For the brothers behind Cheddies, maintaining the integrity of their real-cheddar cheese cracker through the transition to larger manufacturing is paramount as the firm scales, they said.
“It really is a guilt-free experience,” said Tomas Pergola, describing the snack he created with his brother, Francisco. “A lot of times we feel the need to indulge or kind of satisfy our cravings throughout the day, and it’s really hard to do that without feeling weird and eating something that’s really flavorful but might not meet your nutrition needs.”
Consumers can get 30 grams of protein from Cheddies in one sitting and feel good about it, he said, noting the company’s message: It’s OK to eat the whole bag.
The former Sprint Accelerator company, founded by the San Antonio-based siblings, released Cheddies in 200 Hy-Vee stores and 150 convenience stores over the weekend, debuting the product for the general Kansas City audience. Their high-protein, low-carb cheddar crackers are a solid fit for the grocer, the brothers said.
“When we first started this project, we were looking around our communities seeing where this product could go, and our go-to market was always actually Hy-Vee,” said Tomas.
The cheddar or white cheddar crackers will not grace Hy-Vee’s organic section, said the brothers, who want to bring healthful snacking to the cracker aisle alongside traditional brands — and capitalizing on the greater foot traffic in those areas.
Adjusting the recipe
Cheddies’ deal with the regional grocery giant was struck in May, shortly before the company graduated from the 2018 Sprint Accelerator class, the founders said.
Joining in the Kansas City accelerator put the company on track for commercial scaling, said Francisco, not only with the Hy-Vee deal, but with lessons on shipping, logistics and easy access to advice from Dairy Farmers of America, one of the program’s corporate sponsors.
“We still keep up with all the other members in the cohort. It was a quick three months, but it was tremendous how much we are able to really grow from that experience,” said Francisco. “We went in there not really knowing what to expect and ended up with more than we could ever deal with.”
The brothers created Cheddies in March 2016, originally as a healthy snack for diabetes and dialysis patients under the brand WUEL — pronounced “well,” said the brothers.
The product gained popular in the medical market in San Antonio, they said, with nurses often taking the snack home for their families to enjoy.
After two years of struggling to grow, the brothers rebranded the company as Cheddies in January 2018, finally admitting adjustments had to be made to bring the firm to fruition, said Tomas. That included expanding the focus to a generalized audience.
The firm is focusing next on acquiring more accounts, creating new flavors and expanding its social media presence, he said.
The brothers have always had a loving but argumentative relationship, they said, but they don’t regret working with family.
Both men were entrepreneurs from the very beginning, they added, remembering many lemonade stands, lawn services, and even a small business reselling books on Amazon.
“There’s a lot of honesty and truth that comes out of being family — that you could not get in a professional setting with outsiders” said Tomas. “I think it’s really helped us change, grow and adapt quicker and more effectively as we’ve grown, as Cheddies has grown.”
As first-generation Americans, the brothers noted that moving past grudges and arguments is important in a small, family setting, they said.
“I feel completely comfortable with saying that I’ve never felt closer to my brother in my life. We’d been through so much together,” said Tomas. “Yes, we’ve had our fair share of challenges and battles with each other, but I think having mutual respect for each other’s strengths and having that understanding of who we are as individuals has helped us get through the toughest times.”