Treasure Mills, a Canadian food manufacturer of bakery snacks, was founded in 2003 by entrepreneur, Robert Johnson. “Robert was a builder,” begins Kevin Shannon, Vice President of Sales and Strategy. “His vision and passion helped construct a team of disruptors to change the way customers think of the bakery by offering fresh, packaged baked snacks that are individually wrapped and allergen-sensitive. We’ve been trusted by families for over twenty years.”
What started as bread baking, turned into the idea of manufacturing fresh baked snacks that his kids could take to school. Robert became the first to make peanut-free snacks, while also focusing on eliminating dairy, which covered 75 percent of kids’ allergens. “While the business was allergen-sensitive,” Kevin highlights, “the focus was also to ensure all products were nutritionally balanced with the taste and textures that kids loved, and parents trusted. Through the support of his family, in 2009, School Safe was established as North America’s pioneer and leader in fresh, portable bakery snacks for kids,” he says.
School Safe can be found across Canada and the US. As North American customers demand healthier, school-safe products in the bakery section of their local store, the business continues to expand rapidly across all grocery channels. “School Safe snacks are commonly found in commercial and in-store bakeries. We are that one-stop snacking solution for parents looking for an individually wrapped, fresh baked snack for their kids. We prioritize taste and texture, which appeals to all kids and ensures nutrition is top of mind.”
Diving deeper into School Safe’s product portfolio, Kevin highlights that the brand consists of individually wrapped snack cakes with key trendy flavors like Birthday Cake and the top seller, Banana Chocolate Chip Bread. “Other products we manufacture feature our newest soft-baked Oat Buddies and Oat Bites, along with creamy dairy free cupcakes,” shares Kevin.
In addition to kid-safe snacks, the business is also passionate about caring for the environment and strives to lower its carbon footprint as much as possible. “Sustainability remains a top focus for us. Globally, just nine percent of plastic waste is recycled. In Canada, 82 percent of plastic is sent to landfill. We are contributing to reducing the amount of plastic waste to 100 percent-recyclable cardboard boxes. Additionally, this allows us to increase our branding and the messaging on our packaging and stand apart from all the
plastic containers commonly found in the bakery section of your local supermarket,” Kevin expresses.
He adds that the company has set a rigorous goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 30 percent in the next five years. “While this is a companywide initiative, we have appointed Branson Johnson as Climate and Sustainability Manager to hold us accountable to this target. Branson will be focused on reducing water consumption, alongside increasing energy efficiency, green infrastructure and zero food waste.”
Digressing from topics about the company, we then ask Kevin about his own career, and how he came to head up sales at Treasure Mills. He notes the journey was ‘a little unorthodox’. “My career started after graduating university. I joined a marketing agency that focused on building shopper marketing programs and understanding shopping behaviors, while launching several experiential marketing programs. From there, I joined a Tier 1 manufacturer in the health and wellness space in sales and transitioned quickly into managing some of our larger US and Canadian accounts. I then joined a natural and specialty food distributor to lead a sales team.
“Compared to others, I’ve done it all in a shorter period of time, but it has allowed me to use those skills to make an impact with the business. I haven’t been part of a company that has grown as quickly as Treasure Mills. I think this is owed to the fact that we don’t have a lot of competition, which means the sector is ours to pioneer,” he highlights.
With extensive expertise, Kevin has a clear roadmap to continue the business’ success. “We have plans to double our production facility in the next two years. Right now, the focus is on automation to control labor and maximize output. Secondly, innovation will continue to be a focus in driving our business forward.
“We don’t spend a lot of money on marketing, which is something that we are planning on totally revitalizing for 2024 to bring awareness to School Safe. We’re looking to expand into areas where we’re not that well-known. So, a real focus for us is growing our brand to help us increase our household penetration,” Kevin says.
“Finally,” he adds, “School Safe will continue its short-term goal of increasing its brand awareness and brand penetration throughout North America.” The company is keen to achieve this through partnering with strategic retailers that align with Treasure Mills’ core values and strategic vision of creating a destination for the School Safe brand within their stores, and, of course, according to Kevin, readers shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a few new products throughout the year.