The proof is in the potatoes
By Kate Lysakowski
It began as a chance opportunity and an affinity for salty snacks. Michele Revivo was working at a jewelry-making kiosk as part of the entertainment for a Bat Mitzvah back in 2004 when she was suddenly struck with an idea. Everyone, it seemed, was gravitating towards the interactive food stations during the event and Revivo quickly realized that there was a real niche market for that type of industry. Having always taken pride in her entrepreneurial abilities, Michele was at once excited to meld her creative vision with her love of potato chips, and shortly thereafter, Spudniks Snack Foods was born.
Coining the term “chip theatre”, Spudniks potato chips began as a business on wheels where small mobile carts easily facilitated the tossing and seasoning of fresh potatoes right in front of the customer on an order-by-order basis, serving them up warm. “The term ‘chip theatre’ came about because we felt we were entertaining our customers and creating a theatrical experience for them while we seasoned their chips, hot and fresh before their very eyes,” explained Revivo. The business began by setting up at trade shows, fairs, festivals, events and amusement parks on weekends, and it was immediately evident, after selling out 40 to 50 cases in two days, that the idea had the ability to take off quickly. “We knew we had something,” Revivo said.
Revivo developed a kiosk and several inline retail stores across Ontario not long after the initial idea took flight, and then began to receive interest from potential licensees in Calgary and Edmonton. Not long after the business was launched, there were already eight Spudniks locations in AAA malls across Ontario, a location in Alberta and several mobile carts or “chip theatres” in operation throughout both provinces, and expansion quickly became the next focus. In an effort to develop the brand and perfect its manufacturing operations, Revivo sold most of her locations and with her husband Jessy, a long-time financial advisor, decided to take Spudniks to the next level.
Retail bags began making appearances in airports, hotels, fine food markets and independent grocers. “We didn’t want to be just another bag on the shelves,” Revivo explained, and given Spudniks’ initial business success, they could afford to cater to a smaller niche market by promoting what sets them apart from other similar brands of potato chips: Spudniks are free of MSG and trans fats, they are certified kosher, vegetarian and vegan, and packaged proudly in Canada. Revivo spent the better part of two years formulating 13 different seasoning flavours, 11 of which are gluten-free. While the most popular are the traditional sea salted and salt and malt vinegar, there are a multitude of options for every taste palate including Delirious Dill Pickle, Kool Ketchup, Thai Chili and Mexi Jalapeno, to name a few. Revivo’s business acumen is apparent in her marketing efforts; not only does the Spudniks brand have its own mascot, but each flavour does too. She described it as “a marketing initiative that is particularly appealing to children.”
There is a substantial market for producing Spudniks potato chips in bulk for the food service industry, another focus of the growing brand. Dedicated to offering fresh product, restaurants, pubs and bars can serve the chips as a high quality side option at a lower cost to the bottom line. Each Spudniks bulk order is custom crafted, seasoned and packaged by hand. Using the finest ingredients, which contributes to a lighter, less greasy chip, Spudniks consumers are guaranteed a healthier alternative to other competitive brands.
Along with selling retail chip bags which Revivo explains is a far better value than other comparable potato chip brands, offering nearly twice the traditional 39 grams per bag, Spudniks also sells the handcrafted chip seasonings for foodservice accounts and large “family size” bags at individual retail prices. They have added a full line of savory and sweet popcorn to their Spudniks family offerings with three delicious prepackaged flavours — Maple Corn, Caramel Corn and Sweet & Salty — offered in both grab ’n’ go sizes and family size bags. In addition, their new Slim POP! will be launched early in the new year along with a full suite of bulk popcorn flavours for foodservice, featuring such flavours as Chicago Mix, Butter Salt and Rainbow Corn, among others.
The future goal of the company, according to Revivo, is to continue to grow the business and the concept. While the six-employee company takes particular pride in being a small, quality Canadian brand, the mission to continue to reinvent snack food enjoyment is constantly evolving with several exciting new ventures on the horizon. When asked about the advice she could offer to future entrepreneurs like herself, Revivo passionately asserted that “if you’ve got the dream, go for it 100 percent. Continue your vision, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.” The proof is in the proverbial pudding, or in this case, the potatoes.
To learn more, visit www.spudniks.com.