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Kendra Matthews, above, launched Hidden Foods, a line of healthy products available at Seaside Market and Harvest Ranch stores. Courtesy photo/Hidden Foods
Kendra Matthews, above, launched Hidden Foods, a line of healthy products available at Seaside Market and Harvest Ranch stores. Courtesy photo/Hidden Foods
ColumnsFood & WineLick the Plate

Creating the Hidden Foods brand with Kendra Matthews

My marketing/culinary mind has an insatiable curiosity regarding the backstories behind all the unique and delicious products we find in our area grocery stores.

On a recent trip to Cardiff Seaside Market, there was a woman out front sampling from her brand called Hidden Foods with the tagline, “Hiding healthy in great taste,” which the marketer in me thought was brilliant.

I had to know more, so I contacted Hidden Foods founder and Encinitas resident Kendra Matthews,  also known as now-retired pro golfer Kendra Vallone. That correspondence makes up this week’s Lick the Plate column.

Oh…and I fully endorse her products that include zero sugar added, hidden veggies and natural whole foods…something all you parents of picky eaters should be aware of. Here is Kendra’s story of bringing Hidden Foods to market.

LTP: Tell me a bit about your background, upbringing, and early culinary influences.

KM: I grew up in Glendora, California. My parents divorced when I was seven, so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandma on my mom’s side was from the South, so we made a lot of pies and cookies, boiled cabbage and fried chicken.

Hidden Foods founder Kendra Vallone Matthews also played professional golf. Photo vi Facebook/Kendra Vallone
Hidden Foods founder and Encinitas resident Kendra Vallone Matthews also played professional golf. Photo via Facebook/Kendra Vallone

She was great about helping me enter recipes into the county fair from as young as I can remember — I still have the blue ribbons. My nana on my dad’s side was Sicilian, so she taught me how to make sauce that simmers all day, pizza and all sorts of pasta and meat dishes.

Food not only became a way to get closer to them but also uncover family history. I’ve always been super proud of being Italian, even though I’m technically I’m officially 47%, with most of it coming from Sicily. My first job was at a small family Italian restaurant, and solidified my love for food.

LTP: Take me down your professional road to starting Hidden Foods.

KM: My passion has always been food, so at 18, I looked into culinary school, but realized the business side of things probably had more opportunities, so I went and received a degree in communications and marketing at USC.

During that time, I was also playing golf, and after graduating college, I became professional. After four years of golf, a friend and I created another company called Nibnobs. We created these tasty cake truffles. We became very popular with celebrities, and I was constantly delivering to TV show sets. We also landed on Good Morning America as one of the top 10 gifts to get for Christmas, so we took off.

Though we were growing in popularity, the product was difficult to scale due to its short shelf life, so it never grew past that. Afterward, I knew a career and food was going to be a challenge, so I took my place in marketing and sales while still maintaining life in the golf world along with some modeling – my maiden name is Kendra Vallone.

Throughout these years, I also got married and had two beautiful boys, now eight and five. Food is a huge part of their life as well. I make sure they help me in the kitchen and understand how to create good flavors, and appreciate good food. In fact, I have a nice leather-bound cookbook that sits in our kitchen and stores all of my precious recipes.

Hidden Foods' mission is to provide delicious food filled with healthy ingredients. Courtesy photo/Hidden Food

Hidden Foods chocolate chip cookie mix, Italian marina sauce and homestyle pancake mix. Courtesy photo/Hidden Foods
Hidden Foods’ mission is to provide delicious food filled with healthy ingredients. Courtesy photos/Hidden Foods

My younger one is less willing to try new foods, so about five years ago, I started to incorporate hidden vegetables in sauces and pasta. Since we make our own at home, I realized I was sneaking in a lot of important nutrients without having to deal with hours of battling at the dinner table. I had friends interested in trying out my recipes, and I realized bottling was the way to go. Over time it just grew into something actually scalable for once.

LTP: How did Hidden Foods take shape, and how did it go from an idea to having products on shelves?

KM: Once I had the concept, I played around with all the different recipes in my kitchen for about 5 years. After some of the recipes gained popularity with friends and family, I moved it to a commercial kitchen so that the food could be produced on a slightly larger scale.

Once the demand grew, I attended different trade shows and found suppliers for ingredients and facilities who could help me produce it to be sold at grocery stores like Seaside Market and Harvest Ranch. A lot of what you can make at home might be fine for your family, but it’s not entirely shelf stable, especially when it comes to grocery outlets.

The challenge we’ve had is that our ingredients are pure and healthy, so their pH is very high. And when I say we added vegetables, I did it just put a few grams in there to get it on the label. Our sauce is packed with 2 cups of spinach in every jar, along with half a beet, half a cup of carrots, and a quarter cup of kidney beans.

LTP: Describe the current product line and where people can find it in San Diego.

KM: We have our Homestyle Pancake Mix, our Slow Cooked Marinara and our Triple Play Chocolate Chip Cookies. Some of these items are available at Seaside Market and Harvest Ranch. All of the items are available through our website or Amazon.

Learn more at

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