@saulgoodgiftco
Saul Good Gift Co. helps you build relationships through our locally sourced, award-winning gifts. 🏆 #RadiatingHappiness Since TwentyOSix

Shop for local gifts

 

$10 shipping across Canada

Shop for corporate gifts

Shop for Chocolate Gifts

Photo by Julie Christine Photography

 

How many entrepreneurs can say their big idea came at the hands of a bag of chips?


Well, for Naked Snacks founder, Neil Thomson, it was during a fateful movie date when the “aha” moment happened.


“When I first started dating my wife, Ryley, we often sat down together and watched movies,” remembers Neil. “There was a day when I opened up a bag of chips, and crushed the whole bag. Her response was, ‘dude, that’s gross’


. . . But, what else could I eat?”


It was this question that led Neil and Ryley to search high and low for a new snack - something tasty, nutritious, and exciting that would satisfy as a substitute for unhealthy snacks.


“We wondered how many of our friends were in the same boat. Healthy and boring, tasty and bad for you - what’s in the middle? We wanted to make something that made people feel like they could really connect with their food.”

 


Neil conceived of the ecommerce business with delicious, nutritious, quickly-delivered snacks that you can’t find anywhere else. Since starting in 2015, they’ve expanded into retailers, Saul Good gift baskets, and have partnered with Breakfast for Learning - donating a healthy snack to a hungry child at school for every box ordered off their site.


We recently interviewed Neil to find out how a management consultant to investment banks with no experience in the food industry ventured into the world of snacks - and what’s next for the Vancouver-based company.


What made you want to transition from banking to building your own snack company?


I was working for a social entrepreneurship program at UBC in the social venture side of things. It gave me the entrepreneurship itch - before Naked Snacks, I just hadn’t found anything I was passionate enough about. I had only ever worked in professional services and investment banking before, and food just seemed like an awesome opportunity. Food is weird, it brings people so much joy. It’s this intimate thing that people do, and it’s awesome to share that with folks.


I really wanted a job where I could see the direct connection between my efforts and results. Working for large organizations - I couldn’t find that. As an entrepreneur, you can directly see your impact of your energies - whether it’s success or failure. As a company grows and evolves, listening to what customers want from their experience, want from packaging, tweaks to product… there’s a cumulative fulfillment that comes from those day to day improvements and decisions. It’s this awesome snowball that keeps building. I love building the snowball.


What sets you apart from other snack companies?


Our goal is to make healthy food as accessible to as many people as possible. Our mantra is, “hey, don’t go for the snickers or chips, here’s a better option.” We aim to bridge the gap between what’s good and what’s not in a playful, fun, delicious way that’s still nutritious.

 

An example of how we do this is our partnership with the Fairmont Pacific Rim. We provide snacks for their mini bar. Before us, it was Pringles, Planter’s peanuts, and Kit Kat. We’ve realized that people are eating differently than they used to - it’s all about snacking in this day and age. We’re so busy, we miss meals because we’re always running about. This wasn’t the case for my parents, and it feels like the way we live our lives is changing. So, we help businesses step up their game and offer something different. We can get away from junk food without getting boring or preachy.

 

 


 

Where do you get inspiration for new products?


We’re lucky enough to have a network of nutritionists and product designers who make suggestions for us. I spend the first part of every day reading about the industry to stay on top of trends. It’s an ongoing thing to make sure I know what people are asking for and enjoying at any time. Sometimes I’ll go to my product designers and say, “hey, can we do something with matcha; it’s popular at the moment” and sometimes it’s them coming to me saying “I just had some golden berries - can we build a snack around this?” Other times, it’s going back to the traditional things people always enjoy. We keep an ongoing dialogue.


What is your greatest accomplishment with Naked Snacks?


Keeping afloat! Being alive! Usually people are very surprised to hear how small we actually are because of our online persona. Only now we’re starting to feel like a company who knows its place in the world. in 2015 when we started, we sold 1/10th of the bags we do now. I spent the first year in the kitchen by myself with a hairnet and gloves filling bags of product, putting them in bags, packing boxes, walking down to the post office.  Now we have dedicated space, a team, a packing machine, we have pickups a few times a week to grab merchandise. We’re still small, but we have systems. The distance we’ve come from me in my living room to how we operate today is night and day. So for me, it’s inspiring to hear people say “I thought you were much bigger!”


Wow - you really started as a one-man show. What has your support system been like?


My family has been really supportive. The biggest realization I’ve had from starting a company is that there’s zero chance of success doing it alone and thinking you’re gonna make it work. Family and friends have helped me pack bags - helped in every single way imaginable. There’s no way the company would exist today if it wasn’t for them.


I also have a passionate and motivated team who feel like they’re part of the journey. It’s important to me to be able to share success with the people I work with. I love going to the kitchen, seeing the team, packing snacks, and talking about their lives and families. Once a month we have a team lunch together and it gives me so much energy to see we’re all engaged together.

 


 

What’s next for Naked Snacks?

We’ve got some new partnerships in the pipeline. There’s a national food service company that sells a lot to retail in hospitals and large offices throughout the company. Up until now, we’ve built the company mostly through individual orders to consumers, hotels, and Saul Good baskets. With this food service provider, we’d sell to them, and they’d sell to multiple locations. Hopefully a strategic partnership that helps us scale.


In the longer-term, I’d love to be a B Corp someday. I feel strongly about people before profit, and being more environmentally sustainable. It makes me sad to think we’re shipping out thousands of plastic bags every day around Canada. I want to grow so we can expand our environmental practices. I’d love to be able to tell our customers hey - we’re fully biodegradable, here’s what we’re doing.


What’s the best feedback you’ve gotten about your snacks?

On the front of our bags, it says “four portions of goodness.” We needed to put it in, because someone sent me an email to say, “I have to cancel my subscription because your snacks are too tasty. I sit down and I can’t stop myself and I eat a whole bag in one sitting.”