To appeal to young consumers, this Gen-Z founded snack brand is combining plant-based, sustainability, and consumer activism all in one…
During COVID, young consumers have been snacking more than ever. YPulse’s Comfort in the Kitchen report found that 84% of 13-39-year-olds are snacking on a typical weekday—an increase from 77% in 2019. And while many are turning to comfort foods, our research found that 31% 13-39-year-olds reported eating healthier during this time. Meanwhile, the plant-based trend has actually accelerated during the pandemic, and despite a year full of woes, sustainability and climate change are still on their minds.
So, it could be the right moment to be a sustainable snack brand. The newly launched Impact Snacks is hoping to reach young consumers with snack bars that are 100% plant-based and sustainable—all the way down to their “home compostable plant-based wrapper, which keeps [their] supply chain totally plastic free.” After a successful and “much-buzzed-about” Kickstarter campaign in September 2019 that surpassed its goal of $20,000 in just 13 hours (thanks to support from their close friends and word of mouth), the brand made their official debut in February of 2020. Though the pandemic “threw [them] a curveball,” they used the time to double down and focus on honing their sustainability efforts. Those efforts include a monthly subscription that allows customers to purchase their protein bars in packs—and create an Impact Story as a way to reclaim their carbon footprint.
We spoke Impact Snacks’ co-founders (and Gen Zs) Nick Oliveri and Corey Nobile, about how their brand is fully implementing the plant-based trend, how they’re encouraging their customers to track their carbon footprints, what they’re doing to become “the world’s most sustainable snack,” and more:
YPulse: How did Impact Snacks get started?
Nick Oliveri & Corey Nobile: It started with one goal: Make the world’s most sustainable snack. We realized that fast-moving consumer goods are one of the most harmful and prolific perpetrators of the single-use plastic crisis and a rampant accelerator of the greenhouse effect. With this, we spared nothing in blazing the trail so that consumers can have an easy solution that contributes to the circular economy.
YPulse: Are you seeing that young people are snacking more during lockdowns?
NO & CN: Over a third of Americans report snacking more during the pandemic. When you’re studying and hanging around the house all day, it’s natural to grab more snacks. And again, while people are snacking more than before, they are also snacking healthier and more intentionally. Young snackers in particular are looking towards vegan snacks to stay on the health- and environmentally-conscious trains.
YPulse: Are you seeing that the plant-based food trend is being accelerated among young consumers during the pandemic?
NO & CN: The pandemic has certainly accelerated the plant-based food trend across various demographics. In March, when people realized they needed to hunker down at home, grocery sales spiked; while conventional fresh meat had a 40% year over year increase in sales, fresh plant-based meat alternatives grew 231%. Even though the total market for plant-based meat alternatives is much smaller than traditional meats, the plant based meats market is expected to top $1 billion this year for the first time. More than just meat and meat alternatives though, people are increasingly shifting towards an overall plant-based diet. People are thinking about where their food comes from and even what the environmental impact of those foods and practices entails.
YPulse: You all are being described as the “world’s first carbon positive” snack bar. What does that mean?
NO & CN: Being the first carbon negative snack bar means that we offset more carbon than our whole supply chain creates. Each of our superfood bars emits 0.38 pounds of carbon emissions, from farm to manufacturing plant, to fulfillment, to your door. For each bar we sell, we offset 1 pound of carbon, ~250% of its emissions, by building solar farms in Tennessee and by planting sustainable forests in Madagascar. It’s crucial to create the smallest environmental impact as possible, and to take responsibility for the impact we do make.
YPulse: As part of your business model, customers are able to opt in for a monthly subscription service to purchase your snack bars, which also allows them to track/reclaim their carbon footprint and see the positive change they’re making. Can you tell me more about the Impact Stories program and how that works?
NO & CN: The Impact Stories program is an opportunity for people to see their impact in a digestible way. Sure, we offset 1 pound of carbon per bar, but how much is 1 pound of carbon? What does that really mean? To answer these questions, we send out information to each customer illustrating their total to-date carbon offsets, along with something straightforward to compare it to, for example the equivalent gallons of gasoline not driven in your car, the number of homes that could be powered, or the equivalent pounds of trash if it were recycled rather than put in a landfill. These are metrics people can grasp that help them better understand the difference they are making. These images are also social media friendly, encouraging people to share their impact and inspire others to make their own change.
YPulse: Are you seeing that Gen Z is prioritizing sustainability more than previous generations?
NO & CN: Gen Z has made sustainability—among other social equity values—paramount in a way that previous generations have not. We want transparency, we want diversity and inclusion, we want human rights considerations, and we want innovative environmental policies. There’s no question in my mind that in order to keep growing sales, companies must address these issues as well.
YPulse: What are some trends in the health and sustainable food movement do you expect to see in the future?
NO & CN: Current trends in the health and sustainable food industry include transparency to food sourcing, plant-based foods, immune boosting ingredients, and influencer activations. More than ever, consumers are demanding value alignment, and particularly sustainable practices, from companies—this means specific and transparent actions, for example a plan to reduce or offset emissions.
YPulse: As Gen Z founders, how are you reaching Gen Z consumers?
NO & CN: As you’ve mentioned, we are Gen Z founders, and this definitely comes through in our branding. We know people want to feel they’re part of a community, and we know people buy based on values. While Gen Z consumers are constantly blasted with advertisements for the latest and greatest invention, our marketing focuses instead on establishing a connection with consumers through dialogue, memes, and candid videos. Sales will come as people continue to identify with our brand and our mission, so our emphasis is on community-building.
YPulse: What’s next for Impact Snacks?
NO & CN: We’re coming out with a load of fantastic snacks—sweet, savory and much more—that are poised to be even more delicious and nutritious than our last. Although we are not yet formally announcing our next line of snacks, we can say that we are exploring a lot of exciting concepts such as deep sea minerals, algae protein, matcha and tea-infused, and even CBD. More than snacks though, we are aiming to lead the charge into revolutionized corporate sustainability and transparency. We are aiming to become a beacon in consumer activism so businesses can closely follow suit.
Nick Oliveri and Corey Nobile are the founders of Impact Snacks, a sustainable food brand making everyday snacking sustainable. Nick and Corey grew up together just outside of Boston, MA, and have scaled numerous businesses together over the years spanning various industries. They attended Bryant University for college where they dove deep into the first phase of Impact Snacks, making protein powder in their kitchen together out of just five organic ingredients.
Nick and Corey believe that their love for healthy and tasty snacking shouldn’t need to contribute to the petroleum-based plastic crisis, nor does it need to harm animals. The business’ climate action approach reclaims the carbon footprint of each of Impact Snacks customers, with the goal of creating a “better-than-carbon-neutral” collective. They do this by financing the development of solar farms in rural and/or impoverished areas, creating a lasting impact on communities across the nation—all of this empowered by every consumer purchase of their tasty superfood snacks.