Couple’s vegan pizza company, Clo-Clo Vegan Foods, is grounded on their daughter’s dietary needs.
In 2020, Edina residents Augie and Wendy Hinnenkamp launched Clo-Clo Vegan Foods, an allergen-free vegan food company focused on frozen pizzas. Their goal? Making delicious, allergen-free meals with ingredients that are accessible to all, no matter a person’s dietary restrictions.
The reasoning behind their goal is a personal one. The Hinnenkamps have three children, and their middle child, Chloe (whose nickname is Clo Clo), is both the namesake and inspiration for the company.
From the time she was a baby, Chloe experienced severe allergic reactions to certain ingredients, starting with those typically found in formula. At 15 months old, a pediatric gastroenterologist diagnosed her with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an autoimmune disease which triggers food allergies, often resulting in asthma and an allergic inflammation of the esophagus when exposed to allergens (often food proteins). Due to EoE, Chloe used a feeding tube to help her get calories and nutrients from the time she was 15 months old until she was 8 years old.
At different times throughout her childhood, Chloe was on elimination diets and has seen allergy specialists, nutritionists and food therapists to determine what foods she can tolerate. Today, at 13, she and her parents have a solid grasp on what she can safely eat, which results in adhering to a primarily plant-based diet. “She’s thriving on a plant-based diet,” Augie says.
But even after knowing Chloe’s allergies, it remained challenging to find any prepared food at the grocery store that was free from allergens. “Every time I came home from grocery shopping, the food I bought had an ingredient that she couldn’t have,” Augie says.
Augie’s epiphany to start his own food company to fill this hole in the market hit him after meeting chef Robert Velarde.
At the time, Velarde worked at Concord Elementary School in Edina and was approached by a school nurse regarding a child in kindergarten with a food disorder. When the nurse asked Velarde to work on a unique menu item, he decided to create a plant-based meal that was similar to a Lunchable.
“The day I brought out the ‘Lunchable’ for the child in the Concord lunchroom, I ran into Wendy and Augie Hinnenkamp, who [had] a child in the same grade as my special-diet child,” Velarde says.
Wendy asked Velarde if it was possible to create a vegan pizza. Because of Chloe’s sensitivities, they often found their daughter missing out on pizza nights and birthday parties. “I told Wendy I could get it done after hearing the passion and mission in Wendy’s story and background with Chloe,” Velarde says.
After many attempts and renditions (over 1,000), Velarde perfected a vegan cheese recipe to top plant-based pizzas—giving Clo-Clo Vegan Foods a launching point and solid foundation. The company was started with Chloe’s allergies in mind, and Augie says, “We decided to launch this brand in honor of Chloe and all of the ‘Chloes’ out there [who] suffer through the same thing.”
He adds, “We pride ourselves on true innovation. We make everything locally, including our proteins and cheeses. We are allergen-free friendly and are completely free from the top 15 [most] common allergens.” This includes peanuts, wheat, dairy, egg, gluten, shellfish and soy. “We take pride in being inclusive to everyone,” Augie says.
Clo-Clo Vegan Foods is available locally at all Cub Foods stores, as well as several co-ops around the Twin Cities. Products include a variety of vegan cauliflower-crust and sweet potato-crust frozen pizzas and vegan shredded cheese, with additional products in the pipeline for release later this year.
Clo-Clo Vegan Foods;
Clo-Clo Vegan Foods