For carb-lovers the notion of going grain-free can seem like an overwhelming and painful undertaking. But if you suffer from gluten intolerance or other digestive health issues, you don’t have much of a choice. And in some cases, the dietary restriction of cutting out grains can impact so much more than just your taste buds or your culinary options.
For some, like Veronica Garza, cutting out grains meant missing out on a cultural tradition and a culinary staple that had been a part of her family forever. So she and her family decided to do something about it.
The Garza family, owners of Siete Family Foods, is on a mission to add a little bit of soul and a lot of flavor to your grain-free dietary lifestyle with their best-selling product line of grain-free tortillas and tortilla chips. And they’re doing it as a family, with a business savvy vision for the future and a whole lot of heart.
Siete Foods Started With a Medical Diagnosis
Back in 2004 Veronica Garza was diagnosed with Lupus along with other illnesses. This chronic autoimmune disease occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs, causing severe inflammation and ultimately causing damage to all parts of your body from your brain to your kidneys or lungs. On the company’s kv, Veronica states, “I was diagnosed with multiple debilitating autoimmune conditions that almost wrecked my life. I was fatigued, overweight, and depressed.”
While there is currently no cure for Lupus, there are several ways to help cope with the symptoms of the disease, and some experts suggest that an anti-inflammatory diet can help minimize the damage and manage flare-ups. Veronica had to cut out all grains and gluten from her diet to help fight her disease, and to show support her family agreed to cut out grains as well, meaning no more flour or corn tortillas for the Garzas.
It was a bigger change and a more difficult loss than Veronica realized it would be. In an interview with NBC News, she explained that tortillas were a huge part of her culinary identity and culture. “We lived in Laredo, a border town in Texas, right across the bridge from Mexico. Tortillas are a staple in our diet and always have been when were growing up. We just felt like we were missing out not being able to eat any, missing out on some of our culture.”
So, she decided to do something about it. It started as a small effort to replace what was missing in her own diet. She whipped up some tortillas using almond flour to replace flour and replace the void in her mealtime traditions. As she worked to satisfy her own needs, Veronica realized she was on to something. There was no way she was the only person in this situation, sticking to a restrictive diet for health reasons, but still missing the grain-based foods that had come to define her diet and her family traditions. And so began Siete Family Foods: a company on a mission to change the way people eat, the way people connect and take care of their bodies.
The Garzas Came Together as a Family With a Business Plan
Veronica knew she was on to something, and became increasingly aware of how food can either help or harm your entire body’s health. It took some convincing and the approval from her grandmother (who confirmed these grain-free tortillas taste better than traditional flour tortillas), but eventually the Garza family of seven (siete!) was on board.
Miguel, the youngest of the Garza siblings, convinced Veronica they should develop her tortilla recipe into a real business, and he also set up a meeting with a buyer at Austin’s Wheatsville Food Co-Op. They had the product, the passion and a great story to back it up, but what they lacked was the business plan and the facilities to make it happen. The Wheatsville buyer helped guide them in how to find facilities, get liability insurance etc., and in 2014 they found a gluten-free commercial kitchen in Austin and their company launched.
At the beginning they had one product and a different name: Must B Nutty, named after their grain-free tortilla made with almond flour. But over time, as demand grew, and their vision for future product expansions became clear, they re-branded their business as Siete Family Foods. In an interview with Forbes, Veronica explains, “with the name, Must B Nutty, we felt limited as to the products we could sell and the company we could become. We also realized that our family was at the core of our business and we wanted a brand name that was representative of that.”
Things started to take off, but at first the brand’s growth was all due to word of mouth a lot of sweat equity from the family members. They would knock on doors to spread the word and get as much advice as they could from mentors in the food industry. The family members would drive three hours from Laredo to Austin and hand press the tortillas for hours every night, sometimes until 3 in the morning. Veronica had to quit her job to dedicate her full time and attention to their growing company. And it paid off.
According to that Forbes article, in just two short years, “Siete Family Foods has gotten its tortillas into some 400 retailers around the country, including a number of Whole Foods stores.” Six of the seven Garza family members currently work full time for Siete Foods, and their ability to work well as a family and business partners with a shared mission to do good is part of what makes them so successful.
They are on a Mission To Educate Others and Elevate the Culinary Experience for Latino Families
Siete Family Foods isn’t just about creating delicious tortillas and tortilla chips. Sure, that’s their product, that’s what they are packing and selling in stores across the country. But their mission is so much more than that.
The Garza family hopes to change the way people think about the food they are serving to their families, and to become known as the healthy, delicious Mexican food company. Miguel, CEO of Siete Family Foods, explains their goals are larger than just sales numbers. “We have this goal of educating people on what food is, what food does to the body, and how it can shape you’re health and wellness.” He’s seen this first hand with his sister’s medical issues and the improvement in her overall health after cutting out grains from her diet.
As a business organization but more importantly, as a family, they want to educate others, they want to bring families back to the table to eat good, wholesome food, inclusive of dietary restrictions so that everyone can enjoy meals together. They are a self-proclaimed mission-based company, and according to their website they are “passionate about making and sharing real food, gathering together in authentic community, and advocating for healthier lifestyles among Latino families.”
It makes sense, as Veronica and Miguel come from a lineage of family members on a mission to give back to their communities. Their grandfather, Antonio Campos, was a Mexican-American civil rights activist who helped develop the “The Schools of the 400”, a program for non-English speaking children in Texas. They are do-gooders in their soul, and the soul of their company.
So Far They Are On Delicious Path to Success
According to Food Business News, the “Hispanic food and beverage market in the United States is projected to grow to more than $21 billion by 2020.” In addition, as more and more people are being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, digestive health issues and other illnesses, more consumers are cutting out gluten from their diets and opting to adapt grain-free culinary habits. In 2015 alone “grain-free food products grew 124%,” according to SPINS, Chicago.
Yes, dietary trends come and go. Fad diets gain popularity and then they fade. But good, wholesome food made with a mission of wellness will never go out of style. The Garzas seem to understand this on a deep level. “We know the trends exist and that certain things are getting popular, but we have been a part of the grain-free community for the past eight years, so for us it’s not a trend as much as it is a personal lifestyle. We’re not trying to be everything for everybody by any means, but we want to be a grain-free Mexican food company. I think that encapsulates what we look to in the future.”
Expect to see a lot more from Siete Family Foods and the Garza family. Good food with a good story and a team of people personally invested in the success of their brand makes for a pretty epic recipe for success. For now, you can buy their five different varieties of tortillas or their various flavors of grain-free tortilla chips on their website. You can also find them at approximately 500 retail outlets, including Whole Foods, across the country.