This story is a part of Texas Monthly’s Taco Week, a series dedicated to proving that Texas is center of the taco universe.

The layout of Siete Family Foods’ 25,000-square-foot headquarters in South Austin is a bit odd. The first section, where guests enter, is reminiscent of many start-up offices: booths for dining and working; a cafe area with a coffee bar; a gym; and a full kitchen. But where the offices and conference rooms are located, hallways jut out at random angles instead of in parallel lines. This is intentional, says president and chief innovation officer Veronica Garza. It’s meant to simulate a home: cozy, haphazard, and lived in. It’s a feeling similar to that of the Garza family home in Laredo, where Veronica, her four siblings, and her parents lived.

An oft-repeated mantra at Siete, a company best known for grain-free and dairy-free Mexican American products such as cashew queso and cassava-flour tortillas, is: “Family first, family second, business third.” But it’s not just a line to make the brand seem wholesome and approachable—Veronica says her family’s way of life inspired not only the office but the company structure (all seven Garzas work at Siete) and, of course, the unique food products.

Veronica’s first food memories involve making the six-hour drive from Laredo to Baytown, near Houston, to visit her Grandma Campos. She recalls entering the house to the aroma of a simmering pot of beans just waiting for her family’s arrival. She also remembers coming down the stairs of her family home in Laredo to a full spread of breakfast tacos—chorizo con huevos, papas con huevos, chorizo con papas—alongside pancakes and toast. In the Garza household, as in many families, food was an expression of love. “There was always this positive energy around the consumption of food in my family,” Veronica says. “And then always understanding that whoever was making food, they were always making more than enough so you could invite people into that experience.”

When she was a senior in high school, Veronica was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. During her young adulthood, she was diagnosed with a few more, including lupus, and struggled with symptoms through completing her master’s degree in business administration at the University of Texas at Austin. When she returned home to Laredo, her brother Roberto, who was getting into CrossFit at the time, suggested she adopt a paleo diet—which is one of the core components of CrossFit and consists of mostly lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts—to ease the symptoms of her disease. A couple of her other siblings expressed interest in trying out this lifestyle, and so the whole family decided to join in. But that meant no cheese, no corn, no flour, and no legumes (like beans)—all of which were ingrained in the family diet and that of many Mexican Americans in South Texas.

Soon after, the Garzas jumped into another ambitious endeavor together: operating a CrossFit gym in Laredo, G7 Athletics. (You’ll notice that the number seven—the number of people in the Garza family—makes a frequent appearance.) Working out regularly and maintaining a paleo diet helped Veronica with her symptoms, so she decided to bring the almond-flour tortillas she had been tinkering with to the gym. She took some of the things she learned from making tortillas with her grandmother and applied them to her experiments—eventually, she had a product she was happy with. Friends and gym members started to commission batches from Veronica, and at one point she was making fifty dozen tortillas in a weekend. Of course, the family got involved with cooking and packaging them.

But it was one family member, Miguel Garza, the youngest sibling, who really helped Veronica with a vision for what her grain-free tortilla operation could be. Miguel, who was living in Austin while finishing his law degree at UT-Austin, encouraged Veronica to head north for a bit and try to get a business client for her creations. They secured placement at Wheatsville Food Co-op, a small grocery store with two locations in Austin, in 2014. Eight years later, Siete’s products are distributed to 16,000 stories, from H-E-B to Costco to Walmart. The brand is projected to make $250 million in retail sales this year. And it’s not just tortillas that are driving sales: Siete’s lineup of foods has expanded to include vegan refried beans, flavored tortilla chips, hard taco shells, grain-free cookies, seasoning mixes, and hot sauces.

Although Miguel denies that the company’s exponential success came from trend forecasting, there’s no denying that the global reach and popularity of Mexican food—plus consumers being more interested in incorporating better-for-you products even when they’re not on specific diets—helped push Siete along. “I only know of one food that gets its own day of the week, and that’s Taco Tuesday,” says Miguel, who now serves as CEO of Siete. He points to the growing influence and affluence of Latinos for helping make the foods he grew up with so mainstream that they are as familiar as hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza. “I know we’re not representative of all Mexican food,” Miguel says of the brand. “What we’re trying to do is honor our heritage by sharing food that we believe is authentic to our lived experience.”

