Peter Najarian and Dave Leyrer founded Skeeter Snacks in 2011. This new nut- and peanut-free snack company makes cookies that come wrapped in convenient 2-cookie packages. Because they are prepackaged and made in a dedicated facility, the cookies are great to stash at school, daycare, or a friend's house so that you child can have their own safe treat if there is a birthday party or other event.
Peter Naharian shared a bit of the history and goals of his company with us:
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of your business?
I co-founded Skeeter Snacks in 2011 with my longtime friend Dave Leyrer. We each have two kids, the youngest of which both have nut allergies. We couldn't believe that with the growth rate of the problem, and the sheer number of kids impacted, that there wasn't already a brand that made it easy for kids, parents, teachers, coaches (in short, everyone) to find great tasting, 100 percent safe snacks. We figured someone was going to figure this out and why not have it be us!
We decided to launch a company that would maintain the highest safety standards and spent a considerable amount of time prior to launch ensuring that our testing protocols met and exceeded industry standards. All Skeeter Snacks are produced in facilities that do not process any products containing tree nuts or peanuts and are the result of a nut-free supply chain. We conduct batch tests for all nuts as well as rigorous testing and re-testing protocols to ensure the absence of tree nut and peanut allergens.
Currently, we offer cookies in four varieties, including Chocolate Chunk, Golden Oatmeal, Skeeterdoodle and our brand new Chocolate3, a decadent, triple-dose of chocolate, featuring a chocolate cookie loaded with chocolate chips and chocolate chunks. Skeeters are sold by the dozen--in a 6-pack box with two cookies per pack--for $3.99. Our cookies are not only safe for nut-allergic children, but they are delicious as well; there's no reason any kid (or adult) wouldn't want one of these cookies irrespective of whether they have peanut issues. We're going to focus on cookies for now, but over time we'll be adding offerings in all of the categories that we know are problematic for families dealing with these issues.
What do you hope your business will do for people living with food allergies?
We want to make life easier. We want the kids and adults directly impacted by this problem to have great tasting snacks and we want to achieve this safety and taste at a price most people can afford and in a ubiquitous manner. And we want to also do it in a fun way that doesn't stigmatize kids with these issues and is inclusive in the sense that nonallergic kids will love the product too. Most safe products taste terrible and are too expensive and a non allergic kid wouldn't go anywhere near the box. We want safety without sacrifice.
Additionally, we're committed to educating parents, guardians, and caregivers about the growing epidemic of tree nut and peanut allergies. Over the past fifteen years, the number of kids directly affected by tree nut and peanut allergies has tripled and continues to rise. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these children will not outgrow these life-threatening allergies. A portion of Skeeter Snacks profits will go to support The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) in an effort to help broaden awareness of tree nut and peanut allergies. In addition to raising awareness and providing tools and resources for families, FAAN lobbies for things like legislation requiring Epi-pens in public schools.
Do you or a family member have food allergies?
Yes, both of us has a child with tree nut and peanut allergies. We founded Skeeter Snacks because we couldn't find what we were looking for on store shelves. We couldn't understand why no one was making nut-safe snacks that tasted good enough to serve to everyone and were priced appropriately. Why did we have to buy one snack for our nut allergic kids and another for everyone else?
What advice do you have for someone who is newly diagnosed (or has a family member who is newly diagnosed) with food allergies?
When your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, and tree nut and peanut allergies in particular, it is terrifying. That is because, unlike a food intolerance like a gluten issue, TPA can be life-threatening. The most important piece of advice we can give is for you to take charge and educate yourself as well as everyone around you. FAAN is a wonderful resource. You can join for $75/year and a massive amount of information is available. Make sure you read everything from literature to labels so that you are empowered to make the right decisions, and also tell people - parents, guardians, educators and caregivers - about your child's allergy so that they understand the severity of their allergies and can also take proper precautions.
Is there anything else you would like to share with About.com readers?
As the parents of nut-allergic children, we have always felt it was our mission to ensure that we made a difference in the lives of children facing these life-threatening allergies. We are encouraged by the incredible response we have had from national retainers who have already embraced the Skeeter Snacks brand. We hope this is an indication of a growing awareness of the severity of tree nut and peanut allergies. Skeeter Snacks are already available at major retailers across the U.S. including and online at www.skeetersnacks.com.