I boarded an Alaska Airlines flight on a break home to see my family and woke up just in time for the attendant’s cart to stop in my row.
Automatically, I accepted the small pretzel pack he handed out, and as automatically prepared to hand it back when my eyes landed on “Butter.”
But then I did a double take — because preceding that word was “Vegan.”
“Excuse me!” I shouted, and the attendant hurried back over, a concerned look on his face. “These are vegan!”
I didn’t say it like a question, which probably explained the perplexed look that remained on his face. I quickly and effusively explained that I had never been served a vegan snack on a flight, and his smile came to match my own.
Jessica Johnston, the airline’s senior project manager of food and beverage, explained that the partnership with Stellar Snacks – a small, woman-owned company that makes purely vegan munchies – started in 2019 after purchasers were impressed with the founders’ story, the products’ unique West Coast vibes, and also catered to a growing demand for vegan products.
When she sampled the “Simply Stellar” vegan pretzel braid I received on my trip, Johnston said she “fell in love with the flavor and branding” — as have Alaska Air’s passengers.
“We have heard clearly from our guests that they want more vegan and healthy options, and we will continue to build our portfolio with this in mind,” Johnston said. “We have received a lot of great feedback on the product’s flavor and the story behind the product.”
Stellar Snack Founders, Gina and Elisabeth Galvin, explained they started the company in 2019 with a dream of crafting pretzels infused with passion.
“It’s not just a pretzel, it’s a labor of love,” they wrote on the products’ website. “We believe that something as small as a pretzel can have a purpose.”
The pretzels are baked from scratch in Carson City, Nev., with hand-picked seasoning, sustainably harvested flours, natural ingredients, and the signature vegan butter — which, they say, “will make you a believer after just one bite.”
As such, the products also are verified by the NON GMO Project.
Another unique part of the products is the packaging, which features the art work of emerging illustrators and designers.
“We believe our pretzels are little works of art, so we create packaging that’s as creative as the tiny twists inside,” the founders wrote.
While Elisabeth said she took a leap of faith in 2019 to fill the void of healthy snacks she saw in the industry, the Stellar Artist Program and the creative identity of the brand was the vision of Gina. People who scan the QR code on their snack get taken to a gallery of the artist’s work on Instagram.
“It’s different,” Stellar Snacks said on their website. “It promotes artists people may have never heard of and it gives our customers a unique opportunity.”
Currently there are four flavors of pretzels available: Bold and Herby, Maui Monk, Sweet and Sparky, and Simply Stellar.
Alaska Air said the vegan pretzel braids are served system-wide on all flights that depart after 10 a.m.
“The fact that the product is vegan is a great win for our guests,” Johnston said. “The fact that it’s vegan has sparked positive accolades.”
Suspended in the air, surrounded by a world of white as the plane flew through a cloud, I happily munched my vegan pretzel braids and then awaited anxiously for the plane to touch down – not immediately so that I could see my family, but so I could text my boss.
“Omg Nina I have been wanting to text you for four hours but just landed,” I wrote. “The default snack was vegan and produced by a woman owned small company – can I do a short story about this when I get back?!”
Her answer, of course, was “That is amazing! Yes, story.”