This 22 year old Londoner, pitched his simple healthy snack idea and smashed it in one.
For the third part of my health foodie entrepreneur interview series, I spoke to Zack, owner of a pretty epic rapidly growing company.
Zack is the coconut-curious brain behind healthy snack company ‘Ape Snacks’
A few months ago I pinned him down at the new ‘Ape Towers’ in Farringdon, London (which obviously has a tree house and was creatively decked out by his Marketing Manager, Olivia.)
My first impression of him was that he must be a well-seasoned entrepreneur. His Ape Snacks empire is growing at an impressive rate, since he founded it in 2014 and he’s in stores up and down the country. So, it’s hard to believe he’s only 22 and this is his first business.
I wanted to find out what creative process conjured up Ape Snacks and how the business idea materialised in the first place.
He says, ‘It all began back in University, I attended Cornell University in the USA where I had to eat in the Uni canteen everyday. I’ve always been a healthy eater, my parents follow a Paleo lifestyle and they instilled that into me at a young age.’ That’s why, when faced with the University canteen, he was pretty disgusted at the lack of healthy choices. Consequently, his daily dinners consisted of salad and a grilled hamburger.
‘There are only so many burgers you can eat in a week.’
Having always been into leading a healthy and balanced life, Zack began researching and reading into how food and nutrition can and does prevent health problems, especially obesity, heart disease and other nutritionally fuelled illnesses. He soon realised, that the true problem was, the complete lack of education that people have in nutrition, health and why certain foods will prevent, heal and fuel the human body.
Serving up crap meals at university was not helping the cause. He wanted to change the way people eat, even if it was just a small impact he may have, it was worth pursuing.
The inspiration behind Ape Snacks
His Mum’s healthy snack recipe, was the inspiration behind Ape Snack’s first range. She used to cook up toasted coconut flakes for the family and Zack was hooked from her first batch! He knew others would love them as much as he did too.
So, he quit Uni and came up with a plan. After pitching the idea of a healthy snack product to his parents, they gave him until the end of 2014 to research, scope out the UK market, find investment and manufacture a product. Driven Zack, did just that.
‘I jumped on a plane to Thailand, found myself a coconut curl manufacturer, put together a business plan, found an amazing investor and launched Ape Snacks.’
Fast-forward to 2017 and he’s stocked his products in over 5000 stores in the UK & Europe. These include supermarkets such as WholeFoods, Boots and Selfridges. As well as cafe’s like Natural Kitchen and Crussh Juices. You can also buy them from their site online too.
That’s all by the age of 22. I asked him how he did it on his own at first and who has helped him the most. ‘I learn from people, my investors, my team. I hire the best and learn from them, I can’t do everything, I have my vision and process but I need the team to make it work.
Having such responsibility at a young age and at an accelerating rate is overwhelming, it’s interesting to learn how he handles it. ‘I have learnt to have filters over time, to switch off. At the moment I work work work, but not as much as I first did. When you’re so fixed on a goal, seeing results and gaining success, it’s so hard to stop.’
‘I had a bit of a wake-up call, I was on a train early one morning, like 4 am or something for a meeting, and I looked in the mirror and was like ‘CHRIST’ I look shit. That’s when I realised, I needed to implement more time for me and get back on track with health. I’m no use to any one if I’m not in great shape and eating and sleeping well, am I?’ Nope!
So gaining balance is always his goal, but what’s the hardest part of his journey?
Frustration. The frustration that he can’t correct processes in the world to help people more, and not listening. Over time, he’s learnt to listen more, he says ‘I used to talk so much, I am always full of ideas, knowledge, and advice that I just want to talk all day about health, business and how to change the world through knowledge. I kind of had to rein it in to move forward.’
What’s his biggest tip for budding entrepreneurs?
‘Get some kind of balance, a process and never run out of money. Oh and keep doing your daily fitness and healthy eating practise ( like I need to do!)’
Zack wants the APE brand, to be seen as one that consumers can understand and a brand that will stay. ‘We make snacks that the consumer needs.’ We have one of the most honest brands in the market. What’s best, is he wholeheartedly believes in his products, and that’s why they’ve done so well. ‘I see Ape lasting long-term, because we only make products that make people healthy. How can people not want it?
I agree Zack! Now make sure you keep fuelling yourself as much as you fuel others. I’m excited to see this fellow health foodie grow and grow.
P.S His snacks are Fodmap Friendly too!