By the airport, a local snack machine

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As Jeff Soucy steered his older model Ford Focus towards his company’s future headquarters, he offered a sort of disclaimer, the kind you might hear from a politician who is rolling in campaign cash but who insists he hasn’t lost touch with his humble roots.

It’s easy to understand why Soucy — the manager of product development who wears numerous hats at Creative Snacks — would emphasize the company’s beginning just seven years ago. The new building, designed from the ground up by founder Marius Andersen, is more than 90,000 square feet of warehouse, bakery and office space for the burgeoning food business. Remarkably high ceilings make the future break room and lobby feel like part of an office palace, and in just a few short weeks, the High Point facility should be fully operational.

The comparison to a flush politician is probably unfair; Soucy wore jeans with his dress shoes, and Andersen has come up with some of the company’s recipes in his home kitchen. Creative Snacks isn’t a far cry from its beginnings at all — they’re still in the same space they opened in 2009, and though they’ve expanded considerably since then to more than 90 full-time employees, the company is still relatively small.

Small enough that few people locally know about the operation, which is currently housed in a nondescript facility that overlooks Piedmont Triad International Airport in northwest Greensboro, a short drive from the company’s future High Point digs.

Creative Snacks already has its own bakery in High Point — that’s where the granola is made — which will move into the new headquarters once it’s ready. The Greensboro hub will remain, though Soucy said they’re still figuring out exactly how to utilize the 69,000 square feet after picking up most of their operations.

But whether or not locals recognize Creative Snacks as a neighbor, there’s a good chance plenty of people around here are familiar with the products. That’s because Creative Snacks moves merchandise inside most major grocery stores in the area, including Harris Teeter, Lowes and even Sam’s Club, Costco and Walmart.

Soucy trying out one of the new standing forklifts.
Soucy trying out one of the new standing forklifts.

The company makes a whole fleet of products, likely 200 in all, Soucy said, but many of those are slight variations on the core themes of trail mix, granolas, coconut mixes and enrobed items like yogurt-covered, pumpkin-spiced pretzels.

At the runway-side operation last week, workers maneuvered fork lifts full of raw ingredients in the warehouse and oversaw machines that auto-filled and wrapped snack packs of trail mix and group-sized bags of granola. Up front on the other side of a wall, a couple employees quietly pecked away at computers inside low-walled cubicles, as warehouse-side employees with hairnets covering their heads and occasional beards sometimes passed through.

When Marius Andersen and his wife Hilary opened the company in 2009, they wanted to provide products that skewed natural and organic without a higher retail price, Soucy said. Like Andersen, Soucy worked at the Fresh Market before joining the startup, and said the ability for direct input on the products and other aspects of the business is his favorite part of the gig.

If you’re picturing a discreet facility mass-producing foodstuffs, you’ve got the wrong idea. Creative Snacks typically fulfills specific orders rather than churning out food items that could languish on warehouse shelves, and there’s minimal waste as most incoming packaging can be recycled, Soucy said.

And even better, the company won a Sofi Award at the New York-based Fancy Foods Show for its innovative and delicious organic coconut snacks baked with chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The snacks, which are sort of like brittle and that Soucy suggested using as an ice cream topper, doesn’t include any high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or artificial colors or flavors.

The product hit the market earlier this year, and it totally blew up. Stores were running out of them, and Soucy said the office was flooded with calls from fans wanting to know where they could score more, in some cases buying a carload at a time.

It makes sense; they’re light and truly delicious, plus coconut is kind of a big deal right now. Creative Snacks’ dark chocolate peppermint pretzels are arguably more enjoyable, and seasonally appropriate, too. But customers could also opt for the company’s mixed veggie chips, or packaged dried apricots or one of its trail mixes including the cleverly named “Brain Food.”

Not every carrier will have all the company’s foodstuffs, but considering it’s on shelves from Food Lion to Whole Foods, not to mention Amazon, a tasty snack created right here won’t be hard to find.

 

Visit creativesnacks.com to learn more about this High Point- and Greensboro-based food producer.