Benestar Brands has its sights on being the largest privately held provider of salty snacks, and it’s well on its way. Founded in 1947, the Chicago-based company has grown through acquisitions, co-manufacturing and developing new products to enter new snack categories. 

Over the decades, Benestar’s growth has been guided by four core values: safety, quality, customer service and cost, in that order. Every decision the company makes from acquisitions to investments to workforce has been made based on its impact on employee and food safety, product quality, customer service and the cost of doing business. By staying true to its core values, Benestar has maintained momentum, with a focus on high-quality, low-carb snacks. 

Benestar Brands produces seven brands under two subsidiaries: Evans Food Group and Pretzilla. Evans Food Group was acquired in 2019, which came with Gaytan Foods and Turkey Creek brands and facilities as well as the PORQ brand, which was in development at the time. Benestar purchased Chicas Chips in 2019. And in 2022, the company bought 4505 Meats. Benestar had helped the emerging brand develop products and co-manufactured them since 4505 Meats’ founding seven years ago. All of the company’s pork rinds, tortilla chips and puffed snacks are produced under the Evans Food Group umbrella: Chicas, 4505, Mac’s, Cazo de Oro, PORQ and Turkey Creek. 

In 2020, Benestar also acquired the Pretzilla brand from Miller Baking Co., Milwaukee, bringing Benestar into a new snacking space of soft pretzel bites and pretzel buns. Pretzilla operations are independent from Evans Food Group with Benestar President Bruce Myers and Pretzilla’s President Hanno Holm at the helm. 

“With chicharrones, tortilla chips, puffed wheat, corn and potato snacks and soft pretzel bites and buns, Benestar has a broad portfolio of snacks that appeal to many consumers,” said Shundrikka Owens, chief marketing officer, Benestar. “Our attention to producing quality, delicious snacks drives high consumer loyalty, and our nimble cross-functional team makes us strong and reliable partners to the retail community.”

Benestar’s broad portfolio, with multiple brands in single categories like pork rinds and tortilla chips, enables the company to hit a wide range of consumers across multiple channels. PORQ and 4505 provide premium pork rinds made with premium pellets and feature restaurant-inspired flavors. Mac’s is the workhorse pork rind brand and Benestar’s moneymaker. Turkey Creek reaches the convenience store customer. Likewise, Cazo de Oro is the conventional tortilla chip brand, and Chicas is the non-GMO brand for the discerning consumer. 

“Chicas Corn Tortilla Chips and 4505 Meats are acquisitions that broadened our portfolio to include better-for-you snacks with unique cooking methods and product attributes that appeal to consumers with the spending power that is important to our retail partners,” Ms. Owens explained. “That coupled with our deep experience in creating tasty, delicious snacks have further positioned those brands toward growth.”

The quality piece is just one of the ways in which Benestar separates its products from the competition. The company’s tortilla chips are made not from a masa sheet but from cutting and frying tortillas. This mimics the authentic process found in Mexican restaurants across North America and creates a thicker chip for dipping. The company’s premium pork rind brands — PORQ and 4505 — both start with higher quality pork. More control over frying and seasoning helps provide a consistently high-quality finished product. 

Another way Benestar Brands differentiates itself is through its customer service. With its many brands, Ms. Owens said the company can be a one-stop solution for its retail customers, a point for the customer service value. 

“Our market data supports that for loyal consumers of Mac’s, the availability of Mac’s can influence where they do their broader grocery shopping,” she said. “Most recently, we expanded Cazo de Oro tortilla chip and chicharrones brand to include puffed wheat, corn and potato snacks. This puffed snacks category is a significant part of the Hispanic snack category and nicely rounds out this brand to be a solution for our retail partners looking to expand their reach.”

Despite its appetite for new products and acquisitions of existing brands, however, Benestar is thoughtful about its direction. 

“We try to avoid fads and instead focus on sustaining macro-trends,” Ms. Owens said. “Low carb is one such example. This dietary lifestyle isn’t going anywhere. We continue to support this trend with our portfolio of chicharrones generously seasoned with more trendy flavor profiles that allow for safe exploration like Nashville Hot, Ghost Pepper Ranch and Tajin.”

In addition to its chicharrones, the company has also launched a low-carb breadcrumb substitution through its PORQ brand called PORQ Panko crumbs.  

In addition to low carb, Ms. Owens pointed out the persistence of sustainability and traceability trends in the food industry. 

“There is a segment of consumers who expect to know specifically where their food is sourced and that they are supporting the environment with their food choices,” she said. “Brands such as Chicas, which is vegan and Non-GMO, and 4505, which uses only humanely raised, antibiotic-free pork, provides permissible indulgence to those consumers where those attributes are keenly important.”

This article is an excerpt from the March 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Benestar Brands, click here.