Indie Bay was founded by entrepreneur Dafna Ciechanover Bonas in 2016. As both a Trustee of Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation and a mother of three, Dafna believes we shouldn’t have to compromise on snacks, so she set out on her mission to change snacking habits and to offer happier and healthier options for people who care about what they put in their body, and care about what it tastes like too.

Dafna Ciechanover Bonas

Dafna Ciechanover Bonas

Why were you frustrated by the snacks available for you and your family?

There are so many snacks out there that we’ve all indulged in – delicious crisps and sugar-coated popcorn or highly processed puffs and hoops with ingredients we can barely pronounce – but we know they’re not good for us…we know we shouldn’t.  On the other end of the spectrum, there has been tremendous innovation around hyper-healthy clean products that don’t quite satisfy in the same way. Intellectually, they make us feel virtuous but emotionally and physically, they do not satiate the craving. My family and I were forever caught between the two extremes, frustrated between the snacks I didn’t feel right stocking in our snack drawer and the ones I thought we “should” all eat but ended up collecting dust in the kitchen. More people are snacking more often than ever before, yet awareness of what constitutes healthy choices and desire to do better for ourselves and our families has also increased. Ultimately, I knew the snack shelf had to change and I was determined to lead that evolution. By introducing the first and only delicious, all-natural pretzels with spelt and all natural vegan flavours like BBQ, Sour Cream and Onion and Superseeds, we made it easier for snackers to choose better…and I finally had great snacks we all agreed on to take to the office or put in the kids’ lunch boxes!

Please tell us about how your time living in California inspired your snack branding. What makes it such a positive place to be?

I was lucky enough to live in California twice, both for university in the north and then for work in Los Angeles. I loved every minute I spent out there, to be honest.  Like most people, I crave sunshine – it must be the vitamin D – and find my mood and energy fundamentally improve with the weather. I enjoyed the outdoor sporty lifestyle, the focus on healthy eating and the natural outgoing positivity of most people I met. I’ve tried to learn from that and bring it in to the company and brand we’re building. The light in California has a big influence on the perspective and lifestyle. I think of California as the home of both healthier habits and tremendous innovation. In life and at Indie Bay, we’ve tried to adopt that attitude of investing great energy, kindness and creativity into the things and people we care about. I really believe that you get out what you put into something, and this mantra is rooted in the California experience and approach to life.

Pretzels often get a bad press for being junk food- so how are you breaking this misconception?

Indie Bay pretzels are actually the opposite of junk food, the perfect alternative to crisps. Pretzels have been ignored for too long and have been in sore need of innovation. The most important step in breaking the misconception is in getting people to taste Indie Bay - we will get samples in the hands of nearly a million people this year alone. First and foremost, they’re delicious. The reality is that the rest doesn’t really matter if you don’t get that part right. They have to be delicious. Our repurchase rate is extremely high because people love the flavours when they taste them. Once you cross that hurdle, the other benefits become more relevant. Our “snacks with benefits” are baked, never fried, so they are intrinsically better for you than most things out there. We’ve gone further by using spelt in our dough, packing them with natural plant-based protein and fibre with no need for additives or preservatives. 

You are a mother of three, so how did you juggle being a mum and setting up a new business?

Yes I have three teenagers, two dogs and a husband who travels for work even more than I do. I won’t lie – it is really difficult to juggle it all. In fact, I think too many of us gloss over how challenging this is and create a false narrative around having it all. The “superwoman” title is actually a curse, setting unrealistic expectations. The reality is very different. I try to run Indie Bay in the same way I try to run my life – with gratitude, empathy, and faith that with hard, committed work and in collaboration with the best people around, you can make anything happen. I do think you can have it all, just not at the same time. I try to model for my children a household where we all help one another, we support one another’s efforts even when those mean phases where we’re focused on things other than one another, we listen to one another and ourselves, and we invest in what matters to us, including our health, our family, our friends, our community and our business and school goals.

Why did you want to make the snacks vegan friendly?

My goal is to make snacks that are clean and better for you, nourishing your body and your spirit. By making best-in-class pretzels from all natural flavours, our products can also be enjoyed by those who follow vegan diets. They are kinder to our bodies and kinder to the planet. There is a misconception that all vegan foods are healthy – some are, but some are full of chemicals, fats, sugars and salt to make them taste like something they are not. At Indie Bay, we focus on the best spelt and natural flavours we can, avoiding animal products wherever possible to ensure everyone can enjoy them and make better snacking choices for themselves and their families.

Why is food waste something you are passionate about reducing?

The fact that we waste so much food in the West is a travesty. According to Olio, a phenomenal female-founded and led food-sharing business, a third of all food produced globally is thrown away. In fact, we use an area of land the size of China to grow food that is never eaten, wasting the water and energy that has gone into growing it too. Everyone at Indie Bay is determined to be part of the solution rather than the problem, working to not only produce and ship efficiently, but also to ensure the food we make is used, sold, distributed and enjoyed. We partner with programs like City Harvest and Fair Share to help make that happen, but everyone should use Olio to reduce food waste at home too. It’s remarkably easy and effective.

You recently launched across all Virgin Atlantic flights- why are they the perfect snack for when you are up in the air?

Offering our pretzels on Virgin Atlantic is really a dream come true for me. When you’re in the air, it is important to do all you can to ensure the journey is as easy as can be for your body. While we all want to enjoy good food and films up in the sky, we want to make sure we eat food that is low fat and sugar, clean and will help our body function and adapt – especially if the journey is a long one and we face jetlag ahead. By using ancient grains and clean, plant-based ingredients, we ensure travellers get nutrients that will help them perform at their best.

I have to add that it is more than just being offered in the air that I’m so thrilled about – it is partnering with Virgin Atlantic specifically that makes this so special for us. Virgin Atlantic work to be the nation’s most loved airline and share our values perfectly. They aim to bring joy to the journey, making every step as special as it can be. That’s what we are all about – sunshine in a bag!

You have massive growth in 2021 despite the pandemic, so why do you think your sales grew rather than dropped during this time?

The incredible team have worked hard to understand retailer and consumer needs over the pandemic. Three things we did yielded the most important results. First, we pivoted quickly to ensure our product supply was not interrupted. We worked close with all suppliers and found the community incredibly collaborative.  Second, our sales team spoke to retailers to ensure that snacks were available where consumers wanted to shop – online, through snack boxes to the home, in stores when consumers did venture out, and through specialist platforms like Might Small and Muscle Foods. Last but not least, consumers were more aware of health, particularly as Covid – 19 was worse for those obese or who suffered from ailments that made them vulnerable. Beyond the ancient grains and fibre we deliver, our savoury snacks are only about 100 calories or less per portion, with little fat and added sugar. Consumers focused on healthier choices and we were there to help.

What is next for you and the brand?

Growth is driven by our customers – what they need as they snack, when they need it.  For us that means making our pretzels available in more international markets, in more formats and across more UK supermarkets. Snackers need to find our better for you snacks easily and we’re on a mission to make that happen.

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