Everyone who has taken a bite of a fondant-covered cake knows that aesthetics aren’t everything when it comes to food. Sure, it’s fun to eat something that looks nice, but it’s better to eat something that tastes good — and even better when it’s actually good for you.
Jeremy Cummings, the Eugene-based creator of the latest craze in energy snacking, knows this well.
With a broad range of health-food business interests, Cummings is currently focused on one product: Dirtballs. These date-based energy balls look like clumps of dirt, but trust me, they don’t taste like it — not that I’ve ever eaten dirt.
Cummings says he did some farming in Fiji during the summer of 2017 before moving to Eugene from San Jose, California, in 2018. In Fiji he started to develop a diet that would later influence the flavors of the Dirtball.
“I’d always buy a bunch of dates from the store for energy while we worked,” Cummings says. “Afterward, we’d drive down to the beach and pick a bunch of papayas and coconuts on the way. I already liked papayas and coconuts, but having it fresh off the tree was…” He trails off, imitating the sound of a mind-explosion.
The fresh fruit is that good.
When Cummings returned to the U.S., he used some of the Fijian-inspired flavors in a vegan oatmeal cookie snack he made to sell at a college bake sale.
“They were just little brown clumpy things,” he says. “On my way to school, carrying the Tupperware full, I was like, huh, what if I call these things ‘Dirtballs?’ I wonder what people are going to think of that?”
The snacks sold out, and the name stuck. After graduating from San Jose State University, Cummings was stuck at a post-grad crossroads.
“I said, ‘You know, people like this Dirtball thing, maybe I’ll walk down that path,’” Cummings says.
He moved to Eugene, and Dirtballs became a career. With help from the University of Oregon’s Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network, or RAIN, he learned how to create a business and started working on his own.
Enter SnakTak, Cummings’ company that was officially founded March 2018.
Dirtballs are Snaktak’s first product, but he is looking to execute some of his other ideas soon and take his mission to the next level.
“I have always wanted to do something that helps the world,” Cummings says.
Through SnakTak, he has been able to articulate the impact he wants to have.
“The mission is to fight global depression by promoting healthy diets, strong communities and connections to nature through thoughtfully designed products and experiences.”
Currently, SnakTak offers thoughtful, critical protein bar reviews, which Cummings admits may have a slight bias because he’s trying to market his own protein snacks. These reviews, however, are not just to attack his competitors — Cummings really wants to help people find healthy options.
“I just want to feed people better stuff,” he says.
To get a good review from Cummings, a protein bar can’t have added sugar (“an absolute no-go for us”) and should be interesting and innovative. (“Boring snacks have no place in our hearts, minds or bellies.”)
Cummings wants to be able to add an outdoor element to SnakTak’s offerings. One idea he has is to offer “well-curated camping trips” to lead people into nourishing, healthy activities.
He says Eugene is a great place for people to be active in lots of different niches, fostering relationships along the way. He compares this community of connections to the natural world.
“Fungi grow on a mycelium, which is basically a dense, distributed network through which they share nutrients,” Cummings says. “Eugene has a really dense community mycelium that’s just right under the surface of things.”
Find out more about Dirtballs and SnakTak at SnakTak.com. Check out Cummings’ music by searching Dirtballer on Spotify and Apple Music.