Produce Processing 7: Nick Desai, Snack It Forward
Nick Desai has been the chairman and CEO of Snack It Forward since 2013. Snack It Forward is a better-for-you snacking company with a focus on plant-based snacks. The company has a portfolio of brands that includes World Peas and Sunkist Snacks.
The World Peas brand Peatos’ mission is to help mainstream America eat better by creating snacks that taste like “junk food,” but have more substance. Desai entered the food and consumer space in 2011 by leading the acquisition of Energy Club, a snack food manufacturer.
Before dedicating his career to the snack industry, Desai’s experience spans an extensive background of over 25 years of operations, private equity/investment banking and law. Desai has a JD/MBA from Loyola Marymount University, and was a UC Regents Scholar at the University of California, Irvine. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children.
1. What are the best words of advice you’ve received?
“Once you make the sale, shut up.” — My dad.
2. What are your goals for the next 12 months?
We are on a mission to eliminate the compromise that has become prevalent in snacking: do I eat tasty or do I eat better? World Peas Brand Peatos does that and allows fans to get the full “junk snack” taste experience while still being full of plant-based protein, fiber and cleaner ingredients. Like many junk snack brands, I want Peatos to become a household name and the go-to snack for kids. We were fortunate to have Kroger as our initial national launch partner. They understood right away that Peatos belongs in the produce section. Consumers are embracing us via social media telling us how much they love Peatos due to their great taste, broad appeal and better-for-you positioning.
3. What do you do to relax?
I like movies and yoga, but in all honesty, I don’t have much time for either these days.
4. What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
I want to build something that grows beyond any individual, like a lasting entity with brands that endures (which is exceedingly rare nowadays). What is today’s Oreo, M&M’S or Doritos? I want to build something that will take on a life of its own. Maybe my kids get involved, maybe they don’t, but at least there is something of value that is left behind and continues on. World Peas Brand Peatos is the snack that people have been waiting for. We dared to take on the big guy because we knew we were on to something. I want to be the man who helped the vast majority of Americans eat better, and not just the small percentage who is shopping in high-end natural channels.
5. What are the top three things on your bucket list?
1, Get a pilot’s license. 2, Watch my kids become adults and prosper. 3, Celebrate my 90th B-day!
6. What work would you have pursued if you had not been in the fruit and vegetable industry?
I am kind of following my dream here so this is really it, but I also do love the entertainment business.
7. What is the one truth you’ve learned about the fruit and vegetable industry?
This is true for any business, but Steve Jobs said it best: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” I would add: never give up.