Peter Maldonado does lots of things fast. There’s his walk, more like a purposeful jog. There’s his rapid-fire speech, particularly when he’s excited about something. (That’s pretty much always, when talking about his business, Naples-based healthy meat snacks company Chomps.) And then there’s the zippy, white Jaguar F-Type R he drives, packed with 550 horsepower.
More proof of speed: Chomps. Revenues have grown at the company — it’s under the LLC We Are The Chompians — anywhere from twofold to tenfold each year since it was founded in 2012. More recently, sales have roughly doubled in each of the past four years. It did $21 million in 2018, and Maldonado projects $37 million to $40 million in 2019.
Chomps started from what Maldonado and a business partner, Rashid Ali, thought was an unmet need: simple, healthy snacks with high-quality, sustainably sourced proteins for people on the go. Maldonado had been a personal trainer, works out regularly and had a business that sold frozen healthy meals to gyms, so he saw the need every day. Even so, Chomps started at home, what Maldonado thought would be a side hustle or maybe a small, hyper-niche enterprise.
Not so fast.
The business took off. A relentless quirky marketing strategy, matched up with a surge in healthy and sustainable eating, led to high demand. Chomps’ products were in Trader Joe’s by 2016, and several other influential grocery chains have followed, including Wegmans, Meijer and Safeway Albertsons. Chomps makes some 4 million snack sticks per month, each one retailing for $1.99.
What makes Chomps’ products better than the array of competitors? Maldonado says it revolves around quality. “We use the best beefs and the best proteins, and we don’t use any color dyes,” he says. “A lot of other brands will cut corners.”
The growth, not surprisingly, has led to some growing pains. The company is in a jack-of-all-trades phase, where its 14 employees take on lots of tasks in a work-hard, play-hard mantra. “When you talk about our culture,” Maldonado says, “the one word I like to use all the time is we are scrappy.”
Maldonado’s biggest worry? That the rapid pace will lead to quality-control issues — which hasn’t happened yet. “We need to stay ahead of our supply chain,” he says, “so we don’t hit that ceiling.”
ON THE RECORD: Peter Maldonado
Birthplace: New York
Years on the Gulf Coast: 10
Marital status/children: Married with two kids, a 2-year-old and a 1-month-old
Alma mater/degree: Palm Beach Atlantic/St. Joseph’s College: no degree
Where is the best place to network? Trade shows
What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? Never take outside capital if you don’t absolutely need it and unless speed to market is absolutely critical to your success.
What's your top tip for being productive? Establish a routine, and stick to it. Then be very protective of your time and selective with who you share it with.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Exterminator
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Super Ewan: He’s a super cool red-headed kid in a cape hands out Chomps to the homeless.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? I’m doing it now! Chomps actually started as a side hustle that became my main hustle. I don’t have time for a new side hustle; I’m busy making babies with my wife.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Hanging out with my wife, 2-year-old boy and 1-month-old girl.
What's your favorite board game or video game? ChickenFoot
What's the top item on your bucket list? Hitting the slopes with my wife and kids
Where is your happy place? The Florida Keys, on a center console, in flat glassy seas on a massive weed line, birds diving and a school of Mahi biting.
What's your favorite podcast? "How I Built This" with Guy Raz
Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? Post Malone
Who would play you in a movie about your life? Kevin Hart
What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? Kris Kross
What was your first concert? Jimmy Buffett
What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? "Billy Jean" — Michael Jackson
What's your favorite karaoke song? "Baby Shark"
What instrument/role would you play in a band? Drums
Please describe yourself in three words. The meat man