You wouldn’t know it by looking at him now, but Juan Salinas was a self-described skinny kid who spent his time hanging out with friends and playing video games. One fateful day, his dad challenged him to join the local swim team, “just for a month”. After the first week, Juan fell in love with the sport and ended up competing on the Honduran National Swimming Team.
Juan has been giving things a try, overcoming challenges and excelling ever since. Growing up in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, he and his three siblings only spoke Spanish. “When I was in high school, my mom really wanted us to learn English and to go to a really good school. She and my dad made sacrifices to send all four of us to the US.”
Now Juan has a PhD in food science and a Masters in Sports Nutrition, he’s a professional natural Bodybuilder, amateur triathlete and marathoner and has started his own peanut-focused food business, Perfect Life Nutrition, which continues to grow.
Juan started college with an interest in engineering but changed to food science when he found a love of nutrition and fitness. “I became really interested in finding out how food affects your body,” said Juan. “When I was younger, I wanted to gain muscle and to look bigger like the other kids. I started going to the gym and running. I then learned the biggest factor was eating well to support the activities you’re doing. I continued to carry that on even after I started at my first job at a major snack manufacturer.”
Along his journey, Juan worked for several big food companies and learned a lot about R&D and food marketing. “I wanted to create products that have more of a nutritious background to help people live healthier and more active lives,” he said.
Juan even landed his “dream job” working for a sports nutrition bar brand. But he still felt he wasn’t meeting his personal mission of creating healthy, delicious foods. “I felt there was a gap in healthy snacking,” he said. “There was a lot of talk about products and supplements that you would use around working out, and that’s where it ended. No one was asking ‘what do you eat when you’re working from 9-5 or inactive?’”
After the sports bar company was sold, Juan branched out on his own. “I saw a big opportunity for me to focus on my passion of creating snacks that have a positive effect on people’s nutrition. I have experience creating new products and understand how the market works, and I felt prepared to make that entrepreneurial leap.”
Juan’s mother and father were a big inspiration as well. “Ever since I can remember, my mom was running a business. She ran a small grocery store and started a new brand of a pharmacy. She also did hardware stores, even video game rooms. From her side, I know I get the business side of it. My dad has always been very righteous and hardworking. He believes nothing should come for free; you should work for everything.”
Juan’s company’s premiere product is P-nuff Crunch. It’s a simple but powerful puffed snack made with peanuts, brown rice and navy beans, which combine to make a source of complete protein.
“When choosing ingredients, I noticed a lot of people snack on peanuts and nuts because they’re high in protein, filling and tasty,” said Juan. “That’s a great product to have as a snack, but what if I do something that brings in the fun factor, like a crunch? Then, I found the right combination of delicious peanut taste and nice crunchy texture, which are both critical for people to enjoy what they eat.”
Juan targets his product at busy families and active kids who need an easy, tasty and healthy way to fuel up. Healthy snacks don’t have to be so serious and complex. They can be delicious and fun.
After launching just over a year ago, Juan quickly learned he needed to expand his production capabilities but he ran into challenges. “From the manufacturing side, the biggest challenge has been peanut allergy. It almost put us out [of business] and we couldn’t find anyone that could run our product.” The manufacturers Juan tried to work with weren’t allowing peanuts or nuts into processing facilities.* Not one to easily give up and recognizing the demand for peanut products, Juan started a new production facility of his own, and his family was part of that too. “My brothers came together to support me and help buy the equipment.”
Recently, Juan launched two new flavors of P-nuff Crunch: peanut cocoa and peanut cinnamon. True to his brand, the products are tasty, nutritious and don’t contain extra sugar. Juan is also looking forward to helping other food entrepreneurs by providing co-packing facilities. “People love peanuts and I’ll be able to expand possibilities for anyone who has a great idea that includes peanuts,” he said.
The new operation also gives Juan opportunities to give back to the community and his home country. “In Honduras, poor children go to school without any food at all and no money to buy food while they’re at school. They don’t get to eat anything until they get home late in the afternoon and have essentially rice or a tortilla and beans,” said Juan. “So, now that we have these new facilities, we would like to create an extruded snack that will support these kids’ nutrition, so they can focus at school on studying instead of on their growling stomachs.”
With the powerful combination of Juan’s lifelong tenacity and peanuts, that’s bound to happen.
*There are protocols for manufacturers to follow to prevent cross contact when peanut or any of the other top 8 allergens are produced in the same facility.