Our Bite of the Month series highlights Northern California businesses. The posts reflect our appreciation for locally-made gluten-free products and are not sponsored.
By Carolyn Neff
The global pandemic is challenging us to find new ways to connect, from virtual coffee breaks from our (home) offices and phone food nights with friends, to conversations and celebrations between masks and screens. I recently discovered Laiki rice crackers and feel an affinity for the company’s connection story.
First, the crackers. I got a few bags of black and red rice Laiki crackers for my birthday and haven’t stopped munching. Light and airy with a delicious crunch, these little squares make the perfect guilt-free snack. An entire bag gone in one sitting!
Laiki prides itself on its connection across continents to its farmers, consumers and its Northern California roots. “Laiki” means farmers market in Greek.
“At farmers markets, no matter where in the world you go—from the streets of India and Thailand to those in California—there is a human connection and you know where this product and these ingredients are coming from,” says Laiki founder Pradeep Akkunoor, who started the sustainable rice cracker brand in 2016. “Laiki was the connection for me that consumers have with our products.”
Made with just three ingredients—rice, oil, and salt—Laiki crackers are simple, healthy and delicious, but packed with bold texture and flavor. Gone are the days of the cardboard cracker!
Thai, Indian and American roots
Laiki sources its raw ingredients sustainably from Thailand, where Akkunoor has spent a significant amount of time. He earned an engineering degree in India before embarking on wide-ranging studies and career ventures (including in law, business, journalism and forensic science) in India, Thailand and the United States, a diverse background that has contributed to his success as an entrepreneur.
Although headquartered in the Bay Area, Laiki originally manufactured its crackers in Thailand. In 2020 the company started making their crackers locally in Northern California in a certified gluten-free facility that is also 100% nut-free.
Expanding its local connections, Laiki began a strategic partnership with Sonoma Creamery in 2018, and added Santosh Padki, former CEO of San Francisco-headquartered Bare Snacks to its board in 2019.
Sustainably sourced, fantastic taste and nutrition
The crackers’ uniqueness lies in the black and red rice varieties, which are carefully selected from farming families that have been growing the grains for more than nine generations. Rich in color and antioxidants, the black and red varieties are distinct in taste.
“It’s the healthiest rice on the planet,” says Akkunoor. “The flavor is already there, so we didn’t have to add anything.”
Once the rice is harvested, it is then lightly fried in sustainably sourced palm fruit oil from small-scale farmers in the south of Thailand.
The final product is a cracker packed with 21g of whole grains in every serving, top-eight allergen free, certified gluten-free, vegan and kosher. According to Akkunoor, Laiki are the first crackers from North America to be certified FODMAP Friendly.
“We’ve reached a wide variety of people, including those allergic to corn or sesame, and even individuals with IBS,” says Akkunoor.
The simplicity of the crackers—from production process to the design of the black and red cracker resealable packaging—was focused on “making it easy for consumers.” The crackers’ simplicity belies a sophisticated taste and texture, recognized by the Specialty Food Association when it awarded Laiki the prestigious Sofi Gold Award in the cracker category.
Flavors, sizes and where to buy
The Laiki team is developing new flavors (yum!), having recently added vegan cheddar and black pepper additions to their cracker portfolio. Flavorings do not contain yeast or maltodextrin and are all-natural and plant based. A larger sized cracker to meet all of your snacking, dipping and topping desires is coming soon, too.
“There is a constant demand to pair Laiki crackers with soft vegan cheese, hummus and other spreads,” says Akkunoor. “A larger cracker is a great fit.” The pre-launch for Laiki’s larger cracker is planned with select consumers soon. Stay tuned.
The brand saw big bags of black rice Laikis offered in Costco earlier this year as well, but the impact of the global pandemic meant no more taste tests and not a long enough run for the brand to build a buyer base. “The timing was not great for us,” notes Akkunoor. “If consumers go and ask Costco to see Laiki there, we have a shot at getting back in!”
Love Laiki already, or looking for a simple, healthy and crunchy bite? Laiki crackers are widely stocked throughout Northern California and can be found with Laiki’s locator at over 5,000 retailers nationwide.
They are available online at laikicrackers.com (use discount code LOVELAIKI to order today) and on Amazon (use discount code GLUTENFREE10).
Images from top right: A package of Laiki crackers; Pradeep Akkunoor (center) with Thai rice farmers; a bowl of Laiki Red Rice crackers; vegan charcuterie photo by Julia Murray, vegan + holistic nutritionist + Olympian at @hookedonplants and @whistlerveganfest and @8020plants)