From their corporate lives to their camping adventures, Connecticut-based Munk Pack co-founders, Tobias and Michelle Glienke, were always looking for portable, healthy, great tasting foods. They got started in the kitchen, creating smoothies and oatmeals that ultimately evolved into the products they produce commercially today, Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze snacks for adults and families on the go.
Available to consumers in local grocers including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Kings Food Markets, and Balducci’s, Munk Pack is looking to expand into the foodservice market place. Total Food Service sat down with Tobias and Michelle to discuss more about Munk Pack and its product line in this month’s Meet the Newsmaker.
Tell us more about your backgrounds. Did either of you have foodservice or culinary experience prior to launching Munk Pack?
If throwing together different recipes in our kitchen can be considered culinary experience, then sure! To be honest though, we started this venture with no professional food experience, hailing from corporate law and finance. We both shared a passion and curiosity for food and nutrition, so it’s been a natural progression into creating a food business. There’s been a lot to learn along the way, but our past professional experiences have given us the tools we need to succeed in our venture.
Both being the entrepreneurial visionaries behind Munk Pack, what led to the establishment of the company?
Like many food companies before us, Munk Pack started in the kitchen. We were living in Manhattan at the time and were constantly on the go, whether it be to work or on a day trip upstate for a hike. We tried to find healthy snacks to take with us on our adventures, but were disappointed with the options that were on the market. We were tired of bars. We wanted real food that was minimally processed, without the sugars and fillers you find in most bars and snacks. We started by funneling homemade oatmeals and smoothies into bottles, but then discovered the convenience of pouches, which allowed us to create a non-perishable product without the use of artificial preservatives. We moved into a commercial kitchen and trialed the product at local farmers’ markets before taking the big leap into a large scale production run.
Did Munk Pack hit any bumps along the road? Would you do anything different if you had to start the business over again?
There are constantly hurdles that we’ve faced along the way, but we have overcome all challenges unfazed. We are very happy with how our vision for the brand has materialized, and the brand and product have resonated very strongly with consumers. So there are no regrets and nothing significant we would have done differently.
Talk about the ingredients, flavors and the health and convenience aspects Munk Pack fills over traditional oatmeals and nutrition bars.
Before Munk Pack there was no ready-to eat product that resembled the natural consistency and mouthfeel of oatmeal. Cereal bars contain oats held together with syrups, and oatmeal cups require hot water and a spoon and typically have added sugars. Munk Pack is oatmeal packed with delicious super fruits, with the textures of grain and fruit pieces. We source our ingredients ourselves to ensure the highest quality. The ground flax in our products provides a healthy dose of omega-3s as well as fiber, to provide sustained energy to carry you through your day. All of our products are also Gluten Free Certified, vegan, Non-GMO Project Verified and Kosher, meeting demand for quality and dietary restrictions.
What was the initial marketplace that you looked to fill? And how has that marketplace evolved?
When we first launched Munk Pack, we thought our Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes would be the perfect snack for busy adults on the go. While this has remained true, we have also found that people love having Munk Pack in the office at their desks for a health snack, or for breakfast. It’s great for the commute, and also when not in transit, for a quick meal. We have also had a ton of great feedback from the outdoor community, especially those in the running, cycling and climbing arenas. It’s been a lot of fun to see how our fan base has evolved and we look forward to watching it grow.
Explain the protective measures against cross contamination Munk Pack needs to take being a Gluten-Free Certified company.
Being gluten free certified means that we take great care at each stage of the production process, from sourcing ingredients to producing finished goods. Oats are notorious for contamination with wheat and other glutinous grains because of crop rotation cycles. Thus we source from a supplier that uses oat-dedicated fields and tests throughout each lot. Our oat source is gluten free certified, as well as our finished products. Good Manufacturing Practices are in place to test and keep equipment free of allergens, and our facility is BRC certified.
Where do you envision Munk Pack being purchased outside of the specialty food store market? Maybe a grab n’ go item for a school and university cafeteria or a kiosk in a major airport?
There are many great placements for Munk Pack outside of the specialty food store market. In addition to the spaces you mentioned, we see Munk Pack products in corporate cafeterias, hotel breakfast bars, “in-flight” on airplanes, hospitals and cruises, just to name a few. The possibilities are really endless.