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Gourmet Snack News - 2009

• Plantain Chip Producer Moves to Hillsborough
by Pamela Sroka-Holzmann, 6/6/09, The Courier News,

They're just "plantain" good.

That's what Geetha Jayaraman says about her custom-made plantain chips available at various ethnic and specialty markets, as well as her online gourmet snack company, Grab 'Em Snacks.

The chips are made from plantains, known as the cousin of bananas, and organic spices. They also are gluten-free and have zero grams of trans-fat, Jayaraman said. They can be cooked as snacks, appetizers or even desserts.

"It can be anything you want it to be," she said. "It's a favorite snack for me and friends and family."

At a new township location, Jayaraman, along with her husband, Ramesh, will soon be creating the chips in seven zesty flavors: cinnamon sugar, sea salt, black pepper, red chili, chili garlic, Cajun spice and jalapeno.

The chips are produced in small batches, elegantly packaged and sent out to various markets and snack shops to sell. They are not at the township store to buy.

Jayaraman opened a store three years ago in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards, but is embarking to set up shop in the township because it will have a larger kitchen area to produce the chips, she said.

Jayaraman said she personally chooses the plantains and hand picks the spices to season the chips, which are available in about six markets statewide and 50 nationally.

Jayaraman, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance from a college in India, said she started her own business after working in the corporate world for various Fortune 500 Companies. After being laid off from Kraft Foods in 2006, she decided to commercially produce her favorite snack.

Jayaraman was raised in Malaysia before she came to the United States about 21 years ago. Her favorite childhood memory is the flavor of her mother's fried plantains, which were as ubiquitous as potato chips are today, she said.

The nostalgia led her to begin creating the plantain chips at her Basking Ridge home and give them out as presents. Citing sheer freshness and authentic flavors of the chips, her friends had urged her make the treats commercially available, she said.

"I grew up eating these plantain chips, and this is what my mother made all the time," Jayaraman said. "Through the Web site and word-of-mouth, slowly things started moving. Then stores began to call."

Jayaraman said she hopes to change the misconception that plantain chips are only used for ethnic cooking, noting the chips are made in America.

"Every time people think of plaintain chips, they think it can be an ethnic product," she said. "I do not want people to have that notion."



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