It turns out, opening a bag of chips can inspire someone to open a business! Neil Thomson, founder and CEO of Laid Back Snacks, told us the story of how he and his wife Riley created their company, what they offer to their customers, and their important partnership with the Breakfast Club of Canada.
At Laid Back Snacks we use wholesome ingredients in delicious ways. We help people looking to swap their junk-food crutches for better alternatives – healthy snacks they can trust with no compromise on great taste.
I started Laid Back Snacks in 2014 (called Naked Snacks back then). At the time, I was living in Vancouver and had just started dating my (now) wife. I remember sitting on the couch on a Sunday afternoon, eating a whole bag of potato chips and being unaware she was watching me. When I finished the bag I heard her say, “Dude, that’s disgusting. Why don’t you eat something healthier?” After working through my embarrassment, I began unpacking my excuses.
The truth was, I’d looked around for potato chip alternatives but hadn’t found anything I liked. The products I’d tried tasted bland and the natural foods space just didn’t feel like a fun place to shop. Still trying to impress my future wife, I started mixing up some healthy ideas and working on different recipes.
After some early product development, I shared my ideas with family and friends to find out what they thought. They loved the flavors and said they’d definitely buy them if they could. That was the validation I needed to set up a website and start selling those few early products online.
After a year or so we started getting requests to buy our products in grocery stores, hotels, offices, universities, hospitals, and other retail locations. Over time, we’ve gradually changed from a completely online business to a 50-50 online-offline model.
For every box our customers buy online, we donate a snack to the Breakfast Club of Canada. BCC is an amazing organization. It’s recognized that, in order for children to be able to learn to their full potential at school, they needed to have a nourishing breakfast to start the day. BCC focuses on feeding kids in primary schools across the country, and mostly in vulnerable populations.
As our company grew, we realized a lot of our customers were women, and mothers at that. We wanted to make sure our community giving strategy was focused on a cause that was not only important to us, it was important to our customers, too. BCC was just a natural fit for us.
We’re lucky that our brand and products appeal to a wide range of demographics, and we do get a fairly diverse customer base. If we were to focus on one core segment, it’d probably be women, aged between 25 to 40.
Having said that, we intentionally set out to design our brand in a way that is accessible to everyone. Part of our goal to make healthy food as accessible as possible is making sure the brand is representative and inclusive.
We’re constantly evaluating our suppliers and always looking for great partners to work with. We look to source locally as often as we can. Some of the ingredients we use simply don’t grow in Canada, so we look to minimize our resource footprint by purchasing them from a nearby location. We’ve also found a few suppliers that have phenomenally high-quality products. Only on those occasions, we’ll reconsider our local sourcing policy.
We never use any preservatives, additives, or colorants of any kind, so our food is as “whole” as we can get it. Our snacks have a natural 6-8 months shelf life, which makes it important that we source well and ship products quickly.
The most perishable product we sell is our delicious, sun-ripened dried fruit. It has a naturally soft texture and lovely flavor that will stay shelf-stable at room temperature for a number of months.
Our focus is on creating and selling delicious, premium products that make our customers feel great in every sense of the word. We have a product development process that’s always churning, which means we study the data behind the snacks that are performing well, and which ones aren’t. We want our customers to find enjoyment in the flavors we put out – not just the high quality of the products.
Food is, of course, a highly personal experience and many people have specific dietary needs. We look to accommodate that by building our snack portfolio into categories such as nut-free, gluten-free, and vegan. Our work is to find a balance between variety (but not overwhelm), exciting new flavors, and much-loved classics, while also offering dietary-specific options. It’s no easy task!
Everyone who orders online can choose exactly which snacks they want in their box. Our website has a filter to help people choose if they want products with gluten or nuts, or vegan products.
We believe in putting full control in the hands of our customers, for the optimal snacking experience.