Western Pa. companies help fuel healthy snacking
Summer travel is in full effect and the next time you think about grabbing a bag of chips at a gas station — think again.
Local producers are offering up healthier alternatives. Here are a few to consider the next time you set out on an adventure or just need to satisfy a craving.
Trained chef and former juice bar owner, Sharif Rasheed came up with Power Bites by accident. When his son, Malcolm, was teething around a year and a half ago, he was looking for a healthy, soft granola bar that his son could enjoy. When he created a recipe and produced the first batch, his son devoured them immediately. That’s when he knew he was on to something.
The Power Bites are made with organic non-GMO ingredients, including fair-trade dark chocolate, dates, maple syrup, cacao, oats, almonds, sea salt and almond butter. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan and tasty.
“I like mixing nutrition and flavor,” says Rasheed. “I’m not going to sacrifice deliciousness because the ingredients are vegan and healthy.”
Although Rasheed hasn’t changed the Power Bites recipe since he created it, he is looking to expand the line of products. He’s developing nut-fee bites and is looking for ways to reduce the cost so that they are affordable and can be brought into public schools.
When thinking about packaging his bites, he did a lot of research, wanting to create a package that catches people’s eyes immediately. “I used to go to Whole Foods a lot and take a bunch of pictures of packaged goods and imagine how my product would look next to those,” says Rasheed.
His package not only stands out, but it is resealable and can easily be tossed in a purse, backpack or gym bag. To get the word out about his product, he’s been hitting local coffee shops in Pittsburgh with samples and has been emailing shops in other states. Power Bites can be found at Reed & Co. in Lawrenceville, Ascend: Pittsburgh in South Side, Ramp ‘N’ Rise in Sewickley, Zeke’s in East Liberty, HLane Dry Goods in Swissvale, East End Food Coop in Homewood and online at eatpowerbites.com.
REED & CO
At this Lawrenceville cafe, you will find healthy grab-and-go snacks, as well as cold-pressed juices and smoothies hearty enough to be a meal on their own.
Owner Reed Putlitz came to Pittsburgh from New York after working in the fashion industry. He wanted to continue to design product and switched gears to work with the best things on Earth — fruits and vegetables. At his plant-based, fast casual cafe he transforms produce into super modern snacks and foods that are meant to fit into everyone’s life.
He’s a self-proclaimed “snacker,” and at the cafe, plenty of healthy snacks can be found. One of the best sellers is the chocolate avocado pudding, specifically around 2 p.m. each day. He says around this time, many come in to satisfy a chocolate craving. There’s also gourmet toast, trail mix, chia parfaits with mango and lime compote, acai raw oatmeal, wraps made out of jerk jackfruit, vegan nachos and soba noodle salads. He’s also working with Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream on small-batch vegan flavors.
In addition to the flagship cafe, Reed & Co. also sells a variety of its snacks at Bantha Tea Bar in Bloomfield, the La Prima in Pittsburgh and at the La Prima on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus. Visit reedand.company for details.
About five years ago, Zouhair Mkais was helping a friend open a restaurant that served roasted vegetable hummus. Mkais’s partner, Lori Miller, joked that the hummus could be a farmers market business. After pondering the idea, he launched Hello Hummus with three flavors at three farmers markets. Since then, Hello Hummus has expanded to include more than 20 hummus flavors and a variety of greens and grains salads that are now available at 10 farmers markets.
“For him, the idea of really healthy, fresh food is important,” Miller says. “He was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and as a child, he went to the fresh food markets with his mother each day.”
The hummus and salads are produced in a commercial kitchen in Ingram and are made fresh for each market. Mkais tries to use as much local produce as he can, often purchasing from producers who are also at the markets. He uses dried chickpeas, rehydrating and cooking them before mashing and adding different flavors. The end results are lemon cilantro, roasted beet, black bean and Mediterranean hummus varieties.
The company is working on expansion plans and hopes to also be available once the farmers market season closes. Find market locations and more information at hellohummus.com.
To satisfy a sweet tooth, look no further than Scamps Toffee. The Ligonier-based confectionery opened up a tiny storefront in 2012. A few years later, the company began expanding its offerings to include non-GMO chocolate barks. And it hasn’t stopped expanding yet. Now, Scamps products are sold in specialty shops and gourmet markets in 26 states.
“We are a small, family-owned business representing Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh way,” says Clayton Hepler, Chief of Sweets aka head of sales for Scamps, which he co-founded by his mother Amy Hepler. “We proactively reached out to places across the country and we are proud to be in Denver, Vail, Martha’s Vineyard and beyond.”
The latest product to launch is the Fairfield bark named after the street in Ligonier where the company just moved its storefront. Rich and buttery toffee is poured over walnuts and broken into pieces. For slightly “healthier” alternative, there’s the New England bark made with Swiss milk chocolate, crunchy pecans, dried blueberries and tart cranberries. The Colorado bark is comprised of cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds and pecans mixed with Belgian dark or Swiss milk chocolate.
Scamps confections can be found around the region at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, The Pantry at Nemacolin, The Strip Market at Pittsburgh International Airport, Westmoreland Museum of Art and also online at scampstoffee.com.
Oakmont-based NuGo Nutrition was started almost 20 years ago by co-founders David Levine and Keith Rohrlick when they were tinkering in the kitchen trying to crack the code on improving the taste of better for you foods.
The company has several lines of cookies and bars that support various lifestyles, including gluten-free, vegan, Weight Watchers, diabetics, dialysis patients, paleo and low-carb because everyone deserves to satisfy cravings and be satisfied.
“Great taste is a constant, but one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to dietary needs,” David Levine says. “Our mission is to feed a healthier world with honest, delicious food and to do so requires us to deliver a variety of better for you, great tasting foods that people will come back and enjoy every day.”
With the NuGo Dark line of bars, the company has covered their protein bars in real, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate that is made with cocoa butter and is unlike some competitors that use palm oil which is high in saturated fat. NuGo’s line up includes cookie jar dark chocolate chip, double chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin protein cookies. The company spent six months in the test kitchen to make sure these healthier cookies taste just as delicious as their grandmothers’ cookies.
To find NuGo Nutrition products, visit nugonutrition.com and use the store locator feature.