The Kuna Pops! cereals – launched at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show earlier this month – come in three flavors: apple & cinnamon; banana; and chocolate, said co-founder Santiago Stacey, who founded LiveKuna with business partner Carlos Gutierrez in Ecuador in 2014.
Each serving contains 120 calories and 4g sugar (ingredients, apple & cinnamon: rice flour, quinoa flour, brown sugar chia seeds, apple and cinnamon natural flavor, vitamin C).
“We started the business with one main ingredient: chia seeds," said Stacey.
"99% of the production of chia in Ecuador was being exported at that time, so we wanted to bring it back to our origins, so we started a business to create awareness of the benefits of chia. Then we ventured into other superfoods like quinoa [plus green banana and moringa], and last year we launched our line of superfood snacks called Kuna Pops! to make a more convenient, easy and nutritious way of eating those two ingredients.
"Although chia seeds still represent the majority of our revenue stream, our gluten-free flours are becoming very popular in North America as well as KunaPops! As for our flours, we have expanded on the west coast and will continue to grow our portfolio with Walmart nationwide. We've expanded to Mexico, Chile and the Caribbean since last year, making our products currently available across seven countries, and we expect to be profitable by Q2 2019."
He added: “We’re targeting [markets] from Ecuador all the way to Canada… and we’re here at the Fancy Food Show to expand our distribution in the US.”
People are fed up with ingredients they can’t pronounce
The allergen-friendly Kuna Pops! snacks – which contain Ganeden’s BC30 probiotic and 6g protein per serving – contain six ingredients: rice flour, quinoa flour, chia seeds, high-oleic sunflower oil, BC30, and seasonings.
“We launched at Expo West in 2018 and since then we’ve ventured into retail chains and health food stores in Canada,” said Stacey. “We’re on Amazon here in the US and vending machines across Florida. The idea is to keep expanding into more retail stores here in the US.
“We’re also here to disrupt the cereal category with a healthy alternative. People are fed up with ingredients they can’t pronounce and long lists of ingredients.”
A key part of the mission at LiveKuna (Kuna means ‘to give’ in Quechua, an indigenous language from the Andes) is “giving back to our community,” added Stacey.
"We've partnered with WE Charity, so that for every bag of Kuna Pops! purchased we provide students in Ecuador with healthy food, and support agricultural training, school kitchens, and school gardens. Every bag has a code so you can track your impact. In 12 months we’ve supported 120 students through this program."
Asked about funding, he said: "In 2017 we participated in the Food-X accelerator becoming partners with SOSV, the venture fund, which invested in our seed round. We are currently raising our series A round to fuel our North American growth, increase agro-investment and new product development. We anticipate this round will double our sales and store count before 2020."