There are many snack foods out there. Everything from crispy potato chips to sweet candy bars can be found at your local convenience store. Recently, a push for more healthy varieties has become more popular. People are ditching bags of Cheetos for more wholesome, nourishing foods like plantain chips.
Artisan Tropic is one brand making waves in America’s snack food industry. Founded by the Guzman family in 2014, the company’s initial goal was to make all-natural snacks for a family member battling a health issue. Camilo and Margarita Guzman wanted to help their daughter Maria detoxify her body to create a strong immune system. The snacks were so good Maria suggested they turn these plantain and cassava chips into a business model.
Based in Charlotte, NC, the Guzmans came from Colombia about 30 years ago. They set up Artisan Tropic in conjunction with another business, coincidentally a snack food distribution company called Rikkos. They were also the exclusive distributor of Takis for North and South Carolina for 11 years, so they had a good knowledge of the food industry.
Now run by CEO Juan Guzman, Artisan Tropic has expanded its presence. The products were first sold in Charlotte-based Whole Foods before more Mid-Atlantic region stores picked it up. The business went national in 2019. Guzman, who spent time as a professional soccer player in the U.S. and Colombia, has overseen the company’s expansion and commitment to more sustainable practices.
“My parents have always involved my sister and me and in the direction and the vision for the company. So we saw that as a need for a company in the future growth of where we wanted to go,” Guzman said to The Business Download. “That’s kind of the role I’ve stepped into. It’s been a lot of learning, and I’m really thankful for it.”
One of his biggest contributions to Artisan Tropic has been the regenerative agriculture strategy. Working with local farmers and agronomists in Colombia, the company has implemented many steps like no pesticides, more cover crops, diverse sets of plants, and sequestering carbon.
The environmental toll of growing plantains and cassava is pretty immense, so the Guzmans wanted to ensure they were making a product beneficial to people and the planet.
“We learned it was completely impossible to separate that from creating a snack that was good for the planet and the environment,” Guzman explained. “Ultimately, that led us to the realization that the soil and the ecosystem, and the biodiversity where these crops are grown are just as important for the humans who are consuming this.”
The company ditched the idea of using mono-crops to improve biodiversity, instead planting several crops like coffee and cacao to interlope with the plantains and cassava. Steps like this make crops more resilient to floods and droughts. Coffee plants act as fertilizer and vice versa. Ideally, the farm will self-regulate itself and reduce carbon emissions thanks to the vitality of the soil.
The regenerative agriculture strategy was developed with assistance from Terra Genesis, the eco-consultant firm. It’s known for working with farmers, corporations, and real estate developers to mitigate climate impacts.
Guzman said it’s been a privilege working in his home nation. He described the work with the regenerative operation as a chance to “really connect to a place that has history for our family.”
“Every time we go and every time you see [the] kind of progress and things that are happening at the farm level, you come back super excited and encouraged because there’s incredible progress being made,” he continued.
As for what the future holds for Artisan Tropic, Guzman says the snack company will continue its regenerative agriculture efforts. It also plans to develop some sweeter items like a chocolate-dipped golden berry. Guzman says it’ll be a small batch, so don’t dally to order them when they hit the Artisan Tropic website. The cacao for the chocolate comes from his sister’s father-in-law’s farm adjacent to the plantain fields.
Artisan Tropic’s snacks are now available nationally at Whole Foods and certain Costco branches. You can also find them online, which can be ordered in bundles.
The Guzman family has created a unique snack line that’s better for our bodies and the environment. “We are giving back to our country and giving back to the planet,” the Guzmans told the Charlotte Business Journal.