Part of the company’s mission is to have other Latino-owned brands share their authentic experiences too. In 2021, Siete launched its Juntos Fund, an annual monetary award the company gives to small businesses. “We’re lucky enough that we’ve been a business that has been able to continue operating and grow during the pandemic,” Miguel explains. “What we saw was restaurants shutting down and food businesses really struggling. And we realized that Latinos are still severely underfunded.” An article from Forbes, citing data from Crunchbase, notes “Latino entrepreneurs receive only 2 percent of U.S. venture capital investments, despite making up nearly half of the net new small business growth between 2007 and 2017.”

The recipient of the first Juntos Fund prize was CocoAndré, a chocolatier and horchateria in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. Andrea and Cindy Pedraza, the mother and daughter owners of the shop, were awarded $25,000. With the winnings, they were able to refurbish their brick-and-mortar store by creating more storage and production space and getting a new air-conditioning system. More important, they redid the front room to allow for more seating for their guests and space to host pop-ups for other small businesses.

“You do feel like family when you start working with them and talking to them,” Cindy says of Siete. “We applied to other things like that before and had never won. It helped us to feel seen, like we’re doing something right in our community.”

For this year’s Juntos Fund, Siete aimed to specifically uplift taquerias, which have “become pillars of their communities” through the trials of COVID-19, Miguel says. Three taquerias from around the country will win $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000.

Winners might also be invited to collaborate in some way with Siete. In late 2021, CocoAndré developed a limited-edition, small-batch product for the brand for the holiday season: hot chocolate bombs with a grain-free Mexican chocolate cookie inside.

The latest small-batch product is in partnership with Austin’s Nixta Taqueria, which was one of Food & Wine’s best new restaurants in 2020. Siete’s small-batch program, in which items are available exclusively online until they’re sold out, is a way of market-testing new products. The grain-free Mexican wedding cookies started out as a small-batch offering in late 2020, and they proved popular enough to be introduced on grocery store shelves three months later. In September, Siete and Nitxa released bags of nixtamalized heirloom blue corn and Oaxacan red corn tortilla chips fried in avocado oil.

The partnership started when Miguel, a longtime patron of the restaurant, approached Nixta chef Edgar Rico. He said Nixta’s tortilla chips were the best in the city and wanted to find a way create a chip together. Rico made it clear that he didn’t want to stray from using corn—Nixta has a masa development program and takes nixtamalization very seriously. Miguel agreed. So they went about crafting Siete’s first corn product.

The team at Nixta taught the research and development team at Siete about their nixatamalization process and recommended a particular molino (a mill for grinding corn) for Siete to purchase. “They wanted to learn everything they could about it,” Rico says. “We got to run free with what we do and teach their team.”

After testing fifteen varieties of corn over the course of three months, they settled on the final product: heirloom corn totopos (Mexican Spanish for “tortilla chips”). The result is a light, crispy, and airy chip that offers Siete some cred for respecting more traditional forms of tortilla making.

That respect for tradition is also on display in The Siete Table: Nourishing Mexican-American Recipes From Our Kitchen, the company’s first cookbook, which comes out later this month from Harper Wave. “So much of what our business does is centered around this idea of gathering and building a community and being part of a community and being help helpful to our community,” Veronica says. “And deciding to do a cookbook felt like another way we could expand on that.”

The book includes recipes for drinks, snacks, entrées, and desserts, and even features menus for special occasions, such as holidays and other large gatherings. Getting the recipes written down proved to be a challenge for Veronica, who says she identifies as an intuitive cook. “I feel like I cook very much the way [my mother] does and the way my grandmother did,” she says. “It’s always just throwing in little bits of this and that and just taking it as you go.” Luckily, Siete’s Culinary Innovation Team helped nail things down a little more precisely for by-the-book cooks who want to make mole, tamales, carne asada, and—Veronica’s favorite—gluten-free fried chicken with chile-lime seasoning.

Siete’s commitment to community and family seems somewhat charming for a company that received $90 million in funding in 2019 from Stripes Group, a private equity firm, and is set to outpace legacy brands, such as Mission, Old El Paso, and Topo Chico, in growth. It’s also foundational to its success. “It’s not like we’re hugging each other all day long,” Veronica says of working with her entire family. But, she concedes, “We do love working together. We’ve learned, or we’ve always known, that when we’re doing things as a family, even if we have differing opinions on stuff, if we’re doing things with a love for each other, it’s going to work out.”