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Arlington resident launches low-carb, eco-friendly superfood brand

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

There is nothing Clarendon resident David Kolton loves more than hyping up the ancient Roman superfood legume, the lupini.

High in fiber and protein, the lupini fills you up quickly and keeps you satiated for longer. It is one of two plant-derived complete proteins and has more protein per serving than chicken or beef. It is low in sugar, so it is diet-friendly for pre-diabetic and diabetic people.

Beyond health benefits, it is environmentally friendly, Kolton says. Farmers can grow the bean using only rainwater — no irrigation required — and it restores phosphorus and nitrogen to the soil where other crops absorb it.

“It is the next superfood,” Kolton says. “It’s the superfood you’ve never heard of.”

While the legume is popular in Canada and Australia, Kolton is looking to take this humble bean to new heights in the U.S. with his health foods brand Aviate. The name is a nod to his day job as a commercial pilot and his 19 years of service as a military pilot. In fact, he first tried the bean after a visit to Rome and was surprised it hadn’t yet attained more popularity in America.

“I was so obsessed,” he said. “I was like, ‘I need to start this company’… during Covid, some people had babies or got a Peloton. I started this company.”

Kolton, who is still in the Air National Guard, founded the brand and kicked off sales in spring of 2021 with lupini flour and flakes, which can be added to stir fries, taco meat, hummus and chili for a fiber and protein boost. Last week, he celebrated two new products at Clarendon’s East West Cafe, as a gesture of appreciation for all the hours he has spent there working on the company.

Aviate now sells pancake and brownie dry mixes, which he advertises as Ket0-compliant. All the lupini products are made of legumes sourced from French farms.

“We have Keto on there because 80% of our clients are probably low-carb or Keto, but it’s all search engine,” he said. “We only sell on Amazon, and we can research what people search. They don’t search ‘protein pasta’ or ‘high fiber pasta,’ they search ‘Keto pasta.'”

It took a professional food developer, who specializes in low-carb foods, 16 tries to perfect the pancakes and eight tries to hone the brownie mix. He tapped his unofficial nieces and nephews — the children of his friends — for frank reviews.

“I’d test them on friends and family, and they’d say ‘Yeah, it’s good, Dave’ because they don’t want to hurt my feelings,” he said. “Once the kids wouldn’t spit them out, or they wanted more, I said, ‘Sweet, we’re good.’ Kids are going to give you honest feedback.”

Aviate founder David Kolton (staff photo)

Now, he says, he regularly gets grateful emails from low-carb customers who are able to make a healthier baked good the entire family enjoys. Typically, they come from moms who changed their diet to stave off diseases like Type 2 diabetes and have struggled to make diet-compliant foods their husbands and kids will eat.

Kolton understands that split-family dynamic. Growing up in an Italian-American kitchen where “food was everything,” the love language — combined with the sugary, high-fat American diet — was a recipe for a chubby childhood.

He took control of his health in his teens, but many of his family members haven’t changed their diets. It inspired him to make foods with a broader appeal than just among health nuts, and it’s fitting that this quest also draws on his Italian roots.

“I want to make something that’s not only something healthy people will appreciate, but is also something they can enjoy with their friends and family who don’t eat that way,” he said.

The fan mail brightens up the parts of business he finds boring, like packaging and logistics. He says the notes also make him feel like he’s making a difference, more so than with his previous ventures: a type of headphone set for DJs and a phone case that holds credit cards.

By mid-February, he aims to launch a corkscrew-shaped pasta — which he says “has the same texture and taste as pasta, but tastes better than whole wheat pasta” — and a “rice” product that resembles the rice-shaped pasta, orzo.

Right now, the products are only available on Amazon, but he’s hoping to partner with local cafes where he could sell baked goods and lupini flake-enhanced smoothies.

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