Tasty, Nut-Free Snacks for Allergic Kids and Their Friends, Too

Small Business Spotlight: Skeeter Snacks

Who: Dave Leyrer

What: A nut-free snack line for kids

When: 2012

Where: Westport, CT

How: Co-founder Dave Leyrer says that he and his partner Pete Najarian are old friends who bonded over their kids’ shared peanut allergies. “We were frustrated consumers, in that despite the peanut allergy epidemic – which has grown by 400% since 1997 – there were no great snacks,” Leyrer says. “You become a label expert, but there was still a need for a brand with clean, clear, overt labeling and a mainstream taste profile.”

Leyrer and Najarian put in half a million dollars themselves, and raised $1.5 million from friends, family and angel investors. “The adoption has been tremendous – we’re very close to profitable,” says Leyrer.

Biggest challenge: Leyrer says that creating awareness is the biggest challenge: “Unlike online offerings, where ideas can go viral, people actually need to taste Skeeter Snacks.”

One moment in time: “We’re proud that the non-allergic kids love it as well. We hear parents say that their older kid lies that they are allergic, so they can eat them!”

Best business advice: Leyrer says that research is key. “Even when you are the customer, that’s not enough. We hired a brilliant woman from Stanford Business School who did a very deep dive into the industry,” says Leyrer.

Most influential book: “’The Experience Economy,’ which is about how people communicate so quickly now that you can’t afford to do trial and error anymore, or BS people with marketing,” says Leyrer, pointing to the book by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore.

Quote from the owner: “We really wanted to avoid making something that allergic kids would bring in a separate bag that would feel medicinal.”