Martin and Blanka Ondrasek immigrated to Vancouver, Canada from Europe in 2006 with two teenage kids, four big suitcases, and no idea what the future held. Their passion for real, minimally processed foods found in nature led to the creation of Smartbite Snacks in 2007. This family run business has grown to include their two children Martina and Ras and features a range of products that are organic, vegan, gluten-free, and boosted with superfoods. We sat down with Martina to learn a little more about the company and why trees and sustainability matter to Smartbite Snacks.
How do trees and your relationship with TreeEra fit into Smartbite Snack’s mission?
Growing up, our family spent a great deal of time in our cottage surrounded by trees. With no electricity or running water, my brother and I had the opportunity and freedom to interact with wilderness from a very young age. We learned to respect and preserve the natural world as we were deeply connected to it.
Our parents taught us that if you are more fortunate than others you build a longer table, not a taller fence. That’s why giving back has been part of Smartbite Snacks’ mission since the company’s inception. We have had the opportunity to support and continue to support many wonderful organizations from food banks to female-led initiatives, most recently this has included TreeEra.
As climate change voices grew stronger in 2019, so did our desire to do something more. I believe it’s important to balance our consumption with restoration; everything we buy should also include a kickback to nature and what’s a better way to go about it than to plant trees? I first learned about TreeEra during one of the beach cleanups here in Vancouver. Smartbite Snacks was looking to support a Canadian startup that works to tackle climate change and after reading Michael’s honest and encouraging piece explaining why he started TreeEra, I wanted to be a part of it and bring Smartbite Snacks on board with me. For every five Smartbite products sold, we are going to plant one tree with TreeEra. We are also working on new, eco-friendly packaging that is plastic-free.
Tell us a little bit about Smartbite Snacks and how the company got started.
Smartbite Snacks is a family business located in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. All of us here at Smartbite are passionate about “better for you” snacks that are organic, gluten free, vegan and boosted with superfoods. Smartbite Snacks’ story started all the way back in 2007. A year prior to that, my parents Martin and Blanka immigrated to Vancouver, Canada from Europe.
Our family was very excited to start a new life in the Great White North but I was struggling to adapt at first. I missed my friends, my high school, our family and European food. I was constantly comparing our old, familiar and comfortable life in Europe to this brand new, and at times very difficult, reality. As a family that loves the outdoors more than anything, our occasional indoors activities always involved snacking on these natural thin and crispy rice squares that we regularly purchased back home and loved so much. My dad asked me to go grab some at a nearby grocery store. Fifteen grocery stores and three hours later, all I could find were thick rice wheels that came in three flavours: ketchup, salt and vinegar and butter. I grabbed all three and our family (as well as our taste buds) were not impressed. While I saw I used this as yet another reason why we should finally return back home, my parents saw this as a potential business idea and that’s how Smartbite Snacks was born.
It took me a bit to warm up to Canada but after spending 13 years here I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have a chance to live in such a beautiful and welcoming country and also to work for a company my amazing and loving parents started with zero contacts or experience.
Why is joining the fight against climate change important to Smartbite Snacks?
Climate change is everyone’s problem and we all have a part to play in contributing to the solution. Last year we temporarily closed our business to attend two climate strikes here in Vancouver. That experience was truly eye-opening. Through many hours of research and countless conversations with fellow strike attendees, we learned about the dire consequences global warming has caused so far. The climate apocalypse is happening now and it’s happening to all of us. We at Smartbite Snacks believe that we should not wait for the government to solve the issue because we the people are the solution and have the potential to create massive change. We believe that big change starts small and it starts with all of us.
What’s your favourite way to eat Smartbite Snacks?
Popcorn style!!! Let me explain. I love to make my own popcorn or rather I used to love making my own popcorn. I got so into it that I even purchased my own popcorn maker which I accidentally broke a week after the warranty expired. Shucks!!! One early Saturday morning, I got home from my friend’s birthday party and had nothing decent to eat. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I found Smartbite corn cakes with quinoa, Miyoko’s vegan butter #notsponsored and nooch (a fancy word for nutritional yeast). Lo and behold, 5 minutes later after crumbling corn cakes into my popcorn bowl, mixing them with melted nut-butter and sprinkling nooch on top, I found my perfect popcorn recipe. It’s genius. For me it’s always Netflix + Smartbite popcorn + chill
Are there any other organizations, big or small, that you feel are also doing a great job of making the environment a priority?
Last year I came across one particular organization I would love to mention because this company proves that seemingly small changes do add up to make a big collective impact. It’s called RAOG or Random Acts of Green. It’s a female-founded social enterprise that rewards its app users for participating in small, everyday tasks like recycling, eating more plants or carpooling, which help reduce our carbon footprint. So far 16,536 green acts helped save 44,385 kg of carbon saved. How amazing is that?
Do you have any suggestions for other businesses who are looking to take steps towards sustainability but aren’t sure?
Many business owners feel overwhelmed by green messaging because they have no idea where to start and I completely get that. They read about big companies such as Apple using green energy to power its manufacturing plants or Ikea using ocean-bound plastics to make products. Those are all wonderful examples, however, they take quite a bit of strategic planning, time to execute and other resources small businesses simply do not have. It’s important to know that you do not have to go big in order to bring about change. Are you a small business owner? Then start small.
For example, start by encouraging your employees to recycle. Make sure to make it easy for them to do. This one change can help you begin to establish a culture of sustainability. Go even further. Set recycling goals for your team and reward your employees for meeting them. Change the light bulbs in your office to LEDs, which use much less energy and last 10 to 20 times longer than halogen or incandescent light bulbs. Encourage biking to work among your employees and introduce Meatless Mondays.
Another great way to promote sustainability is to partner with environmentally progressive groups such as TreeEra in order to support environmental solutions.
Making responsible environmental choices could start at work, but it certainly shouldn’t end there. All of us are consumers too and we should also focus on becoming more conscientious consumers who value serious commitment to the environment.