Growing up an athlete, Motew has always been extra careful and conscious about what she puts in her body. “I’ve always been drawn to superfood, powerhouse type foods,” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “Back then, nobody understood it, but [my body] feels better.”
Relying on her personal experience with ancient whole grains, she started making cookies and snacks for children using the ingredient. “I started Zemas as a way to feed my kids healthy, better-for-you options,” she said.
“My kids don’t have any allergies, but they have ADHD, and they’re also very athletic. As they were growing up, I was thinking, ‘how can I raise them with a healthier lifestyle, with food that still tastes great so they don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything?”
The result? A line of muffin bites, baking mixes, and most recently, bite-sized cookies, made with ancient whole grains such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, and teff, as well as seeds such as chia, hemp, and flax.
Out of the home, onto the shelves
Motew launched the brand in 2010, and it has been on store shelves since 2013. “When I first launched, nobody understood me,” Motew said. “Everyone in the category and the industry told me ‘there’s no way you’re going to make it, people aren’t going to get you.’”
But here she is, three years later at Expo West 2016, recently launching four new mini cookies: chocolate chip, double chocolate, sweet potato spice, and oatmeal cranberry.
“I don’t have a family with allergies. I came from a totally different, health and wellness perspective by choice,” Motew said about Zemas’ early years, when gluten-free products were predominantly sold and marketed to coeliac populations. “But now what have I seen? A lot of companies want to incorporate ancient grains in their products—just to get it on their label.”
According to Motew, what makes her stand out from her competitors is the absence of rice flour in the products. “I’ve seen people trying to do similar things as us, but not 100% like us.”
“We still have room to grow,” Motew said, even though her product has national distribution through HomeGoods, and a good reach through natural food channels in the Midwest and both coasts.
Recently, Zemas won a spot on Prevention Magazine's 100 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards 2016.
“We see that our product is being looked at not just in the natural market industry, but also at the supermarket channel,” she said. “They’re all creating either an allergen-free aisle or health and wellness aisle. Just because we’re gluten free, doesn’t mean we should be for the gluten-free community.”