and it is rooted in something real—this alone will help you overcome major hurdles and obstacles that are sure to come your way! Find people who are supportive and don’t be afraid to ask for help; the food industry has excellent camaraderie.
R.K.: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
P.P.: I am an observer and learn by watching and soaking in other’s talents and words. If it weren’t for the talented tribe that I have beside me, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. It is encouraging to see people grow and I am always inspiring them to take a leap of faith, do something uncomfortable and push themselves to their limits.
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