In a city where taco trucks line the streets and Tex-Mex restaurants can be found at every corner, it’s no surprise that foods such as tortillas and tortilla chips have become commonplace in our diets — but for individuals who suffer from food intolerances or other dietary restrictions, enjoying these kinds of foods might not be an option.
However, a local Austin business, Siete Family Foods, is now giving these individuals the option to enjoy their favorite foods without compromising their health.
As a teenager, Veronica Garza, co-founder and president of Siete Family Foods, was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions and a series of major health challenges, leaving her “fatigued, overweight and depressed,” as she states on the company’s website. However, with the support and care of her family of seven (hence, Siete), she was able to overcome these obstacles and turn her health around.
Beginning one summer in their parents’ backyard, the Garza family would get together three to four nights a week and do Crossfit workouts, and with friends and neighbors joining in week after week, the group eventually grew to 20 people. While Garza admits she doesn’t necessarily love exercising, she loved the people and the accountability of the community and knew that many others probably felt the same way.
“I joke that we were probably annoying the neighbors with all the cars parked in front of the house,” Garza says, “so we decided that we should turn it into something bigger and have a real location and offer this up to more people who might have an interest in getting together to exercise, because I knew how beneficial that was for me.”
Seeing the kind of impact that they could make in the Laredo community, the Garza family opened their own Crossfit gym, called G7 Athletics, in 2009 — a decision that Garza recognizes as a pivotal part of her own health journey.
On top of exercising, Garza and her family “began learning about the ways that food can either heal or harm us,” as she says on the company’s website. On her older brother’s recommendation, Garza, along with her family, began following a gluten-free, grain-free diet, quite similar to the paleo diet, in order to alleviate many of the health symptoms she was experiencing.
Unfortunately, as a Mexican-American family from South Texas, cutting out gluten and grains meant more than missing out on a culinary staple — it meant missing out on a cultural tradition.
“Going to a carne asada (backyard barbeque) and cooking fajitas and having to put them in a piece of lettuce just wasn’t doing it for us,” Garza says.
After getting in the kitchen and experimenting with some nutrient-dense ingredients, Garza created what would soon become Siete’s first product: an almond-flour tortilla. However, at the time, starting a business wasn’t really part of the plan. As she simply puts it, it was really all about solving a problem for her and her family.
Nevertheless, after several years of making grain-free tortillas for her family and friends and seeing such a positive response, Garza knew they were onto something.
“I had people reaching out to me, asking if I could give them the recipe or make the tortillas for them, because they hadn’t eaten a tortilla in years because they had a gluten-free diet that they were trying to stick to because of different health issues…and I just realized how helpful they could be for a lot of people,” Garza says.
Realizing just how much of an impact they could create by putting their tortillas on a shelf and making them more readily available to people, Garza and her younger brother, Miguel Garza, co-founder and CEO of Siete Family Foods, launched their business in 2014.
Beginning with just one product, an almond-flour tortilla, Siete has since grown into an Austin food empire, now including grain-free tortilla chips, taco shells, various hot sauces, as well as two cashew-based quesos. As a mission-based company that advocates for healthier lifestyles and strives to help solve problems for people, Siete caters to a variety of dietary restrictions — all of their products are grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
As a city overflowing with foodies, as well as health and fitness enthusiasts alike, it seemed that Austin was the perfect place to plant the company’s headquarters. While Siete’s products are sold nationwide, you can find them locally at Whole Foods, HEB, Natural Grocers and a variety of other locations.
Reflecting on the journey since Siete was born in 2014, it’s clear to Veronica and Miguel that launching this business has changed their lives in more ways than one.
“I have significantly greyer hair than I did when we started,” Miguel says.
All jokes aside, Miguel explains that Siete is not just about the products they sell. First and foremost, they are a “people-centric business.” He says they care about their team, they care about their customers and they care about their relationships with stakeholders, whether that be retailers, manufacturers or even other brands.
“I’m halfway joking when I say that I’ve greyed a lot, because I actually have,” Miguel says, “but it’s also that …we’ve gained a greater appreciation for how big of an impact we’re having across the food industry, and then, at a smaller level, how big of an impact we’re having with the team that we get to share the journey with.”