Through her self-made Snaxshot digital universe, Andrea Hernández captures the culinary zeitgeist, manifests trends, and builds a new kind of online community. 

By Dan Q. Dao
July 02, 2021
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can of Recess and portrait of Andrea Hernandez
Credit: Courtesy of Andrea Hernandez

"Millennials are leading a sort of redemption act for snacks," Andrea Hernández declares. "When we were younger, our parents told us not to eat snacks because it would spoil our meal. Now, the joke's on them because the whole meal is a 'snack!'"

Indeed, these days it's possible to start your morning with a chickpea-and-pea protein cereal, enjoy an entire sesame-ginger salad in snack bar form for lunch, and—for dinner in pinch—heat up a frozen beef and kimchi stew made with grass-fed brisket and farm-fresh bok choy. 

In short, millennials have come a long way since Pop-Tarts, Lunchables, and Totino's pizza rolls. 

Born and raised in Honduras, educated at Northeastern, and armed with a decade of marketing experience, Hernandez has become one of the industry's preeminent voices chronicling the evolution of this pluralistic, postmodern snack culture—from buzzy ingredients (hibiscus, kelp) and packaging (caviar tins, charcuterie boxes) to newfangled trends like adaptogenic beverages and direct-to-consumer cannabis and CBD. Through her self-made Snaxshot digital universe, comprising a Patreon newsletter, a Discord channel, and robust followings on Twitter and Clubhouse, Hernandez offers trend reports, product spotlights, and even advertising history 101 for her devoted following of self-proclaimed "snaxbois" and "snaxpals." 

"It's like a cult," Hernadez jokes, with a hint of seriousness. "The moment I knew I was onto something was when people started tagging me in their pictures of their latest snack haul, or tagging me when they take a 'shelfie' at the grocery store. Our Discord has become an international phenomenon. When we were kids, it wasn't cool to take pictures of ketchup or cereal, but now everyone wants to share pantry items, condiments, and snacks." 

For the most marketed-to generation in human history, Snaxshot's content isn't just entertainment— it's a vital, decluttering service (she calls it "curation as a service" or CaaS). "We're living in this big information overload and we want people to parse through the BS and tell us what we should be looking at," she explains of her niche influencer status. "But people want someone they can trust. We're not a big directory that anyone could pay to be in. I don't do sponsored posts, I don't get paid by any brands, this is entirely community-funded." 

With this autonomy, Hernandez has positioned herself as a rebellious underdog: a product oracle with a playful streak. Free of obligations to brands, she's able to bring nuance to the snack conversation, calling out shameless culture vultures profiting off of repackaged heritage knowledge, commenting on designy packaging as if critiquing a runway show, and exploring the role of big marketing in hard-wiring millennial brains for lifelong snack addictions. In less than one year since it launched, Snaxshot has become the must-follow platform for those who want to snack better, and have fun while doing it. 

Behind her public persona, Hernandez's relationship to food is a personal one . Those who follow her know she loves to cook for herself, not only incorporating the products she writes about but also tapping into her upbringing in Central America. "I learned a lot from my grandmother and I proudly showcase my fresh tortillas because I'm making my abuelita proud," she says, adding that she knows what makes good food. "I grew up going to the market with my mom and having her teach me how to barter. I can tell when an avocado, or a watermelon is ripe. Even when it comes to wellness, the knowledge my grandmother taught me about how to cure a cramp with tea—it feels very inherent." 

It was also during her childhood years that Hernandez discovered and fell in love with snacks. Attending an international school, she bonded with classmates over the treats that were unique to their home countries, as well as those that had transcended borders in an increasingly globalized world. "When I was a kid, having a Dunkaroos Funfetti was the most exciting thing in the world," Hernandez remembers vividly. "As I created Snaxshot, I realized that this was an international food phenomenon in the nineties. I'll meet people who grew up in Germany and we can both reminisce about having Lunchables at school."

Hernandez says the seeds for Snaxshot were planted during a 2019 visit to New York City, when she stumbled on a $24 "elixir" that she found "undrinkable." (She avoids naming brands she does not like, out of respect for the founders). "The bottle was really nice, the Instagram was really nice, and I started to wonder, 'How are people getting away with this?' I learned that a lot of these companies have agencies and lots of venture money behind them." 

But it took an existential crisis—turning 30 amidst a global pandemic—that pushed Hernandez to take the plunge to fully launch Snaxshot in August 2020. Her first newsletter, entitled "What's In a Drink?" tackled the booming category of functional and non-alcoholic beverages like Ghia and Seedlip, while also spotlighting 70s-inspired font styles ("Sans serif is not the future") and the pivot to "coziness" in brand marketing. 

