In recent years, many of our favorite snack brands have rebranded themselves. Whether it’s by giving themselves a new look or tweaking recipes to make their products slightly healthier, we’ve seen how companies have tried to keep up with changing times. But one place that Kenneth Luna and Scott Hattis didn’t see much of a change was in the Hispanic food aisle.
“You see different aisles in the supermarket also evolving and changing, different alternatives, different ingredients, new different packaging and [new ways] to communicate to its customers,” Luna tells me during a recent phone interview. “And you know, the one aisle where I would normally go for Latin foods just wasn’t evolving. It was pretty stagnant. Over time, it’s becoming harder for me to relate to that.”
So Luna, who is of Dominican and Peruvian heritage and grew up in grocery store business, and longtime friend Hattis decided to do something about it. They launched Loísa, a brand that sells ready-to-eat rice and seasonings inspired by Latin cooking. The products contain no MSG, fillers, or artificial flavors. The ingredient list on the back of the bag doesn’t contain any hard to pronounce words. The brown rice & black beans with sazón package, for example, includes water, parboiled brown rice, black beans, safflower oil, sea salt, garlic powder, ground annatto, cumin, ground paprika, dried oregano, ground coriander, and black pepper.
Currently, Loísa offers up four products: black beans and rice, brown rice and quinoa, organic adobo, and organic sazón. And the two – who are not professional chefs (Hattis comes from the world of marketing and Luna worked in the finance and tech space) – put in a lot of work to find the perfect recipes. Though the two of them knew they wanted healthier versions of the products that many Latinos grew up with, they decided to work with a manufacturing partner to make sure their products were certified organic. “We wanted to be certified organic, because it’s just not only [a] symbol immediately of difference in quality, but it’s also really transparent,” Hattis, who has become acquainted with Dominican culture through his wife, says. “There is a real truth behind the ingredients and where they come from and who’s making them.”
The items, which launched in January 2018, also come in an eye-catching package. With reds, blues, and yellows, the labels signal to older ads from places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. But the duo also wanted their products to have a modern twist. They wanted their products to feel warm, bright, and fun.
Regardless of the pretty packaging, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. And with their conscious effort to make the foods we love healthier, Hattis and Luna have seen overwhelming support. People have reached out to them and thanked them for making products they didn’t think they could have any more. The Latino vegan community has embraced their recipes. Some have also started incorporating the rice meals into their lives in creative ways.
Luna’s family has also started adopting the meals. “They think it’s great, but I think it’s such a novel thing to them,” he says. “It’s not just specific to our product, but it’s also specific to eating healthier, being more cognitive of how to read a nutrition label, understanding that eating your veggies isn’t just a piece of lettuce and tomato on top. I think it’s more of a lifestyle change that’s kind of happening and spreading across my immediate family. They’re more aware of it, especially at my parent’s age. They’re getting older. They’re trying to be healthier, more thoughtful about this. It’s been an interesting period.”