Crunch Pak's Megan Wade and Tony Freytag Discuss the Evolution of Snacking
CASHMERE, WA - Our food cravings are fickle. Some days I need to eat a burger to tame my inner hangry demon, while other days I can’t stand the thought of a burger. Multiplying this to cover billions of people’s wants and needs is a feat, but one that Crunch Pak isn’t shying away from. For the past twenty years, Crunch Pak has helped create a new category, working hard to stay on top of the evolving snacking category and innovating its sliced apple offerings.
I caught up with Megan Wade, Marketing and Product Development Manager, and Tony Freytag, Founder and Executive Vice President, to learn more about Crunch Pak’s evolving relationship with snacking and how the company stays mindful of consumer demand despite it changing on the daily.
“Crunch Pak is about providing trusted, high-quality snacks to our consumers and customers,” Megan tells me. “We satisfy the needs of our customers by supplying high-quality ingredients that shoppers can trust while also satisfying their taste buds. To stay on top of consumer demand, it’s kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. There is such a wealth of data and information about consumer habits, it can be overwhelming. But along with our data, attending shows like United Fresh is one great way to see what’s going on in our industry and how that affects sliced apples.”
While snacking has no age limit, Crunch Pak is specifically targeting a younger audience with its latest co-branding efforts. With options like its Star Wars Snackers, Disney Foodles, and PAW Patrol snack trays, the newest addition to the pack, Crunch Pak is taking strides to encourage children to pick up healthy eating habits that will stick as they age. Megan notes that 25 percent of childhood eating preferences carry into adulthood, so if apples can be part of that, Crunch Pak has done its job.
“We take our licensing relationships very seriously. Disney and Nickelodeon have standards we have to meet, which is good because people already know and trust these brands, which then creates a halo effect that we can cross-brand with our other products,” Tony shares with me. “Because of that we make sure the food quality and safety are impeccable. We have the ability to go into our orchards and see what is coming out of that block or region within the state, which is extremely important and gives us the ability to constantly adjust. Knowing what’s going on with our fruit and how to best use it is important to the quality we put out.”
At this point, Megan emphasizes that while consumer wants and needs change frequently, food safety, accountability, and traceability are mainstays in the snacking category.
“I joined Crunch Pak in 2017, and even in that short amount of time, I’ve seen a huge push for transparency and accountability across the board. As a vertically-integrated company, meaning we own the orchards and know where our apples are coming from, this plays back on the fact that quality stands out. We’ve established trust with our packaging and with the licensing we do, on top of being in the orchards, walking the rows, and seeing the fruit.”
And while Crunch Pak has led the charge in introducing sliced apples to shoppers’ grocery lists, the company is continuing to tackle the challenge of ensuring sliced apples are a produce staple no matter what’s trending with consumers.
“Crunch Pak is changing the game of snacking with our packaging. They used to say you have three to five seconds to connect with consumers in stores, but I wonder if we even have that short amount of time now. Megan has done an amazing job as far as working with our packaging partners, artists, and graphics team, and as a result kids are going crazy over PAW Patrol Snack Trays and Foodles, both of which have been successful beyond our expectations and we’re very excited,” Tony says. “But now we can’t sit back. I think our key is to keep coming up with new things, new snacks.”
But before I can pick Megan and Tony’s brains for what Crunch Pak has in store in the future, Megan notes that it’s important when we talk about the future of snacking to touch on how Crunch Pak began, which she reveals was Tony’s refrigerator.
“I have two children, a son and a daughter, and when my son was in his twenties, he would stop by the house every now and then. In our refrigerator, I would keep sliced apples in baggies to test how they were doing, but I noticed that they started disappearing. I asked my wife and my daughter, ‘where are the apples going?’ Finally, my son admitted he thought we were supposed to eat them. I always say my kids were the guinea pigs and they’re both fine,” Tony laughs. “For me it’s so rewarding to see what Crunch Pak has become and it’s exciting to know it’s going to keep going.”
In terms of what’s actually in the pipeline for Crunch Pak, Tony teases even bigger, more variety, and greater opportunity. As snacking continues to develop, expand, and change, Crunch Pak has its finger on the pulse to make sure the grind doesn’t stop.