5 things I learned from...building a snack empire

Nicole Sara Sivens
May 21, 2018
6 min read
Photo credit:
Jordan Cohen - SnackNation
Jordan Cohen, SnackNation

Jordan Cohen is the Director of Brands at SnackNation. His team is responsible for sourcing the best snack brands to deliver to the best offices and cultures in the country, and they reach more than 3,500 offices and 250,000 people every month. With all his spare time, he competes 70.3 Ironman races, travels the world, plays drums, and is up for anything that gets him outside!

Knowing your customers is top priority

Since 2015, SnackNation has grown to over 5,000 Member Offices and 150 Team Members. The company continues to grow it's B2B snack delivery by over 50% annually, while expanding into new channels to help brands extend their reach to target customers. It's been a privilege to help drive this from both sides of our smart marketplace, both on sales/members side and now on brands side, who are, by the way, our life's blood!

When I first joined SnackNation, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the sales team (we didn’t even have a brands team yet) and that first year was priceless. Not only did I welcome some incredible companies to the SnackNation family, but I was also able to intimately get to know our customers – what they want, what they need, and what problems they’re truly trying to solve for in their offices.

If you are a brand in the market right now the number one thing you need to know is your customer. So when I joined the team in January 2017, that knowledge of our members really helped us identify what snacks would be the best fit. Applying lessons learned from sales to our brands, we were able to really zero in on the wants, needs, and problems we were solving.

Here’s what we did:

Rolled out the Brand Experience Team. They’re dedicated to working with brands throughout the entirety our partnership and ensuring flawless execution.

Enhanced our insights and reporting. As a part of our smart marketplace, we get brands in front of consumers at key moments and enhanced our consumer insights reports.

Expanded into new markets. We’re in even more offices and homes than ever and continue to reach new audiences every day.

Created an insanely passionate team culture. Our whole team is focused on one thing: putting the right product at the right place at the right time.

Culture is king

I can spend years talking about this one! Before we talk about any secret, we need to first describe our culture. SnackNation is the destination for wellness-minded people striving to do the best work of their careers, in the service of something bigger than themselves. Our mission is to inspire more conscious decisions, starting with the food that nourishes and sustains us.

Whether it’s health or team goals, our mantra is Better Every Day. In fact, we stop to meditate and offer yoga or boot camp during work hours, not after.

Our culture is guided by our core values.

1. Health above all else

2. Display grit without ego

3. Serve and inspire

4. Seek perpetual growth

5. Spread joy and optimism

So…what’s the secret? It’s the people. I think that will always be “the secret” in business. It all starts with how you hire. We focus a great deal on culture throughout the entire process.

While saying “hire great people” is nothing revolutionary, I would say that if there’s something unique about our culture, it’s that everyone shares an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Between people and gratitude, I really sound like a walking millennial billboard for LA work life, but it’s true. We are not only grateful for what we have, but for the people we work with, the challenges we face, and the opportunities we have. Gratitude is the universal thread that binds our team.

How we view food is changing 

Being aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel is the foundation of eating right. There’s no point to having better-for-you snacks if you don’t feel better! SnackNation's vision is to inspire more conscious food decisions. The guides and videos are about the impact our snacks have and that is the true value of our service. Creating a memorable experience, feeling great, and being aware of that is really what it’s all about. And our brands get that, too. The reason our brands go to such lengths to source the best ingredients, use best practices to manufacture their products, and deliver such high quality snacks is so that their customer can reap those benefits. It’s a beautiful thing that we couldn’t help but share.

Quality is a given, the extras are the real value

Having a great product and service is a given – you have to be able to deliver value to your customers. But having a culture and community surround your brand ensures that you continue to deliver what your customers want. We listen, we engage, and we connect. And that helps us to continue to learn, grow, and improve.

Quality takes off

I see hundreds of snacks a month (yes, every month), and I have to say there are few things that surprise me anymore. What I can share are two snacks that I really want to see takeoff.

KNOW Foods. I am a keto/high-fat low-carb guy and just continually impressed by what this brand is putting out. Amazing snacks and foods that are the perfect substitute to your high-carb favorites. I am a cookie lover, so take it from me: this brand delivers. Not only on the cookies, but bars, pancakes, donuts, even maple syrup. I am so excited about what they are doing over there.

Cricket protein. If there was one snack that I was surprised people disliked, it was the cricket chips and bars. I know it’s a bug and that shouldn’t surprise me, but the flavor is actually great! Not only is it a great source of protein, but it’s also very scalable. The future of food is finding ways to deliver health benefits without the environmental impact – people expect more from brands now. And I think crickets and other insects will do just that, but we need to get over our own fears first in the United States. Countries around the world are already ahead of us on this one.

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