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Quevos hopes to change the world of snacking by creating protein-packed chips that are healthy and satisfying. These chips combine egg whites, avocado oil, and chia seeds and the team hopes they will set a new standard in better-for-you snacking. I spoke to Ben Elias, the CMO of Quevos to learn about the idea, the team, and the chips themselves.

The Egg White Enters the Fray

The better-for-you snack market has only gotten more crowded over the past decade as more and more Americans make an effort to substitute traditional snacks for those they consider healthier. Polaris Market Research estimates the snack market is on track to be worth $35B by 2025, with growth driven almost entirely by healthy brands. Every day a new company is founded to create another new snack that unlocks the benefits of some ancient grain or a newly-developed ingredient with apparent superfood properties.

That didn’t stop Zack Schreier and Nick Hamburger at Quevos from charging into the market with a product based on the humble egg white, a longtime staple of ketogenic diets.

Quevos is a snack made out of egg whites that does a surprisingly good job of matching the satisfying crunch and taste of potato chips. How it accomplishes this is a closely-guarded secret and the result of exhaustive experimentation by the team, but a look at the ingredients shows avocado oil and chia seeds play a vital role in the process. With flavors including “Cheddar Omelet” and “Cracked Black Pepper”, they hope to satiate a variety of palates.

They’ve been celebrated in the fitness community for their balanced nutrition profile: a 120-calorie pack contains 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of net carbs, and 10 grams of protein.

Best Friends, Roommates, and Drop-Outs

Zack Schreier has been a type 1 diabetic since he was 11 years old. He is also a former collegiate distance runner, and has never let nutrition get in the way of his performance. That meant a lot of low-carb protein, and that meant a lot of egg white omelets. Over time, Zack’s favorite part of the meal was the crispy edges left on the pan after he’d made himself an omelet, and it wasn’t long before he called his childhood friend Nick Hamburger to start experimenting with how they could create a healthy snack based on the egg white.

As Zack and Nick began to take the idea more seriously, they shared it with their friends. To hear Ben tell it, Nick’s passion was infectious if a little surprising:

“I sort of laughed it off. But I was Nick’s roommate the following year, so when they needed more hands for the [College New Venture Challenge], I joined.”

– Ben Elias, Chief Marketing Officer

The team at the University of Chicago’s College New Venture Challenge. Left to right: Ben Elias, Nick Hamburger, David West. Not pictured: Zack Schreier.

By the time they entered the competition, they added David West to round out their 4-person team. They ultimately won the CNVC, which not only provided them with $15,000 to explore the business further, but validated their belief that investors (and customers) would see the value in their mission.

With momentum at their backs, Zack and Nick decided to discontinue their formal education in favor of running the business. They’ve been full-time entrepreneurs ever since. They were quickly accepted into the Kraft-Heinz accelerator, providing them with institutional support in the form of financing and mentorship from within the food industry.

“A lot of this came down to being in the right place at the right time. Chicago’s a great city for food products… and conversations with Kraft-Heinz and Tyson Ventures have been very helpful.”

– Ben Elias, Chief Marketing Officer

Another big break was meeting Andy Friedman, who successfully brought SkinnyPop to IPO before it was bought by Hershey’s for over $1.6B. Taken with the idea, Andy joined the advisory team and has been an active mentor providing valuable insight to the team.

The Quest for Market Share

The better-for-you food market might not be so crowded if winners weren’t so handsomely rewarded. Annie’s Inc sold to General Mills for $820M in 2014. Hershey’s picked up Krave jerky for over $200M the following year. And in 2017, RXBar sold to Kellogg’s for $600M. These acquisitions are enough to make any brand hungry for market share.

Quevos stakes its claim on the high-protein, macro-nutrient balanced niche that satisfies customers’ demand for a crunch. That puts it squarely in the cross-hairs of other brands trying to build the perfect chip. Chief among them is Quest, who’s successful protein bars have given way for a new line of protein chips made from whey and casein, both dairy proteins. But not far behind are Beanitos (bean-based), Ips (dairy-based), and Protes (pea-based). Quevos aims to differentiate itself with a simple, balanced nutritional table, and leaning into the natural benefits of egg whites.

So far they’ve been rewarded with traction among the fitness community. Ketogenic dieters in particular (who share diabetics disdain for carbohydrates) have endorsed the chips on blogs and in community forums, fueling the growth of Quevos’ all-digital sales channels.

An Innovative Marketing Approach

At $3 per bag, Quevos is on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of price. While economics of scale might bring that down as the team’s production ramps up, they have avoided the direct price competition a side-by-side shelf comparison might bring by selling entirely on the internet. With no storefront, Quevos has kept overhead costs low and marketed itself entirely on digital channels. In fact, their focus on social media and influencer marketing has been one of the things Ben attributes their success to.

“You kind of assume business is grown-up, and social media is childish. And now the two are meeting in a very real way, and the effect it can have is undeniable. It really gives us an advantage. We’re at the point now where people reach out to us.”

– Ben Elias, Chief Marketing Officer

Ben doesn’t see the need to ever have a physical storefront. Perhaps more surprisingly, he explains that the company has held off on listing on Amazon or Walmart until they have a more robust fan base. Hitting those massive channels with momentum is crucial, and they don’t want to make the leap until they are sure their sales will shoot them to the top of searches for healthy snacks.

In the meantime, Ben hopes to build revenue through a subscription model that will incorporate Quevos into the already regimented lifestyles of fitness buffs:

“We really feel like we could fit into a routine for a lot of people. If you’re a workout fiend, you need your constant protein feed and we hope we can make it a bit more enjoyable than whatever protein powder you’re drinking.”

– Ben Elias, Chief Marketing Officer

Looking Ahead

Quevos managed to sell out of its first batch of 15,000 bags within two months without spending any money on advertisements. To spur further growth, the company is launching a Kickstarter in April with the goal of selling 30,000 bags. Following that, they hope to launch regionally with Whole Foods, GNC, and Fresh Thyme in the summer. In the meantime, they’re considering how to expand from their beachhead customer into the broader fitness community, and even into kids’ snacks.

Nick Hamburger and Zack Schreier embracing the founder lifestyle.

With a grand total of $780,000 raised, they have the resources to put their chips to the test. Quevos hasn’t been in business long, but their momentum is undeniable and will certainly draw the attention of competitors. Time will tell if they’re able to build a strong brand in a crowded market, but the team is eager to prove they’re up to the challenge.

You can pre-order Quevos for yourself at their website. My personal favorite variety for both the name and flavor: “Quevos Rancheros”.

#keto #UniversityofChicago #diet #ECommerce #Seed #chicago #consumer #healthy #food #BFY #quevos #accelerator #nutrition #snacks

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