Packed with protein and fibre, Chickapea Pasta uses chickpeas and lentils to put a healthy twist on a timeless classic. Only two years old, Chickapea Pasta now employs 17 people and has already expanded to the American market. Founder and CEO, Shelby Taylor, shares her recipe for success.
Q: Before founding Chickapea Pasta, you owned a health food shop in Stayner, Ontario. What was the catalyst that led you to develop a healthy food product in 2015?
A: I only had the shop a short time before I realized that many people, especially parents, are challenged to find nutritious and convenient meal options that everyone will actually eat, and that don’t take hours to prepare. Having just had my first child, I understood the time constraints well and felt frustrated that convenience often meant sacrificing nutrition. After speaking with many customers, it was clear that pasta is a food that everyone enjoys, and a quick, go-to meal for families. I tested some healthier pastas with my customers, took all of their feedback and decided I was going to try to create a solution.
Q: You’re a mom of two young children and a busy entrepreneur who understands the challenges of feeding a family nutritious, convenient meals. How does Chickapea help you strike that balance?
A: With two kids under the age of four and a young business, finding any sort of balance has been an incredible challenge. Before kids, I would spend hours preparing delicious meals and make multiple trips to the grocery store every week, but that is a life I no longer recognize. I can’t even count how many times I’ve thanked my lucky stars for Chickapea, a super nutritious meal that both my kids and husband will actually devour. It cooks in minutes and whether they eat it plain, with coconut oil, butter or sauce, I know they’re getting loads of protein, fibre and nutrients.
Q: It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for you, finding success in the Canadian marketplace, launching in America and getting your product into several major mainstream retailers. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about what health-conscious customers want?
A: I’ve learned that people want to know and understand what they’re eating. They want to know where it came from, how it was grown and processed, and the journey it took to their local store. They want to know that the food choices they are making are not only good for their body, but for the planet and for humanity. I cannot express how much I love how conscious consumers are becoming, and this is a major reason why we recently became a Certified B Corp. We want our customers to know that we hold ourselves accountable and care about so much more than a single bottom line.
Q: Why was launching your Mac and Cheese line the right next step for the company?
A: Just about everyone loves a good bowl of Mac and Cheese. Many of us were raised eating this stuff and it brings back all kinds of childhood memories, but it’s not generally considered a healthy option. By replacing traditional pasta with Chickapea and pairing it with a clean, organic cheese sauce, we’re able to bring this comfort food back into people’s lives without the guilt, and that’s what we’re all about.
Q: Why is refusing to compromise on the quality of your ingredients and using exclusively organic important for you?
A: It’s simple. You should not have to sacrifice quality and nutrition for convenience. There’s no reason that the foods we love can’t love us back. I didn’t start a business to start a business, I started a business to make a difference and pursue a passion. By maintaining the highest standards of ingredients and only choosing organic, I know I’m acting with my customers’ and the planet’s best interests at heart, and I am staying true to my own core values.
Q: What’s your perspective on achieving a healthy work/life balance?
A: This is an ongoing struggle for me, but the best advice I’ve received on this is from Arlene Dickinson who’s an investor in Chickapea. She said, and I paraphrase, balance is BS. If we keep struggling to achieve other people’s idea of balance, we’ll never be happy. We need to find our own balance, what works for us and our family. This helped me to stop being so hard on myself and understand that I just can’t do it all, at once. I only started working out again this past week, after more than three years. I don’t see friends as often as I’d like, but that’s slowly changing. My idea of balance will be different next year than it is now, and that’s okay.
Q: What do your kids think about what mom does?
A: My three-year-old says, “It’s a good thing because it’s delicious!” He’s such a fan, it’s awesome! Just last week he told his caregiver that she needs to get some Chickapea for lunches. If he gets regular pasta at a restaurant, he knows immediately that it’s not Chickapea and tells me it’s not as good. My one-year-old just gobbles it up in any shape or form.
Q: Favourite family recipe using Chickapea Pasta?
A: My husband and I love Chickapea in a green Thai curry. The slight nuttiness of the pasta goes so well with the sweet and spicy flavours of a coconut curry sauce. If I’m ever on my own for dinner, I’ll almost always have it with a simple pesto, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, spinach and/or green beans. We have hundreds of delicious recipes on our website, all created by professional food bloggers, chefs and nutritionists.