Word of mouth: quinoa cookies from Bolivia

Date:21-02-2014 08:58:04 read:4

Word of mouth: quinoa cookies from Bolivia

Patricia Estivariz brings quinoa, a staple in her native Bolivia, to Britain in cookie form

Quinoa crusader: Patricia Estivariz, the founder of Punku Quinoa Foods Photo: Luisa Whitton

In the Western world’s endless quest to find filling alternatives to bread, potatoes, rice and pasta, quinoa has acquired the mantle of 'superfood’. At dinner parties around the country early adopters are patiently explaining that it is pronounced 'keen-wah’, rather than 'kwin-oh-er’. And sales are surging: the chain of health-food shops Holland & Barrett reported a 44 per cent increase from 2012 to 2013.

One woman making the most of the trend is Patricia Estivariz, the founder of Punku Quinoa Foods. The company imports quinoa cookies from Bolivia, Estivariz’s native country, and sells them in Britain. 'I came to England in 2003,’ Estivariz, 45, explains. 'I didn’t plan on staying a long time but I met my husband, Kevin, so I came back the following year. I am a qualified solicitor, but the Latin countries have a different system so I couldn’t practise here. I had two young children, and I found being a housewife frustrating. When the kids are at school I want to be doing something. I want to be out meeting people and working.’

At first Punku – the word means 'door’ in Aymara, one of Bolivia’s native languages – imported alpaca knitwear. 'It was all handmade and very fine,’ Estivariz, who is now based in Halstead in Essex, says. 'But I had to compete with a lot of cheaper clothing, and it didn’t work out in the end. There was a lot of lower-quality alpaca-imitation clothing out there.’


She saw an opportunity in the health-food market. 'Many people are trying to eat more healthily,’ she says. 'Quinoa is perfect. It is gluten-free and packed with nutrients and protein.

It contains nearly everything the body needs to survive. It is an excellent choice, especially for vegans.’

Although Estivariz grew up eating quinoa, like most Bolivians, she only found the cookies more recently.

'They are relatively new,’ she says. 'I actually discovered them around five years ago, on holiday in Bolivia.’

Estivariz imports the cookies, which come in chocolate-chip and mango and orange varieties, from a factory that has been operating for more than 50 years and that practises fair trade (there are health and education programmes available to workers). 'Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Before quinoa took off some of the locals there were selling blocks of salt to survive,’ she says. 'The soil is rich, but little else grows there. Now, thanks to the quinoa business, they have the chance to vary their diet, and get clean water and education. It is giving people opportunities.’


She began selling her cookies, which are wheat, gluten, dairy and egg free, last June, and now sells about 200 packets a week. She uses a warehouse for storage but does the deliveries herself, so there are often boxes piled up around the house (her children love the cookies, too). As her business expands, Estivariz hopes to import other quinoa-based products. 'Soups, energy bars, brownie mixtures, pizza bases – that kind of thing.

It is an opportunity for the British to change their normal diet, which is full of fat and sugar, and help a country to develop, too.’

*A packet of 12 cookies costs £4.99 (

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