The first time you bite into one of Hungry Bird’s crisps, you’re surprised by how good they are. Good as in incredibly delicious, packing more flavor than a Triscuit could ever dream of (and I love my Triscuits). And good as in they’re chock full of nutritious seeds, made with olive oil, and seasoned with just the right amount of sea salt. You’ll reach in for more and before you know it, your kids will detect the presence of something delicious in snack form and raid the bag. Or at least that’s what happened to me.
Tina Diep started Hungry Bird Eats on a mission to create healthy, nutritious snacks. An added perk for many is that they’re nut and soy free, gluten-free or low in gluten depending on the variety. These common food allergens (especially common among kids) often leave people with bland alternatives, or snacks that are essentially empty carbs. Whether these allergens affect you or not, you’ll love these on their own or dressed up for a party with cream cheese & lox.
Inspired by the snacks she grew up with in Denmark, Tina started creating her crisps in her own kitchen, and it quickly took off from there. Catch up with her about how her son planted the seed for her growing business, the importance of community in her journey, and her insider’s guide to Fort Greene.
A little trivia about yourself
– Born & raised: I was born and raised in Denmark.
– Cups of coffee a day: I try to keep it to one in the morning and one in the afternoon. But with a 2-year old and a food startup, that may be challenging!
– Currently reading: Mission in a Bottle – the Story of Honest Tea. It’s a great book by the founders of Honest Tea that describes the whole story of the beverage startup, from concept to the ultimate sale of the company to Coca-Cola, in graphic novel form.
– Favorite pizza place: So many great ones in NYC! I think Lucali, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
– Hidden talent: I am a female version of MacGyver. I can quickly solve problems with whatever is lying around.
– If I didn’t do what I do, I would be a… Food photographer!
What inspired you to start your business?
I originally created Hungry Bird Eats in a quest to create a healthy and tasty snack option that my son Ike would enjoy. Soy and nut-free was essential, since my son has allergies to both. I really wanted to inspire him to eat something more nutritious than the usual processed go-to snacks for young kids on the market (think Goldfish and Cheerios). But it had to taste good.
I borrowed inspiration for my Nordic Crisps from the traditional knækbrød of my native Denmark, which I have always loved myself. I experimented and found the right mix – nutritious seeds, olive oil, and low-gluten rye flour in a cracker-size – and then followed with a gluten-free version made with brown rice flour and buckwheat flour. Ike loved them, the neighbor kids loved them, and the neighbor kids’ parents loved them. I launched the business shortly after that.
What makes your products different?
I made my products to prove that snacks that are handmade with real, organic, and non-GMO ingredients can still be addictingly tasty. I also made them in a bite-size cracker profile to differentiate them from traditional knækbrød and other rye crispbreads, which come in larger sheets.
Also, consistent with our brand name and mission, we recognize that there are so many kids out there that don’t have the financial means to eat healthy foods or to eat enough food at all. We would like to build a community around our products dedicated to feeding children properly, and are planning future donation of extra crisps from our production runs.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
How important it is to be plugged into a network of other food startups when you are starting out. You really feed off the energy of other entrepreneurs and makers in both tough times and great times. I’ve been lucky to be part of a such a supportive community since I launched the brand.
Anything exciting going on right now?
I just exhibited at three major expos in New York, including Brooklyn Eats, Good Food Mercantile NYC, and the Fancy Foods Show. I’m also playing around with some designs for larger box packaging, which should be an available option soon.
What are your favorite local spots?
The definition of ‘Local’ is a pretty wide open term in NYC, so I will keep it to my neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. There’s a great outdoor locals’ spot called Habana Outpost that is only open in the summer, and is pure Brooklyn – my son also loves that place. Greene Grape is my favorite retailer with an amazing cheese and charcuterie program, butcher shop, and wine store.
Walter’s and Prospect take the prize as my favorite restaurants, although the feel of the back courtyard at Colonia Verde in the summer transports me to southern Europe. Bittersweet is a hole in the wall coffee shop with the most amazing baristas. Fort Greene Park is a gem with a lot of history, and ties the neighborhood together.
You can find Hungry Bird Eats’ delicious snacks in specialty shops around town, or buy directly online at hungrybirdeats.com