Just like her French grandma, Sydney Karmes-Wainer always found enjoyment in food. From a young age, she loved to mix and experiment with flavors, trying new recipes and aspired to enter the culinary industry. Consequently, instead of a traditional sleepaway camp, she went to a cooking camp at Chef's Inc. in Los Angeles, and rather than a typical bedtime story, she stayed up late watching Chopped or reading Ina Garten cookbooks.

Cleo Kanter

However, during her college years she found herself falling into the trap of the obsessive health food world, where she became fixated on the “noise” of the diet culture and idea of overexercising and restricted eating.

“I started to compare myself to other girls and it was very hard living in a sorority house. I definitely got affected by the body image thing and what to eat vs. what not to eat. There is so much noise around all of that,” Karmes-Wainer said.

As a result, Karmes-Wainer went on a “health journey” to treat her eating habits and hormones. In her attempt to heal her own relationship with food and utilize her true love for authentic cooking, Karmes-Wainer started to make protein bites which she brought into her office at Los Angeles health food market, Erewhon. Upon sharing her recipes with her colleagues, they urged her to create packaged versions which would allow her social media followers and friends to enjoy delicious and healthy snacks that they could feel good about eating.

With her sophisticated palate and commitment to high-quality ingredients, Karmes-Wainer founded her own Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brand, French Squirrel, in 2020 as a way to help other women.

“That is the main reason why I’m doing this. I went through my own journey with food and exercise and nourishing my body and not knowing what to even do. This is my way of trying to help other women fuel their bodies in a healthy way,” Karmes-Wainer said.

The name French Squirrel is an ode to Karmes-Wainer’s French grandmother who inspired her love of cooking. She shared the news of her brand launch on her food instagram @frenchsquirrel.co, where she had previously shared her meals, recipes and favorite restaurants with her followers. It wasn’t long before her food instagram gained significant traction and she found herself blossoming in a community of like-minded foodies who raved about her products.

“I launched and it was so unbelievable—everybody’s reaction—that I couldn’t even keep my fulltime job and also make these,” Karmes-Wainer said.

Cleo Kanter

The French Squirrel team is committed to creating nutrient-dense snacks that are vegan and gluten free, but still delicious sweet treats. Their products include Berets, refrigerated protein bites that are perfect for snacking on-the-go, Bateaux, nut butter-stuffed organic Medjool dates coated in 100% pure, unsweetened chocolate and Bisous, puppy-chow inspired peanut butter and chocolate-coated vegan and gluten-free cereal clusters sprinkled with date sugar.

Not only can the French Squirrel products be enjoyed on their own, but can also be used as ingredients in alternative recipes. Karmes-Wainer recommends chopping up her dates as a smoothie topper or using the Bisous as a granola replacement for an added crunch.

Cleo Kanter

However, before launching her brand, Karmes-Wainer also became a Certified Hormone Specialist, specializing in blood sugar management and female health through a nutritional perspective, to help develop a deeper understanding of the importance of food and nutrition in the overall health and wellbeing. With so much contradicting information online, she aimed to educate herself on how to build a blood-sugar balancing and hormone supporting snack.

“That’s why when you eat [the protein bites], you don’t feel any blood-sugar spike or crash. You feel satisfied and it stabilizes your blood sugar.”

What sets French Squirrel’s snacks apart from others is the commitment to high-quality ingredients. Their chocolate is produced without milk, soy lecithin or other emulsifiers, stabilizers or preservatives which means that customers can enjoy these gluten-free, vegan treats without worrying about any harmful additives and chemicals.

Since the company’s original foundation two and a half years ago, French Squirrel has done collaborations with other brands to spread and share her commitment to high-quality ingredients and wellness. She has worked with brands such as Little O’s Bakery and Nekohama and is now launching a Mother’s Day collaboration—a stuffed date with sunflower butter and brown rice crisps—with her mother’s jewelry company, Sydney Evan.

Cleo Kanter

In the future, Karmes-Wainer hopes to distribute to more markets throughout the world, launch new products, create more brand collaborations and even possibly become an in-flight snack for airplanes.

Whether you are a foodie looking for healthy snacks that taste amazing or someone who is passionate about health and wellness, French Squirrel has something to satisfy your sweet cravings. French Squirrel products can be purchased at frenchsquirrel.com or sourced locally at retailers across the U.S. by using the store locator on their official website. 

All photos are courtesy of Sydney Karmes-Wainer and French Squirrel.