Living with a food allergy was a blessing for entrepreneur Rob Fuglie.
Shortly after his son turned a year old, he was diagnosed with severe nut allergies and the family removed all foods containing nuts from their home. One afternoon, Fuglie was snacking on sunflower seeds while craving cashews and he had an "Aha" moment.
"I realized we might be able to create a nutlike snack, with the same mouthfeel and crunch, using sunflower seeds," he said. That afternoon he went into the kitchen and began messing around. The result is Nots, crunchy, nutty-tasting snacks made of sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
"About 10 percent of our population has allergies, but that dictates the food choices of about 25 percent of the population — families shop for the person with the allergy," Fuglie said.
"Our son's needs dictate 100 percent of the purchasing decisions for our family, and it goes beyond just us. His grandmother bakes differently. It's the same for every family with someone allergic. There's a tremendous opportunity for different foods," he said.
Fuglie, who holds an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, had built a career as a business consultant before he turned his skills and experience into developing this new product line. In 2011, he moved his product out of his home in Chanhassen and into a certified kitchen in Fergus Falls, Minn. By 2015, keeping up with the demand for "Nots" required building out a large production facility in Ada, Minn.
Nots are crafted from locally sourced sunflower seeds and are seasoned with spice blends from Minnesota Nice Spice (profiled here last week). "We're lucky to have so many food entrepreneurs nearby. It just makes sense to work with other local businesspeople," Fuglie said. "We support each other in a variety of different ways."
Along with the Original Nots, the company has expanded the line of non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free snacks to include Cajun, Hot and Peppa Nots. Just recently, the company introduced Cinnamon Grah'ms sunflower-graham snack, and a chocolate version is currently in the works. Fuglie's son, now age 9, and his older sister both help with sampling the products. "These are all 'clean' foods an entire family will love," he said.
Nots are available in 250 stores across the Midwest, as well as in Florida. The snacks come in 4-ounce packages that retail for about $4 each. Find them at Twin Cities food co-ops, natural food stores, Hy-Vee and Coborn's stores, as well as online, nots-snacks.com/shop.