Having a child with allergies can make any social gathering with food a little more complicated.
That’s why parents Brooke and Matthew Navarro started Without a Trace Foods. But before they began creating allergen-free foods—which is why they’ll be presenting at CED’s upcoming Venture Connect summit—their careers were in finance in New York City.
Long before CEO Brooke met husband and Co-Founder Matthew, she wanted to create Without a Trace Foods as both she and her mother had severe food allergies and were limited in food options.
As fate would have it, Brooke said, she started exploring the idea for the business while on bed rest before giving birth to her second child. It turned out that child would have food allergies as well.
“I think the universe was trying to tell us something,” Brooke said. “So we started this company really to give families another option and to make life a little bit easier for folks not just with food allergies but other dietary restrictions.”
Without a Trace Foods products avoid the allergens of eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame and fish, and are gluten-free as well.
When some members of a family have allergies and others do not, it can create a struggle where the whole family has to change the way they eat.
Matthew said you could look in their daughter’s eyes and see the longing and confusion over why she couldn’t have the same snacks. The Navarros wanted to create something delicious that families could share together that would solve this problem.
“We really wanted to have that playground-kind-of-fun where kids can share the same snacks and not feel different or not included for something that they have no real full concept or grasp of why,” Matthew said.
Launching fully in 2020, Without a Trace now offers granola bars, power bites and chocolate chip cookies in their predominantly direct-to-consumer business. They also have a small storefront in Raleigh.
Safe snacks for everyone
“If you look at a lot of things in the market in the grocery store,” Brooke said, “they try to appeal to a broad range of audiences, and we really wanted to make sure that this consumer [with allergies] knew that they were front and center in our mind.”
The startup strives to be inclusive toward everyone with or without food allergies, as so often children with allergies feel excluded and are even bullied due to their food restrictions. Without a Trace Foods wants to take those worries off the table and for their food to bring people together.
While in the infancy of their launch, the Without a Trace co-founders see an opportunity that Covid-19 has potentially made people less skeptical about buying food online. When the pandemic hit, they took lemons and made lemonade, improving a few nutrients and snacks.
As Matthew went to grad school at UNC, the Navarros made a conscious choice to come back down to the Triangle to start their company because of the entrepreneurial community’s energy and support. Without a Trace Foods will be presenting at CED’s virtual Venture Connect summit on March 23-25.
Adds Brooke, “I’m not sure we would be able to have some of this early traction if we were back in New York or in another geography where you don’t have this great combination of entrepreneurial spirit and support and available resources.”