Q+A W/ CREATOR, ALI BONAR
When a jar of Kween Granola Butter showed up at the by CHLOE. offices last month, it was gone in approximately 60 minutes (and we have a VERY small team). We started eating it with pretzels, and ended up just straight spoonin’ it. Not gonna lie. At by CHLOE., we get to try a lot of yummy plant-based food (it’s a total perk of the job), and this Granola Butter really stood out. We just HAD to learn more about the genius that thought to make everyone’s favorite crunch, into a spread. Enter – Ali Bonar.
You might be surprised to know that the founder of Kween Foods‘ personal journey with food hasn’t been easy… Ali developed disordered eating while studying nutrition in college. However, thanks to a desire to change, and the courage to find help, Ali found peace with her diet, and with herself. Because all good things happen through confidence and when you’re really “feelin’ yo’self,” Granola Butter was born shortly thereafter.
Talking about unhealthy relationships with food can be HARD. We are so grateful to Ali for opening up the conversation, and supporting others who might be struggling. Check out the Kween Blog where Ali posts advice and experiences related to self-love and healthy eating – including uncomfortable topics such as bingeing, trigger foods and more.
Learn more about Ali below, and purchase her (addicting) Granola Butter, here!
by CHLOE.: Hi Ali Thanks so much for chatting with us. We’ll let you introduce yourself.
Ali Bonar: Hi! I’m Ali, founder of Kween Foods — a San Diego-based company that makes Granola Butter — the world’s first spreadable granola. Granola Butter is vegan and top 8 allergen-free, so it’s safe for those with nut allergies. Outside of Kween, I run an Instagram account @avokween that chronicles all my kitchen experiments, self-love and intuitive eating journey, and the BTS of running a food business.
bC: We really appreciate how transparent you are about your personal struggle with disordered eating. Tell us about your journey to metal and physical health.
AB: I’ve always loved food. Growing up, I was constantly baking and playing around in the kitchen. So when I was accepted to UC Berkeley, choosing to study nutrition was a no-brainer. But little did I know, nutritional science and cooking are two totally different things. Suddenly, food became really stressful — all about calories, grams and portions. I began obsessing over eating perfectly “clean” all the time, and it started to take up all my headspace.
This continued throughout college, until one day, I hit my breaking point. I knew there was more to life than just losing the last 5 pounds. I reached out to a nutritional therapist and spilled my guts about what was going on in my head, which was HUGE. I had never told a single soul, which had been extremely isolating.
The biggest takeaway in my recovery journey has been that food has no morality. There’s no “good” foods or “bad” foods. And if you eat something “bad,” you’re not intrinsically bad! Food is food. It’s there to nourish your body and your soul. So now, I’ve gotten to a place where I eat the roasted veggies to nourish my body, and eat the burger to nourish my soul.
bC: What is some advice you have for those of us who might have an unhealthy relationship with food?
AB: First, you’re never alone and you’re not weird or wrong for having food issues. I can’t tell you how many messages I receive on a daily basis from people of all ages and backgrounds who struggle hard with food. Food is emotional, and we live in a society that places an unhealthy emphasis on thinness and breeds disordered eating. Honestly, it’s rare if someone doesn’t have an unhealthy relationship with food!
Second, you don’t have to be emaciated or restricting food to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in ALL shapes and sizes. When I was in the worst place with food, I was actually the same weight I am today. I tell you this because for the longest time, I waited to get help, thinking I didn’t have a “real” eating disorder. If your relationship with food is bothering you, that’s enough reason to do something about it.
bC: Tell us about your professional career before founding Kween Foods! How did you get started, and what were you doing before?
AB: I worked in marketing for a fast-growing health tech startup in San Francisco. I loved it, but always dreamed of starting my own company. After thinking of the idea for Granola Butter, I worked in tech for about 6 months until it became too difficult to do both. I left in September 2018 to pursue Kween full-time, and haven’t looked back!
bC: Tell us about your delicious Granola Butter! What kind of product did you aim to create, and tell us about the ingredients!
AB: When I was in my recovery journey, I began to introduce a lot of nuts and nut butters back into my diet (as they were something I restricted for so long). While delicious, they left me feeling pretty weighed down digestively. I was looking for a healthy nut-free spread option that tasted good, but really didn’t find anything that resonated with me. It was kind of a “lightbulb” moment in my kitchen: there’s nut butter… there’s cookie butter… why isn’t there granola butter?!
We make everything by hand in our commercial kitchen down in San Diego, and the process is really labor intensive. Our ingredients are gluten-free oats, flax, maple syrup, coconut oil, olive oil, salt and spices. Everything is gluten-free, nut-free and vegan (except for our collagen variety). We’ll be certified organic shortly!
bC: Where do you see yourself, and your career in the next 5 year?
AB: I hope that Granola Butter becomes a household name. And not for the fame or popularity or anything like that — but because there’s a huge need in the market for our product. With most schools transitioning to a nut-free environment, parents are struggling more than ever to find a healthy (but tasty) spread that their kids will eat. I hope to make packing lunches just a tiny bit easier!
bC: Have you always lived in SF? What do you love most about the city, and lifestyle?
AB: I lived in SF for 3 years after I graduated college. I love that everyone is up to big things and working towards their dreams. I also miss being able to walk everywhere! Now that I’m in San Diego, I’m basically living in my car since everything is so spread out.
bC: What is on your must-do list when visiting NYC?!:
AB: I recently visited WTHN on my last trip to NY — it’s a new acupuncture studio. Everything about it was perfect, and it’s not too expensive!
bC: Any piece of advice that you live by?
AB: “All they can say is no.” (When I’m nervous about putting myself out there or asking an unreasonable question in fear of looking dumb).
bC: Favorite way to eat Granola Butter?
AB: Straight off the spoon.
Nickname? Ali Bee.
Favorite place on earth? Queenstown, New Zealand.
Top 3 restaurants (excluding by CHLOE. of course!)? Souvla, Blue Barn, Little Gem (all SF).
Early bird or night owl? Can I choose “loves to sleep?”
Choice super hero power? The ability to fly!
Juice or smoothie? Smoothie.
3 objects you can’t live without? My dog, Squishy. My family. My boyfriend. In that order.
Whatcha readin’? Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie. It’s incredible!