A lifelong passion for natural foods and more than a decade in consumer product marketing propelled Cricket Allen to launch The Perfect Snaque, whose blends of crunchy lentils, nuts and dried fruits are moving off the shelves of natural food stores and traditional supermarkets.
Launched in 2012, Perfect Snaque is now in 200 stores, including Whole Foods, Kings and Shop Rite and is on track to expand to 1,000 stores next year, said Allen, who runs the company with her husband, Brian.
The private company doesn't disclose revenue, but "I can say our business has quadrupled over the past year."
Last April, Perfect Snaque scored a marketing coup when it appeared on the television shopping network QVC, and they'll be back on QVC in January. Along with the QVC sales, the appearance generated additional sales volume via the company's website and on Amazon.com
Allen said she was motivated to create healthy snacks because of what she saw in her own home.
"I was trying to get my husband to stop eating a certain protein bar," she said. "So I started putting together loose blends of natural ingredients that are not tied together with candy glue."
She found herself hanging around the bulk bins in natural foods stores, getting inspiration for snack blends with ingredients such as quinoa, goji berries, almonds, coconuts, dried tart cherries and dried apples.
Several Perfect Snaque varieties contain "sprouted lentils," or lentils that have been moistened until they sprout, then dried to a crunchy texture.
"Nobody else is using a whole, sprouted, ready-to-eat lentil, and it's pretty exciting to be able to offer something unique," Allen said.
The Perfect Snaque isn't her first foray into natural foods: In 2007, she launched Bot, a vitamin water for children, which was expensive to produce and had a low profit margin.
She has since taken BOT off the market and brought the lessons learned to Perfect Snaque.
Bot production was outsourced, which meant "if we had a production run that we weren't pleased with, that was just a flush of capital out the window," Allen said. With Perfect Snaque, "We wanted to control the production process."
The products are produced at the company's headquarters in Hamilton, which in January will double in size to 10,000 square feet to accommodate rising sales.
She said Perfect Snaque now has sustaining retail partners, meaning "the reorders are there, they are coming from the distributors and landing on the shelf, and what that means is there is consumer pull" for the product.
Retail sales are the ultimate validation of a new product: "And the fantastic news is that it is moving; it is doing really well."
The Perfect Snaque retails for $6 or more per bag and, in some supermarkets, is found in the produce section.
"Our optimum position in the store is among products like whole nuts and dried fruits," Allen said.
"(The Perfect Snaque) might have a hard time from a merchandising perspective sitting next to a bag of chips that is $2 or $3 less.
"We need to be with like company, with whole-ingredient type products."
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