We here at Meatless Monday love chickpeas. And what’s not to love? A great source of protein and high in fiber, magnesium and folate, these naturally gluten-free legumes are loved across the globe for their nut-like taste and buttery texture. In its newest rendition, the versatile chickpea is used to make pasta, and we sat down with the founders of Banza to see how they came up with “pasta that loves you back”.
MM: What was your initial inspiration to eat more nutritiously? Health, sustainability? Did you grow up with healthy cooking/eating as a family or did you become interested in it later on?
Brian: Growing up, I was a picky eater – I didn’t venture far away from chicken nuggets and bagels. After college I started paying closer attention to the way I ate, and noticed a real difference in how I felt. I began to focus my attention on food and nutrition. Now I’m the guy who stays up late reading food science books and thinking about our next innovation.
MM: How did you get the idea to use chickpeas as your starter food? Why pasta?
Brian: I’m a huge fan of chickpeas. They’re delicious and a staple of the mediterranean diet. Meanwhile, I love pasta. If I could, I would eat it every day. But durum wheat doesn’t have a ton of nutritional value. So I bought a hand crank and started making chickpea pasta in my own kitchen! I figured I wasn’t alone – other people also must be craving a better pasta. So I recruited my big brother Scott, who was working in private equity at the time, to co-found the business with me. And we’ve been chickpea dreamin’ ever since!
MM: Tell us about some of your creative failures creating the pasta and your final ah-hah moment?
Scott: Early on, we realized why chickpea pasta didn’t already exist. It’s really hard to make! We worked with pasta experts, and still weren’t satisfied. We finally found the right plant, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into production, and landed our first big order. But our initial attempt fell short of our expectations. We lost a fair amount of time and money, but the challenge motivated us to spend every waking hour researching, testing and perfecting. We’ll never stop obsessing over making our product better.
MM: What’s the feedback you hear from people about your product?
Scott: When we’re sampling our pasta in stores or at events, we get to meet our customers, which is incredibly rewarding. We love watching people take a bite, and be shocked to discover Banza is made from chickpeas. Since day one, we’ve made a commitment to building a brand that’s personal – one that people can meet and get to know.
MM: What’s your favorite chickpea pasta recipe of all the time and can you share the recipe with us?
That’s like making a parent choose a favorite child! Mac & cheese is a team favorite. We also love this avocado cream with herbs!
MM: Do you have plans for other products with chickpeas or other ingredients?
Brian: Right now we’re focusing on pasta – we’ll be launching a high protein mac & cheese soon! But yes, our mission is to take the foods that people love and make them better, by using more nutritious ingredients. I’m continually experimenting in my kitchen – making better versions of the foods we don’t want to give up – from cereal to tortillas. Stay tuned.
MM: What advice can you give our readers about how to live a healthier and more sustainable life – besides eating Banza chickpea pastas?!
Everyone’s different, but everything in moderation. You don’t need to give up all the foods you love to eat well. There are a lot of options out there that are healthy, simple substitutions for everyday foods, and healthy is much more sustainable over time if it’s done without sacrifice.