Even at that moment, Hernandez says had more in mind than penning a newsletter; she wanted to create a community, and in her own way, a brand. Leaning into her adopted titles of "product oracle" and "snacks seer," she honed a distinctive visual identity marked by anachronistic digital collages, tarot cards,  and other fantastical elements.

"As someone who lives in Latin America, I've always been drawn to the magical realism that I grew up reading, and the literature here, like Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Julio Cortázar," Hernandez says. "And I wanted to explore how to construct a narrative. That's where the whole narrative of Snaxshot as a 'cult' came from. People send me pictures of their baby and tell me they're a Snax Boi in the making. I just started creating this whole universe." 

For a rapidly growing audience of snacks aficionados, Hernandez became a sort of online daytime talk show host, offering a constant stream of Snax news and entertainment in an authoritative, yet often cheeky tone that felt immediately conversational. Often interacting with readers, she even invites folks to vent anonymously on her website via a so-called "Consumer Hotline."

"One of the things I like to unpack is what their expectations were, and what about the product didn't meet that expectation," Hernandez says. "Some of these confessions are long, and some of them are hilarious. People really love to vent, and I want to offer a space to help consumers communicate what they care about. Brands are always telling us what to think and what to buy. It feels like we're living in some sort of parody but no one's calling it out for what it is." 

It's not easy running a one-woman show, especially in the era of digital content creation. But Hernandez says her upbringing prepared her to bootstrap her way through the hardest parts. "Growing up middle-class poor, and watching my parents work their way to middle class, it taught me a lot," she explains. "We had to stick to a budget. It taught me to be scrappy and resourceful. Living in one of the poorest, most dangerous parts of the world, I always wanted to do things that are useful." 

Hernandez says people are usually surprised when they find out she doesn't live in New York, San Francisco, or even Austin. And at first, she was afraid to tell people she was based in Honduras. "I was getting hit up by all of these big corporations, and I was worried that people would wonder why I had to call on Facetime Audio. I was nervous about my identity. I know now this isn't a thing. But when you're not from these big cities, you worry about that perception—you worry that maybe people will put a lesser value on what you know." 

As Snaxshot has grown, Hernandez has become more vocal about pushing back against the hegemonic influence of Venture Capital (what she affectionately refers to as the "VC circle jerk") in the snacks world: "I realized there was an unfulfilled niche for someone outside of that space, so I just started being more honest in my commentary." 

But Hernandez's most revelatory and compelling truth-telling can be found in her discourse on Big Food, advertising, and the brainwashing of a generation worldwide, thanks to the effects of globalism and capitalism. As relatable as it may be to share stories of the snacks we grew up with, that nostalgia is, she argues, an effect of growing up as guinea pigs. 

"Trix yogurts, sugary cereals—these are all part of our DNA. Look at how children's advertising indoctrinated us into these snacks. I've talked to a lot of immigrant kids who tell me their parents thought these cereals were healthy," Hernandez explains. "They were just duped, and we were duped even more. Marketers literally developed a data point called the 'nag factor,' referring to how many times a child would have to nag for a parent to succumb to purchasing the product." 

Calling out "wastefulness" and an addiction to "instant gratification," she adds that Americans are especially removed from their sources of food. "One of my missions now is to write a book about how our generation, especially those who grew up in developed countries, were so reliant on big box grocery stores. I feel like the commodification of wellness stems from our disconnect with our food. And that's why we allow these trends to be sold to us." 

This need to commodify has targeted non-white traditions and foodways in particularly predatory ways, as longstanding elements of cultures, such as herbal medicines and traditional meat alternatives, are repackaged then sold at a premium.

"Some of these things being sold as 'wellness' are ancient practices and inherent knowledge but now it's just being packaged and sold at five times the cost?," Hernandez asserts. "Then I see companies saying they're disrupting the Asian alternative protein, and it's like, well, Asian cultures have always had these alternatives, so why does this narrative have to be centered around an American company? It comes down to the intention behind why you're choosing to spotlight a certain food or ingredient." 

In spite of her awareness of the larger mercenary forces shaping consumer behavior, Hernandez's viewpoint is ultimately optimistic.  By recognizing where we come from, we can speak honestly about our relationship with food and consumption. And as the last of the millennials comes of age and launch their own brands of sauces, condiments, ready-to-drink beverages, and beyond, Hernandez believes there could be a positive shift in the way newer food and drink brands communicate with their consumers. Through Snaxshot, she has a platform to amplify them. 

"My only hope is that people see me as some sort of beacon—that if I could build something, they can too," Hernandez says. "And I'm always going to spotlight the smaller, up-and-coming brands who are thinking outside the box, and being creative. When I mention a brand and then they reach out after to tell me they got a new lead, nothing gives me more satisfaction."