Okay, let me start by saying: When you are into healthy eating or at least want to make healthier choices, you are always reading food labels. It’s shocking to see what “stuff” gets put into food to make it taste good. It’s usually excessive sodium, high-fructose corn syrup, and other things I cannot pronounce or spell.
So, when I was at a produce trade show last year and saw this new snack food Peatos, I was intrigued.
And, they were delicious. I thought: Clever! A “healthy” alternative to Cheetos. And that was it. I saw them at my local supermarket and occasionally bought them. And since I went vegan, I have been delighted by their “Fiery Hot” flavor product.
End of story.
Then, I was reviewing the guest list for a CEO Summit I was attending the day before the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 3. There on the list was the name Nick Desai, CEO of Snack It Forward LLC, World Peas Brand, i.e., the creator of Peatos. My favorite snack.
OMG. OMG. OMG.
I put Nick’s name on my short list of people to be sure and meet. And when I got to the meeting, the orange Peatos logo on his white shirt (and the shirts of his two young daughters along with him) made him easy to identify. (We produce people tend to wear our logo shirts everywhere… Shameless promotion.)
Nick and I immediately struck up a conversation at the break.
I asked him how the heck he started the company. He told me he was in the investment banking world and decided it was too stressful, so in 2007 he decided he wanted to get into real business and found the opportunity to buy the company Snack It Forward. We both laughed about it being a tossup of which is more stressful: investment banking or owning your own (food) company.
Fast forward to 2018. Nick got rid of his manufacturing plant and stopped selling the licensed Sunkist trail mixes his company was known for.
Being of Indian descent, and being raised in a vegetarian lifestyle, he was perplexed why American vegetarian snacks weren’t made of pulses (beans, lentils, fava beans, etc.). They are a great source of protein, and he noticed that most snack foods in the U.S. were mostly carbs and fat. So, he developed a pulse-based snack that resembled the craveable Cheetos snack.
We talked about the challenges of attending trade shows, doing sampling, getting co-packers, signing confidentiality agreements with manufacturers, pursuing retail clients, getting that first big sale and then the 24/7 nature of the food business.
We both love it! And because he brought his two daughters with him, we developed a more personal connection about the realities of balancing work/family. I’m guessing his wife was enjoying some downtime back in SoCal.
I was intrigued and full of admiration that Nick was able to transform his life and his company by looking back at his roots. His family is from India, and his wife is vegetarian. He’s a smart business guy, but he wanted a change that was more real to him.
So, thank you, Nick, for taking the plunge into healthier snack foods. I’m grateful that his first retail customer was Kroger, and from what he told me, his line of Peatos is available nationwide in all Kroger stores in the produce department. He also told me that I could purchase Peatos on Amazon… But that’s another story.