Beans aren’t something we generally turn to when it comes to satisfying the munchies, especially on 4/20, when only the crunchiest, tangiest, snackiest snacks will do. Other than bean dip, that pasty concoction of childhood junk-food memories, beans are often relegated to the status of side dish or as a cheap dinner when funds are running low. But a Denver snack-food company is trying to change that: Snack Out Loud has transformed the lowly legume into two bean-based products that take advantage of one of Colorado’s top crops. Power Puffs and Crunchy Bean Snacks offer texture and flavor to take the place of traditional corn-based puffs and high-fat nuts.
Power Puffs, the Cheetos alternative, are made with navy-bean and brown-rice flours, offering almost as much protein, more fiber and less fat and calories than almonds. The bean-and-rice combo also provides a complete amino-acid profile for those who don’t eat meat. The Crunch Bean Snacks are nothing more than whole pinto beans that have been soaked (to break down enzymes that cause the noisy side effects associated with legumes), baked and dried, resulting in crunchy nuggets the size of small peanuts. While both snacks have a decidedly beany flavor, the three flavors of puffs and five flavors of the crunch beans mean that there’s more than enough salty, tangy variety to satisfy even the most serious snacker.
Locavores will be happy to know that Snack Out Loud sources beans from Colorado, primarily Weld County, which “chief bean” Liz Myslik points out is the seventh-highest-yielding agricultural county in the nation. “Beans are really important to Colorado farmers,” she explains. “Colorado farmers use beans as a rotational crop because it puts nitrogen back in the soil.”
Snack Out Loud’s parent company, Fresca Foods, has been preparing and producing natural and organic snacks for other companies – like Justin’s Nut Butters — in the Denver metro area for more than twenty years. Seasonings are sourced from Colorado-based spice companies, and even the packaging is made locally. Distribution initially targeted Colorado specialty grocers, but Myslik says that in addition to people looking for healthy alternatives to mainstream products, the company wants to appeal to “people who are looking for good snacks.” That’s why you’ll find Snack Out Loud everywhere from Marczyk Fine Foods and Whole Foods to 7-Eleven and other convenience stores.
Fittingly, Snack Out Loud is 100 percent wind-powered through wind credits from Xcel Energy and Renewable Choice. “We’re fun but mindful,” Myslik adds.
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If you're looking for some edibles to go with your edibles or some post-puff puffs, bean-based snacks just might hit the spot — without the added guilt trip.