For the Love of Spaghetti: Making Our Favorite Foods Better

This post was written by Brian Rudolph, Co-Founder of Banza.

I have a visceral memory of my mom holding up a baby carrot, covered in ketchup, begging me to eat it.

“It’s ketchup! You love ketchup!” she said, pleading. It was her last ditch effort to get me to eat a vegetable, but I was resistant. I can still picture the look of defeat on her face.

As a kid, veggies were the enemy. All I ate were chicken nuggets, bagels, and spaghetti.

Fast forward a few years, and, much to the dismay of my inner-child, I started to learn that vegetables make me feel great, while spaghetti makes me feel like crap.

That was not easy for me. I love those foods, and I wanted to eat them. So I went in my kitchen and started substituting in healthier, vegetable based ingredients into my favorite dishes.

You gotta start somewhere...

You gotta start somewhere...

Eventually I made a pasta from chickpeas, and it was delicious. I brought the pasta to work for my coworkers to try. When they liked it too, I realized I wasn’t the only one who would prefer a healthier version of pasta.

So I convinced my brother Scott to join me, and together we started Banza. We began by selling at farmers markets - stuffing boxes into the trunk of my car, and cooking pasta on an upside down cardboard box table.

In just over two years, we’ve expanded from two stores to over 4,500. Banza is now the fastest growing brand of pasta in the country. And we’re only getting started.

Learning from others has been vital to our progress. We’re a small team with no prior experience in food. Needless to say, when the Chobani Food Incubator was announced, we couldn’t wait to apply.

We’ve always admired how Hamdi built Chobani into an iconic brand that has changed eating habits for the better. In fact, one of our goals from the beginning has been to change pasta the way Chobani changed yogurt. To create a new de facto standard, a la Greek yogurt, in pasta.

Team meeting with Hamdi at the Chobani Food Incubator.

Team meeting with Hamdi at the Chobani Food Incubator.

We’re grateful for the mentorship and guidance we’ve received from the Chobani team. They’ve inspired us to think bigger, to focus on our people, and to stay true to our mission and values. Over the course of the Incubator, we’ve collected all the little puzzle pieces of the Chobani brand that we admire - and Banza’s brand has become stronger because of it. We’ve also learned from the other companies in our class, making lasting friendships along the way.

When I sample Banza at grocery stores, I smile every time I see a kid in a grocery cart, eating a cup of Banza mac and cheese with glee. His mom looks up at me, beaming. There’s hope for this next generation of picky kids! Veggies don’t have to be dripping in ketchup after all.

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Mitch Rubin