Local duo launched snack-food company featuring Baltimore athletes

Marc Heyman and Jeff Hinton opened HomeGamers, a sports memorabilia store in the TownMall of Westminster, eight years ago.

And the Westminster residents have had success selling Orioles and Ravens merchandise to sports fans in Carroll. But every year, after the Ravens' season ends and the summer months arrive, business slows down.

Heyman and Hinton said they struggle to get returning shoppers, particularly during those times.

"Once somebody buys a Ray Lewis jersey, they generally don't need another one," Heyman said.

"Often times, we'll sell a guy a Ravens T-shirt or polo," Hinton added, "and we won't see them again for five years. That's the way guys shop."

So Heyman and Hinton wanted to create a product that consumers would return to buy. And when Heyman and Hinton were trying to decide what that would be, Hinton said he noted that he does the grocery shopping for his house, and he would like a new snack.

"That led us to starting to develop a snack that we thought would be different, unique, and phenomenally great-tasting," Heyman said.

Thus, Home Team Snacks was launched. Two years later, the Westminster duo has created crab-seasoned cheese curls, sunflower seeds, and popcorn, as well as an energy drink supplement.

After Heyman and Hinton decided on snack foods, they went and toured a snack-making facility where they would come across cheese curls being made. That interested Heyman and Hinton, but they wanted to add their own twist onto the snack.

"I made mention that I would like to have crab seasoning in place of the cheese put on those curls," Hinton said. "And the plant manager wasn't sure if that could be done."

Despite initially being skeptical, the crab curls turned out better than expected.

"They were awesome," Hinton said.

The last step for Home Team Snacks to launch its first product was finding a player to endorse its newly-created snack. So the first player Heyman and Hinton reached out to was Ray Lewis, perhaps the greatest player in Ravens history.

"Ray Lewis loved it," Hinton said. "His only stipulations were he didn't want his mouth open on the picture on the bag and how could he get more samples?"

But when the time came for Lewis to sign the agreement, it didn't quite work out. Hinton said Lewis' lawyer said his client shouldn't be on an unhealthy snack when he retired, which was coming up soon.

So Home Team Snacks then reached out to Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who ended up signing the agreement and appearing on the company's first snack.

After that, Home Team Snacks released Pure Purple Power, an energy shot endorsed by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Since then, they've released Crab Seeds, endorsed by Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, and Crab Popcorn, featuring Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.

And soon, they'll be releasing crab-seasoned pretzel pieces endorsed by Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta.

"We try to get the product to the players, let them know what we're doing, how we're doing it. and did they like it?" Hinton said.

But it's not just important that the players like it. Hinton said it's important for Heyman and him to like it, too.

"That was of utmost importance," Hinton said. "We didn't just want to put something out just to have a product for sale. We wanted to have a product that was awesome."

And that's why the Westminster duo taste-tests all the variations of the products until they find the best one to release to the public.

Now, Home Team Snacks sends its products to Giant, Mars, Weis, ShopRite, Wegman's, Food Lion, Royal Farms, High's, 7-11, and Jiffy Mart. And while it's become a full-time business, in addition to still running HomeGamers, Hinton said it's something they enjoy doing.

"We love it," Hinton said. "Absolutely love it."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun