Attain Foods Launches Keto Pizza
Tenney Rosenblum So nice to have you with us today. Tell me a bit more about yourself, then how did you get into food?
Mario Salazar Yeah, so thanks for having me. My name is Mario Salazar, originally from California, made my way out here to DC back in 2013. And really came like a lot of people do after working on political campaigns and got here and was working at a consulting firm doing public affairs consultingas a VP,
Tenney Rosenblum DC is definitely the place if you're looking to do that kind of work.
Mario Salazar Yeah, so I was definitely, you know, one of the many that was drawn to the city through those avenues. And really what happened and the way that I found myself in this industry was, was sort of going through going through the career process of the firm kind of going up in position and getting bigger and bigger, responsibilities and bigger roles. And during that process, all the late nights working in the office coupled with unhealthy meals on the go, and airports and sort of those snack spreads in corporate boardrooms, it just caught up to me. And several years ago, you know, I looked in the mirror, and I was the heaviest I've ever been, my body weight was the highest it had been in my life. I was pre diabetic, I had high blood pressure, and I knew that I had to change. So I turned to the keto diet. And within 10 months, I lost over 80 pounds, which was, which was a great experience. And during that process too you know, I learned that so many people are turning to the keto diet, but a lot of people aren't as successful because of the fact that you have to give up so much. The diet in and of itself is a pain point. Because, you know, in trying to keep your carb intake under 30 grams a day, it usually means giving up bread and cereal and rice and pasta and all this good stuff. But you know, I like to joke and say the one thing that I refuse to give up as pizza. So I spent a bunch of time in my kitchen trying to come up with a perfect keto pizza recipe. And I did problem was it took over an hour, hour and a half each time to make. So I turned to the marketplace to see if that was something I could buy and it simply wasn't around. So that's when sort of the light bulb went off. I knew that I wanted to be the one to fill that gap. And and I did and several months ago, took that idea to Union Kitchen was admitted to the accelerator program. Here we are six months later just about to launch in stores.
Tenney Rosenblum Nice, that was a really interesting story that to go from politics to keto friendly pizza, it's quite the journey,
Mario Salazar Super random.
Tenney Rosenblum So what inspired you to start the business, we see the marketplace, when did it start becoming like a real possibility here?
Mario Salazar So I've been one of those nerds that's listened to How I Built This forever, for years and years and how I've always been sort of in search of an idea ad for an idea. And it was really just the timing of it all, you know, I had lost that weight. I'm super active in different keto and low carb food groups online and just keep seeing people over and over again failing. And I know that the one thing that kept me going was was really being able to produce these unique recipes for myself. And so I just kind of paired that together with you know, kind of my that itch to start my own thing and do my own thing. And believing that I had found a gap that I could feel from my own experience.
Tenney Rosenblum So what product are you launching right now that you're looking to send into the market.
Mario Salazar So we're launching the Kizza keto pizza by Attain foods. It is a super low carb pizza. The dough is a chicken base dough also has eggs and parmesan cheese, topped with traditional pizza toppings. And the result is a product that is super low in carbs, super high in protein, and can help people be successful on keto, because it'll feel like they're missing a little bit less. You know, pizza is the most popular food in the country. And if that's something that we can make possible as an option that we can make possible for folks on keto, and they're just a little bit more likely to stick to it.
Tenney Rosenblum So how was the launch process for you? Has it been difficult any funny mishaps anything like that?
Mario Salazar You know, it's been it's been wild drinking from a firehose, you know, as someone who's a first time entrepreneur and also a first time food industry person, if you will. It was wild kind of getting into it just not knowing what I did know all these steps in the process. And I will say that the folks that union kitchen, Elena and Lily and the whole crew here has been super helpful, helping me navigate those waters, helping me figure that all out. But yeah, as far as as far as funny stories, you know, it's funny, the one that I like to share is the fact that for the first several months, we were working out at Union Kitchen, we'd been mixing everything by hand. For some reason the big industrial mixers here just kind of freaked me out. They're huge. They're noisy, and I just kind of kind of stayed away from them until one day at my partner, my co founder and wife, Bethany was like, Yes, let's give it a try. And it was great. It was like magical. And it had been quite literally under our nose the entire time. So this little things like that, and just trying to figure those things out and kind of land on a process was kind of the most interesting part.
Tenney Rosenblum As you're going through this process, where did you draw inspiration from? Were there any other brands you'd look to as like kind of a model to aspire to be?
Mario Salazar Yeah, so as far as inspiration, I think there there are several folks in the food and beverage industry that really inspired me, I think the first is the founder of Sam Adams beer. Jim Koch, you know, he had his MBA from Harvard, I believe it was Harvard, he was working at a big consulting firm similar to me. And he was talking about the fact that he didn't want to look back on his life and ask himself what he could have done, what could he have started, and really coming out of his coming out of his safety zone, to try to start something like this, I think he, and I'm probably butchering this, but he talked about the difference between something being scary and something being dangerous. Yeah, and and what is scary is the possibility that you can look back on a long career and say, Man, I could have done something else, I could have done something so much more. So he started a beer company, knowing that his consulting firms always something he can go back to another guy, I think, is that the gentleman that started Honest Tea, right here in Maryland, he was a Yale MBA, and was also I think he was working in finance. And he started an ice tea company, after after realizing there was a gap in in semi sweet iced tea. So I think stories like that, from folks that were similarly situated as I was, are really where I drew a lot of that inspiration from where it's been done before. And I can jump in and do it now both feet in.
Tenney Rosenblum Does anything surprised you about starting the food business, for the business side of things?
Mario Salazar I think there's so much that you don't think about, there's so many little things that happen in the food business, little intricacies and how the whole supply chain works, and, and all of that, that you don't see when you go to a grocery store and you pull something off the shelf that you check, you do self checkout and take it home. There's so much that happens before it gets to the consumer. And it's been pretty fascinating learning about all that, you know, and, once again, I credit the Accelerator in a major way, helping me figure all that out.
Tenney Rosenblum What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone who's just starting out? Like they're looking to do what you're doing getting into food, chasing their passion? What would you say to them?
Mario Salazar Yeah, I would say I would say come at it with no ego, come at it, ready to ask questions, come at it ready to, to discover all kinds of things that you didn't really know about yourself? You know, I think that, that coming in with an open mind and knowing that it's not going to be an overnight thing that you're gonna have to grind it out, it's going to take a while is, is, is great for setting expectations for yourself. So what's next for you? So we're going to be in Union Kitchen grocery stores of the food service item here, I want to say in a couple of weeks. in retail, we plan on launching and retail very soon, whether they're Kizza keto pizzas. So super excited about that, and the super excited about getting these in front of more people. You know, our company had been delivering these to folks. And we've done tastings in different gyms and fitness centers here around town in DC. And every time had gotten in front of somebody, it's just been an overwhelmingly positive response. So really looking forward to being in Union Kitchen stores and just being available for more people to have.
Tenney Rosenblum And for the listeners, what's the name of your brand again? And like if any social media you want to shout out?
Mario Salazar Oh yeah absolutely. So it's Attain Foods because we're helping people attain their goals on a keto diet it's over at www.attainfoods.com you can order online. Our Instagram is also @attainfoods, and we're on Facebook too. So you can definitely find us on there and if anyone wants to reach me directly, I can be reached at Mario@attainfoods.com.
Tenney Rosenblum Thank you so much for coming. I'm very interested in actually giving that a try. That does sound like a really good product.