The Untold Truth Of Annie's Homegrown

Organic grocery line Annie's Homegrown has been creating snack food products like mac & cheese, fruit snacks, condiments, cereal, and more since 1989, according to the Annie's website. Their mission is to create packaged foods that are good for the environment and our bodies while still being tasty versions of the snacks everyone (but especially kids!) loves. What most people don't know is that Annie is a real person, not just a brand.

Inc. states that Annie Withey, the founder of Annie's Homegrown, started her career in food production at the young age of 21. Withey created a recipe for white cheddar popcorn in her home kitchen using natural ingredients, with her husband Andrew Martin filling the role of taste tester. Once the pair felt they found the final recipe, they shared it with their friend Ken Meyers, who had created a resealable bag technology he and Martin were hoping to license to snack food companies.

Annie's Homegrown was not the first natural food company Annie Withey founded

Ken Meyers and Annie Withey's husband Andrew Martin agreed that she had created a hit, and began calling the cheddar coated popcorn Smartfood – yes, that Smartfood! The business partners set up a series of meetings with Tom Protheroe, the owner of a snack food distribution company based out of Connecticut. At first, Protheroe was weary of the two men, neither of whom had any real background in the snack food business.

During their third meeting, Martin and Meyers finally brought Protheroe a bag of the Smartfood white cheddar popcorn to try. While explaining that the company already carried a cheese-flavored popcorn and he wasn't sure there was much of a market for the gourmet snack, Protheroe found that he had eaten the entire bag!

Smartfood officially launched in 1985 and sold to massive snack food corporation Frito-Lay in 1989 (via Snack History.) Today, Smartfood popcorn not only comes in white cheddar, but also six other flavors including Movie Theater Butter, Flamin' Hot White Cheddar, and Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn, plus low-calorie options and limited time, seasonal flavors like their Caramel and Cinnamon Apple mix.

Annie's Homegrown is still devoted to Annie Withey's vision

Inc. states that Annie Withey was never all that interested in the business side of things, and after Smartfood was sold to Frito-Lay in 1989 for about $15 million, she decided to keep experimenting with her white cheddar powder. Forbes states that Withey began using the powdered cheese to top other foods, including Kraft brand macaroni. After finding that it could be used to make a really tasty boxed mac & cheese, Withey and her husband began to conceive a new food business. They first tested their boxed macaroni and cheese by selling it at festivals and food co-ops throughout the East Coast.

In 1999 the company was having some financial trouble that was preventing them from expanding any more than they already had, and sales company Homegrown Natural Foods stepped up and invested $2 million into the brand. At this point, Withey's title changed to "inspirational president" and Homegrown Natural Foods took over the business side of things, expanding into new markets and growing the regional snack food company into a nationally recognizable brand. In 2014, Annie's Homegrown was sold to General Mills for $820 million, according to CNN.