Toronto man leaves job to launch food startup that's been selling out
A Toronto strategist left his job working for some of the world's biggest global brands to launch his own company, and it's been a sell-out success.
Joseph Chen first got the inspiration for his new snack company Joey Nordic Seed Crisps because of a trip to Sweden, but he's always been fascinated by Swedish culture. He also wanted to create something his gluten-intolerant partner could enjoy.
"I have always had an affinity and appreciation for Nordic design and food philosophy," Chen tells blogTO.
"I also follow Swedish chefs like Magnus Nilsson who ran the famous restaurant, now-closed Faviken, featured in the Netflix documentary series Chef's Table, and Rachel Khoo who had a cooking show called My Swedish Kitchen and a cookbook by the same name. When I went to Sweden in 2019, everything came together for me."
It was there that he discovered Swedish crispbread, which is wheat-based, thick in texture, and crunchy. He decided he wanted to recreate an even crispier gluten-free version with lots of healthy seeds.
Though Chen started out making his crisps back then in 2019, it wasn't until August 2022 that he made it into a business. He used to work full-time as a consumer insight strategist at Mondelez International (the maker of Oreo, Ritz, Cadbury, and Toblerone) but quit in October 2021 to start his own consumer insight consultancy business.
"My partner Rob and my friend David really encouraged me to follow my dream over a Friday night dinner," says Chen. "I literally resigned the following Monday after some peer pressure."
Due to spending more time at home baking, by January 2022 Chen decided he wanted to try to make a go of it, and was at Picton Farmers Market as well as the Wellington Farmers Market by summer where they started selling out weekend after weekend.
By fall, the business was already expanding, with Chen looping in his brother and parents to help out. Now, Joey Nordic Seed Crisps are available at Sweet Potato, Summerhill Market, Fiesta Farms, Big Carrot, Coco Market, Mercantile, Sanagan's Meat Locker and Cumbrae's.
You can find the crisps at these stores as well as online, where they sell for $9.99 a bag, in three flavours: rosemary and black pepper, saffron and pink salt, and truffle.
The recipe was tweaked and perfected over three years, and the crisps contain seven organic "super seeds:" pumpkin, flax, hemp, chia, sunflower, watermelon and sesame.
"I didn't realize the power of relationships and connections in the industry until I left my corporate job. I also value time more now than ever before. I realized how important time is as there is only so much in a day to get things done so I really learn how I should prioritize my day," says Chen.
"Changing careers allowed me to be a better person. As I am pursuing my dream career being an entrepreneur, I become more empathetic with a greater appreciation for different perspectives and expertise as I realized I don't know much. I have a true appreciation for what everyone does."
Chen plans to continue to scale up Joey Nordic Seed Crisps to be able to supply even more retail partners in Ontario and eventually the rest of the country.
Joey Nordic Seed Crisps
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