Home Real stories The birth of bread chip: why say yes had to happen

The birth of bread chip: why say yes had to happen

Johan Bruinsma (Commercial Director Van der Meulen) was a successful sales director at PepsiCo and later at Hero for many years. “Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at those companies, but while I was there we began to realise that things needed to change in the way we produced and marketed chips and other kinds of snacks.”

So why the need for change? Aside from all the artificial colouring and flavouring, a key issue for Johan is how producers give their snacks that familiar ‘moreish’ quality that has you grazing through huge quantities of chips without ever feeling satisfied. Most traditional chips contain a lot of MSG, which gives chips that added umami taste that intensifies the savoury flavour of foods, but that some (though to be fair not all) experts believe also has addictive qualities.

From corporate man…

For many years, Johan Bruinsma was a successful sales director at PepsiCo and later at Hero. “Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at those companies, which are full of good people just doing their best. But while I was there we began to realise that things needed to change in the way we produced and marketed chips and other snack foods.”

So why the need for change? Aside from all the artificial colouring and flavouring, a key issue for Johan is how producers give their snacks that familiar ‘moreish’ quality that has you grazing through huge quantities of chips without ever feeling satisfied. Most traditional chips contain a lot of MSG, which gives chips that added umami taste that intensifies the savoury flavour of foods, but that some (though to be fair not all) experts believe also has addictive qualities.

Whether that’s true or not, Johan feels there’s something unnatural about the fact that with most potato chips, when you eat more you don’t feel less hungry. “When you eat a few Say Yes bread chips, you start to feel full, just like you would do with other normal food. That’s got to be healthier, if only in terms of obesity issues.”

Johan soon realized, however, that it would be difficult if not impossible for the big players in the industry to really change their ways. “First, the drivers will always be profit and volume. Moreover, managers are always answerable to more senior managers, who in turn are answerable to shareholders. In the end, the big decisions are made a long way from the consumer. No matter how committed your technical, sales or marketing people may be, they’re not in a position to challenge the basic principles behind why you’re trying to sell these chips. Not because they’re bad people, but because abstract economic drivers like volume and profit remain the basis of the business model. If you don’t follow them as a corporation, your business isn’t sustainable.”

…to family man

Fortunately for Johan, there are still companies around with other business models. And even more fortunately, in 2009 he got the chance to join one. “When I was offered the position of Commercial Director at Van der Meulen it wasn’t a difficult decision. It was a genuine family-owned business, which appealed to me. And it was near our home in Friesland in the rural north of the Netherlands, and commuting to work with a family with two young boys was becoming a real strain.”

Given his background, it wasn’t long before Johan saw a gap in the market that Van der Meulen might be able to fill. He knew from industry research there are six snacking moments in the average person’s day. “I thought, what if we can produce a natural bread product that people will eat at other snacking moments, like in the evening watching TV or with drinks, as an alternative to chips?”