CHARLOTTE, NC — SNAC International kicked off its SNAXPO21 convention inducting Barry Levin, chief executive officer, Snak King, City of Industry, Calif., into the Circle of Honor, which recognizes individuals who are committed to the growth and development of the snack industry as well as SNAC International.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to receive this award,” Mr. Levin said in a video detailing his career.
Mr. Levin grew up in his father and uncle’s distribution business. In 1978, his father and uncle purchased a pork rind company and renamed it Snak King. Mr. Levin took on the company at the age of 21 and, with 1,200 sq ft and a few employees, began to grow the business. In its first year, the company posted $6,000 in profit, compared to the $100,000 loss it experienced the year prior.
“At 21, I thought it would be very cool to run a company, though I did not know what pork rinds were, nor did I eat them,” he said.
Mr. Levin had much praise for SNAC International and its members in both the education it provides and the connections he has made in the industry. For example, it was at a SNAXPO convention where he met George Brown of Wyandot Snacks, who offered him advice on how to properly package popcorn as Snack King tried to expand beyond pork rinds.
“He offered graciously for me to call if I ever had any problems,” Mr. Levin said. “So I called him, and I walked him through our process, and he said ‘Barry, you’re packaging the product too quickly, and you’re trapping in the moisture, and the product is getting chewy.’ So we slowed down our process, and we had a great product. It was one of those moments where I knew I had to stay involved with SNAC International and increase my network that I could rely on and hopefully I could help them some day.”
Mr. Levin also reflected on how members, both suppliers and other snack manufacturers, supported the company as it endured a catastrophic roof collapse at its facility in the City of Industry in 2004.
“No one was hurt, but we were out of business,” he said. “There was no question: We had to rebuild.”
It took the company three years to do so, but Mr. Levin credited suppliers with helping to get Snak King back up and running as quickly as possible. And many of those suppliers were also members of SNAC International, at the time known as the Snack Food Association.
“Even though it could have put us out of business, we came out of the situation really strong and with one of the nicest plants in the country afterward,” said Joe Papiri, former chief customer officer at Snak King.
Many at Snak King credit Mr. Levin’s own passion for the industry, the company and its employees with Snak King’s success.
“Barry is really the snack king,” said Cindy Kuester, vice president of sales. “And I am so happy he is receiving this award. It’s people like Barry that really make things happen, create jobs and opportunities for people like me.”
Mr. Levin credits not only his team with Snak King’s success but also the willingness to try new things.
“I think because I didn’t have experience in the industry, it actually helped,” he reflected. “Were I to look at some of the things I did back then, I probably wouldn’t have done those things today, but the blind ignorance made me try it and the things we’ve tried helped us become who we are, and I think there is a bright road ahead of us, and I think the journey is a fun one.”
Mr. Levin thanked the association and its members, his team at Snak King and his family.
SNAXPO21 is being held in Charlotte, NC, from Aug. 23-24.