When David Czinn ’10 saw students eating pouched baby food in his pre-med class at the University of Southern California, he wasn’t disgusted. He was intrigued.

“If you look at baby food, it’s portable, convenient and easy to eat on the go,” Czinn says. “But a lot of people felt silly eating baby food.”

That need for a squeezable, healthy option for kids and adults who might just be too busy to chew—or too edgy to grab an apple or banana—sparked Fruigees, pouched organic fruit snacks. The company, founded by CEO Czinn and his cousin and COO Josh Kahn in 2013, makes convenient, healthy snacks that aren’t your typical applesauce.David Czinn '10 and Ian Sacarny '10

Before he hit the kitchen, Czinn, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, attended the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. His classes there “got the gears turning,” he says, while also providing valuable contacts, including his best friend and Fruigees president, Ian Sacarny ’10.

“Maryland provided a solid foundation for the real world,” Sacarny says. “The Smith School gave us invaluable resources. Our teachers’ support and guidance have been incredibly helpful.”

After inspiration struck for a better-tasting all-ages alternative snack, Czinn and Kahn whipped up a batch in their grandparents’ home in Los Angeles, adjusting the fruit-and-vegetable concoctions for months until they were satisfied with the recipe. Now, each pouch is made from a half-cup of fruits and veggies with no added sugar, and flavors include “Carrot Orange,” “Kale Grape” and “Beet Cherry.”

“It tastes like Gushers and Fruit by the Foot—without the junk,” Czinn says.

They had their family eat samples and brought early versions to local hiking trails in L.A., officially debuting at farmers’ markets in 2013. The product was a hit—not just with kids, but parents, runners and cyclists as well—and customers encouraged them to try to take it to retail.

The young company appeared at the 2014 Natural Products Expo West, one of the largest health food trade fairs. There, Kroger, Wegmans and Whole Foods took a chance on Fruigees, placing them in around 400 stores. Czinn decided to leave USC’s pre-med program and work on the company full-time, and it’s blossomed from there, now in over 4,000 locations.

Czinn hopes to hire more and expand the team of three as Fruigees grows. The company is also in talks with Costco about releasing a pea protein option in December or January.

“We want to bring healthy alternative snacks to the masses,” Czinn says. “We’ve never worked so hard, but we’ve never had so much fun.”