SAN DIEGO — A new snack billed as “tiny pops of crunchy deliciousness” is poised for a big year of growth.
Chasin’ Dreams Farm, maker of popped sorghum snacks, is one of nine early-stage brands selected to receive support from Mondelez International, Inc. The San Diego-based startup recently launched an equity crowdfunding campaign to fuel expansion and has added Tate’s Bake Shop founder Kathleen King as an investor in the business.
Sydney Chasin, founder and chief executive officer of Chasin’ Dreams Farm, uses terms like “quasi-indulgent” and “snackvention” to describe her products, which feature regeneratively farmed sorghum, a drought-resilient crop, that is air-popped and lightly coated with tapioca syrup and seasonings. Varieties include sweet and salty, cocoa and cinnamon. Resembling miniature kernels of popcorn, the products are significantly lower in fat than leading ready-to-eat popcorn brands, corn-free and with no hulls.
“We think that delicious indulgent snacks are packed full of questionable ingredients and genetically modified corn, and better-for-you snacks and better ingredients, including ancient grains are perceived as boring, bland and lacking taste appeal,” Ms. Chasin said. “What we aim to do is make better-for-you clean label snacks, and we’re giving ancient grains as we say the ‘glow-up’ they deserve.”
The products are available online at chasindreamsfarm.com, Bubble Goods and SnackMagic, as well as in more than 150 natural and specialty food stores. Chasin’ Dreams Farm is raising money to expand retail and foodservice distribution, build its team and fund marketing activities. Last year, the company was chosen to be part of natural products distributor KeHE’s accelerator program for new and emerging brands.
Previously dubbed Lil Pops, the brand’s name was changed last year to allow for additional innovations beyond popped sorghum. The new name was inspired by the family farm where Ms. Chasin grew up as a child, diagnosed with celiac disease years before gluten-free products were delicious, nutritious and widely available, she said.
“Out of necessity back then, I was crafting and snacking on what some would call weird ingredients from my earliest memories,” she said. “There weren’t good gluten-free flour blends. I was buying sorghum and teff flour and combining it myself.”
Beginning in June, Chasin’ Dreams Farm will join eight other snack makers to participate in CoLab, a 12-week program led by Mondelez International’s SnackFutures unit, offering workshops, one-on-one mentorship and $20,000 grants. Mondelez will provide tools, technologies, access to company leadership and industry expertise while gaining insights, capabilities and potential investment opportunities. The program will culminate in a final showcase for brands to pitch to key stakeholders.
“I am beyond excited for Chasin’ Dreams Farm to be selected as one of nine brands to join Mondelez International’s inaugural CoLab program,” Ms. Chasin said. “I so greatly look forward to learning from ‘big food’ and taking corporate practices we find fit and applying them to our scrappy, agile, startup ways. Beyond the financial component and educational programming, I can't wait to meet our 2021 CoLab cohort and learn from fellow snackpreneurs who, like us, wish to see a better snack-filled future.”
Through her crowdfunding campaign at Republic.co, she hopes to raise between $25,000 to $1,070,000 through early September. Until recently, only high-net worth individuals or institutions were permitted to invest in private companies. A regulatory framework enacted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission allows founders to sell ownership or a financial stake in the company through online portals to non-accredited investors.
“It’s great for us because we have so many business associates, a great network of people who may not be able to write the $50,000 check that other people can,” Ms. Chasin said. “And people who have been interested in investing since forever can finally come in and be a part of this.”
Looking ahead, Ms. Chasin hinted at other products in the pipeline slated to launch in the coming years that will be “corn-free, never genetically modified, gluten-free and super fun.”
“Our dreams are far bigger than just pops, and we’re creating a platform for better-for-you, more-fun-for-you clean label snacks,” she said. “The way we look at future innovation… is where can we take nostalgic favorites, nothing that is polarizing to anyone, nothing overly fancy.”