Unimaginable Foods – The New Frontier In Healthy Snacks

Unimaginable Foods
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Carina Ayden created vegan snacks for people just like herself. But her snacks are more than food, her mission is to help people who care about nature to support their conscious choices and lifestyles. 

Tell us more about  your approach to healthy eating? 

Balance between the bad and the good stuff. Fad diets come and go but the science behind high sugar products, high trans fats, saturated fats is always consistent – it kills you. So no matter how delicious something is, or how luring gimmicky marketing ploys a company might use – I won’t buy it.

What is a “healthy snack” for you?

Nutritionally balanced, tasty, and functional. If it’s a one ingredient snack, like a dried fruit per se, then I’m looking for no preservatives, no added sugar type of a snack. If it’s a multi-ingredient snack like granola bites, bars, baked goodies – my main focus is on the functional benefits, the amounts of the bad stuff like saturated, trans fats, amounts of sugar and sodium. If it’s too high then whatever the additional benefits of that product might be – I won’t buy it.

Unimaginable Foods’ snacks and Unimaginable lattes are better not just for people, but also for the environment. What’s the mechanism behind that? 

One of the top drivers of obesity, metabolic syndrome in America is the high sugar, high sodium, high saturated fat diet, also known as Western Diet. The main principles of creating healthier options is starting from the basics: eliminate and decrease all the bad stuff. This sounds extremely easy but fat, salt and sugar, additives and artificial flavors has been dominating our plates, our palates for way too long.

We’ve learnt to formulate food products using all this bad stuff. That’s why it’s so hard for big conglomerates that’ve been around for many years to innovate and make a switch to healthier options. Their whole systems are set up the way that makes food out of cheap ingredients, it would be very expensive for them to try to reformulate.

There are FDA regulations that I don’t find particularly strict enough. The American Heart association has tighter nutritional regulations. Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, whom I partnered with in my first venture years ago, has very strict nutritional guidelines that are very hard to meet for a food brand.

Most brands need to be proficient in R&D or work with food scientists if they want to elevate nutrition of their products. It’s easy to make any food product with access amounts of fat, salt and sugar, but achieving the great texture and taste without these three “bad guys” is not easy. We use plant fibers like chicory root and superfoods to aid in texture and sweetness. We experiment with certain superfoods like Baobab and ingredients like carob to borrow their natural sweetness. We never use cane sugar or any artificial flavors or additives. One of our product lines Unimaginable Bites has low-sugar options where we use monk fruit extract and chicory root fiber to help with sweetness and texture. Our line of Unimaginable Lattes has no added sugars and is sweetened with monk fruit as well.

Gut wellness is our top priority that’s why all Unimaginable products have gut positive properties: they are infused with probiotics, prebiotics and high fiber.

Who helped you to develop the formula of the snacks?

When I was launching my first company and the first product onto the market around 2013, I worked with food scientists and the nutrition team at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. It was an amazing experience and at the same time very daunting. I knew brands that started later than me but launched their products within a very short period of time, while I almost spend 1 year on the R&D and the back and forth between the nutrition team, manufacturing the samples, adjustments etc.

The only thing I need now is the lab and the commercial kitchen to ideate the new products. I consulted multiple startups on R&D and shared tricks of using new type of ingredients to create the same sweet mouthful and better texture without all the saturated fats. I dissuaded many Founders from using animal byproducts in their recipes and provided customized lists of plant-derived ingredient substitutions for their formulations. Now I have 10 years of experience in food formulation and R&D behind me. The only thing I haven’t worked on yet is the cultured meat industry.

What exactly differentiates your snacks from others on the market (not just from the pints of sustainability, but also from the point of nutrition)?

We walked an extra mile when it comes to nutrition. The approach was always the opposite of every other company on the market: we didn’t care about the marketing gimmicks and one-sided benefits. The goal was to minimize all the bad stuff and elevate all the good stuff. Less sugar, less saturated fat, less sodium and more fiber, protein, satiety, gut wellness and mood support.

Are the snacks of your brand a significant part of your diet?

Snacks in general are a big part of the diet of any Modern Human. If we make snacks healthier, more nutritious than we can feel better about snacking. I’ve recently been so excited about our new addition of Unimaginable Lattes that go so well together with Unimaginable Bites line. Just one cup of Unimaginable Foods’ latte and one serving of bites provide almost 50% of the daily value of fiber! It’s unimaginable! Not to mention all the gut healthy probiotics, prebiotics, superfoods and mood supporting botanicals.

What did you do before this?

In 2011 I was one of the first people in the U.S. to bring gut health into the snack market with the award winning nutrition bar Probiotic CareBar. It was an arduous journey of working with a biotech company to help them formulate a better carrier for their sturdy probiotic strain to make it compliant with USDA organic certification.

What is your education? 

I studied Philology with a minor in Linguistics and Journalism. I currently study ecology and plan to pursue a PhD in this field.

How did you come up with the brand name?

When I shared some of my thoughts about the food industry and how I wanted to create the healthiest snacks and also support soil health, one of the people in the industry said it seemed ‘unimaginable’.

What’s your ideal diet?

Middeterranean with the elements of world fusion.

Do you feel the difference when you eat “forbidden” foods(fast food etc)?

I love fast food, corrections, vegan fast food! It brings me back to my high school days. There are some great vegan fast food chains that are emerging and also major chains like Wendy’s, Burger King, Panda Express now have incorporated vegan meat. If McDonalds rolls out a vegan Big Mac, I’ll be standing in line because it will be revolutionary!



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