Two years ago, Brad Gruno, owner and creator of Brad’s Raw Chips, thought up the chip -- or a meal in a bag, the company claims -- to satisfy his need for a crunchy snack as part of his raw diet lifestyle. Since then, the chip has been transformational to the snack industry, stirring up excitement among raw foodies and healthy snackers.
Want to know more about the man behind the crunch? Well, we certainly did -- which is why we phoned up the busy entrepreneur for a chat.
“My whole life I never really thought of eating healthy. I just ate to eat,” said Gruno, who, four years ago, was your typical average American -- an overweight junk food snacker. But, his perspective on eating suddenly changed one day when he was introduced to the raw food movement by his aunt, who pointed out the benefits of eating wholesome, non-processed and pure, healthy foods.
Though Gruno had a particular fondness for cheesesteaks and other greasy, American favorites at the time, the conversation with his aunt made him wonder what he was doing to his body and why. Food shouldn’t be about immediate comfort, he thought, but about nourishing the body and protecting it from preventable diseases. It was then that Gruno made the life-changing commitment to himself to get healthier and switched to a diet composed only of raw foods.
To explain further, the raw food movement is a plant-based diet that maintains digestive enzymes in foods by keeping the temperature below 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the preparation process of dishes. (When the temperatures of foods are elevated any higher, enzymes are thereby killed and the body cannot reap the full benefits of nutrients like vitamins and minerals in foods.)
“We cook our food. We just kill everything in it,” said Gruno, “we need enzymes to help aid digestion.”
Gruno admits that the transition to a raw food diet was challenging. Still, the effort put into his radical lifestyle change has been worth it -- Gruno’s dropped over 40 pounds and currently weighs what he did in his twenties.
“It takes that one month of really eating healthy to get that full benefit of it. I just lost the weight, and I feel so much better -- so much more energy,” he explained.
While Gruno was watching and feeling his body change for the better, he began to experiment with his food -- which included concocting a recipe for a raw chip, a snack he felt was lacking in the health food industry. After tweaking batches upon batches, Gruno found one he liked, marking the starting point for the development of Brad’s Raw Chips.
“It just dawned on me I’ve got a great vegetable chip," he said. "It’s the way to introduce the raw food into chip form."
So what’s the secret ingredient, the reason why bags of chips are flying off of the shelves in both chain and independent health stores? Surprisingly, there’s no magical ingredient that makes the chips so darn tasty. Brad’s Raw Chips doesn’t mess with the natural flavors of Mother Earth; instead, he enhances them.
The chips are made of organic vegetables, sprouted flax seeds and buckwheat groats, and they’re dehydrated (not baked or fried) to ensure quality levels of enzymes. The chips come in a variety of flavors, including beet, sweet potato, red bell pepper, sun dried tomato, cheddar and kale.
After two years since the establishment of the business, Brad’s Raw Chips has grown by leaps and bounds, far surpassing the growth anticipated. The company currently sells its products to more than 200 stores on the East Coast, ranging from Boston to Florida, and there are plans to open up a sister plant on the West Coast, expanding the likes of the healthy chip across the nation.
What’s Gruno’s favorite flavor of chip to crunch on?
Well, he actually has two: “My favorites are the red bell pepper and the red bell pepper hot,” said Gruno.
And when we asked if he ever gets tired of eating his chips, his answer’s a definitive no: “I eat the chips every day.”