Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the Austin Food Guide, a publication that that will arrive on subscribers’ doorsteps (or driveways or front yards) in Sunday’s print paper.
Inspired by my colleague Matthew Odam’s annual dining guide, the Austin Food Guide is a resource for people who love grocery shopping, cooking, strolling through farmers markets and supporting local food businesses. We have lists of international markets and bakeries, funky neighborhood stores, sweet-smelling bakeries, grocery delivery services, seasonal farm stands and CSAs. One of my favorite parts of working on the guide was coming up with a list of more than 50 local food brands that I think you should know about.
For more than five years, I’ve been hosting weekly videos online to showcase new products from these Austin-based companies, some of which are sold only at local farmers markets and others that now have customers across the country.
It’s fascinating to think about why so many new companies pop up in Austin, and it says a lot about the food lovers who live here. We have an increasingly varied diet with individual preferences for flavors, ingredients, textures, packaging and sourcing. My favorite kombucha might not be your favorite kombucha, or you might prefer a cold brew coffee or sparkling water.
When I write about these new (or new-to-me) products, my goal is to help spread the word for business owners who might just be getting off the ground or trying to get their product in front of new customers. I also want to help readers who want to support local businesses know which brands I think are notable and worth seeking out.
What amazes me is that just when I think I’ve covered most of the food and drink businesses in Austin, my inbox fills up with new ones. Credo Foods, for instance, has been around since 2019, but I met their founders only earlier this summer and found out about their commitment to making family-friendly plant-based dips that are sold at Whole Foods, Central Market and even on the menu at Kerbey Lane Cafe.
The same is true of Madhu Chocolate, which launched from the home kitchen of founders Elliott Curelop and Harshit Gupta way back in fall 2018. They sold their beautifully designed chocolate bars in the Texas Farmers Market in Mueller before expanding to several dozen stores throughout Austin (Whole Foods, Antonelli's Cheese Shop, Bee Grocery, Royal Blue Grocery, Salt & Time, Rebel Cheese and more) and in specialty stores as far away as San Francisco.
They now work out of a commercial food facility in Georgetown, where they roast, crack, winnow and grind cacao from the Tumaco region of Colombia to make a line of bean-to-bar chocolates. Each bar is wrapped in a packaging inspired by Indian textiles, and most of the chocolates are infused with an ingredient or flavor you’ll find in Indian cuisine: fennel, saffron, cardamom, cashews, pistachios, orange or even coriander.
The brand (madhuchocolate.com) takes its name from Gupta’s mom, Madhu, whose name means "honey" or "sweet" in Hindi, and this fall they’ll introduce two hot chocolate mixes, as well as bonbons and chocolate bars made from single-origin Indian cacao beans.
Another Austin-based food brand I think you should know about also has its roots in India.
Former international table tennis athlete Arpit Bhopalkar was getting his MBA in New Orleans when he missed the cane water drinks he used to be able to get in India, so he decided to start his own company, Bhoomi Cane Water.
It’s a low-glycemic certified, cold-pressed cane water made from the liquid extracted from the sugarcane grass stock. This ultra-hydrating drink has been consumed for centuries, and Bhoomi boosts the drink’s health impact by adding Ayurvedic ingredients, including ginger, turmeric and moringa.
The company, which relocated to Austin a few years ago, sources its sugarcane from minority farmers in the U.S. that use regenerative agricultural practices. Even the 100 percent plant-based (and recyclable) bottle is made from sugarcane.
You can find Bhoomi (drinkbhoomi.com) at Wheatsville Food Co-op, Fresh Plus, Rosedale Market, Dia's Market, Midtown Grocery, Arlan's and a few health and natural stores around the state. They also have distribution in Whole Foods in the New York area, so look for expanded availability soon.
If you have babies or toddlers, you might already know about Serenity Kids, an Austin-based company that launched in 2017 with a line of paleo-friendly baby food that’s now sold at Whole Foods stores across the country, as well as hundreds of other retailers, including H-E-B and Kroger in Texas.
Serenity and Joe Carr started the company when they were looking for organic baby food for their daughter. They created a high-fat, low-sugar product that mimicked the nutrients found in breast milk, and they now sell 10 varieties of single-serve pouches filled with organic vegetables and ethically sourced meats from animals raised on regenerative farms.
By the end of the year, Serenity Kids’ dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free products (myserenitykids.com) will be sold in 4,000 stores across the country.
That’s a huge leap for a company that started with an idea three years ago, but thanks to Austin’s ever-growing consumer packaged goods industry, the founders had access to mentors and investors who could help them grow into a national company in a short time.
It’s a story we’re seeing again and again in Central Texas. Lucky for entrepreneurs who have a dream of sharing their passion for a particular food or drink and for customers who love sampling new products. My inbox is always open for hearing about these kinds of businesses, so don’t hesitate to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.