We catch up with Zack, the founder of the utterly delicious and wonderfully healthy ape Snacks, the creators of the Crispy Coconut Curls hitting the health food market.
Zack, who it seems has always had a flair for entrepreneurship and a talent for sales ( he once sold a king size mars bar for £28…pretty impressive!) dropped out of university to start ape, and things have been non-stop ever since. You can find these creamy yet crispy snacks in Ocado, COOP, select Holland & Barrett stores, Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Morrisons, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason just to name a few.
Find out how Zack first got inspired to set up his own business and his key pieces of advice to others wanting to do the same…
Hi Zack! Please can you introduce yourself and your company?
Hey! I’m Zack Founder of ape (www.apesnacks.com). We make Crispy Coconut Curls as a genuinely delicious, but actually healthy, crisp or popcorn alternative!
Could you tell us a little about your background and how this has inspired Ape?
I’ve not done much before as I dropped out of university to start ape. I was on a program that allowed me to study two degrees – Fine Art and either Philosophy, English or Computer Science (I hadn’t decided!).
My mum inspired ape! We’ve always eaten according to the Paleo diet in my family and, the summer before I was supposed to go to uni, my mum took some coconut flakes, threw them in a pan with cinnamon and salt and toasted them up. They were seriously good. With some tweaking, I thought I could turn them into a product!
Have you always had an entrepreneurial streak?
Looking back, I used to sell collectibles (cards, comics, toys etc) in my primary school playground. When CDs started to get big amongst kids my age, I found a way to burn music and movies onto them (all very illegal I’m sure!) and I’d sell them to my peers with their favourite tunes. I also once sold a king size mars bar for £28! I’ve always been fascinated by business and, throughout high school, made all sorts of apps, websites etc with the intention of monetising them (some worked and some didn’t!).
What were you doing prior to starting Ape?
I spent a semester at Cornell University in America.
When did you first have the idea and what were your next steps? When my mum showed me her concoction! I did a bunch of research but was immediately whisked off to America to go and study! It was there that I really got into the science behind the way I’ve eaten and what actually happens when you eat all sorts of processed junk! I did some more in depth research and realised there was a serious gap in the global market for our proposition.
Could you tell us about some of your snacks and flavours? And some of the health benefits of coconut?
Sure. We’ve currently got 2 flavours – a Lightly Salted and Slightly Peppered. Each pack is less than 110 calories, has NO added sugar, is gluten, dairy, soy and wheat free, is high in fibre, is part of your 5 a day, is dried not fried, is 100% vegan and tastes absolutely scrumptions! Coconut is made up of medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT) which have something called Lauric Acid in the them. Lauric Acid has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Plus, coconut helps with the absorption of many minerals.
Where can we find these delicious snacks?
Lots of places! Ocado, COOP, select Holland & Barrett stores, Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Morrisons, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason and a range of leading independents
How did you first go about selling your products and approaching stockists?
Initially, I actually outsourced sales through a sales agent. Biggest mistake. We re-structured the business in January and brought everything in house. Since then, it’s been a matter of finding out or guessing buyer’s emails and perseverance!
Any advice to others setting up businesses and trying to sell their products?
Yes! Stay focused, keep pushing and ensure you have an edge.
The health food/snack industry is definitely a popular place to be right now. How do you make Ape stand out in this pretty crowded market?
We are truly one of a kind. No one else in the world makes Coconut Chips/Curls with no added sugar. No other product has the same creaminess as our Curls and we have incredibly competitive pricing. Healthy snacking currently falls short on mouth feel and texture. Popcorn gets stuck in your teeth for instance! The fact we have more fibre than popcorn but still crunch like a crisp seems to be loved by consumers. We also aim to work harder than anyone else!
What are your future plans for Ape?
New stockists, new products, new markets and building out the team.
Can you reveal any future flavours we might be seeing on the shelves soon?
Watch out for a bunch of NPD in the autumn
What do you like to do when you’re not woking on Ape?
Right now it’s pretty much a 24/7 deal. I’m currently writing this on a plane back from a business trip to Bangkok ,for instance (have no time for that lusted in-flight entertainment as need to catch up on emails!). When I get the time though, exercise, painting/drawing, making music etc. I’m a big fan of acting too but don’t have any time currently.
Do you have any other favourite foods?
Coconut Curls are pretty high up there. Curries are good! Big fan of Sashimi too. My mum also makes this delicious aubergine dish and a mean roast chicken.
If you hadn’t started Ape, what do you think you would be doing now instead?
I’d probably be in NYC doing something else other than going to university. Really not a big fan of institution as such so not sure what but most likely another start up of sorts.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt whilst building your own company?
Keep the energy and belief up
Surround yourself with talent