Field Trip to Sahale Snacks

Noshing over a cheeseboard, I struck up conversation with the man next to me. "Hello" was quickly followed by, "So what do you do?" His answer was succinct. "I work at Sahale Snacks." I quickly proclaimed my love for Sahale Snacks, my secret weapon for entertaining on the fly. (Their nuts, a wedge or two of cheese, a loaf of bread and voila! Party ready.)

At this point, I discover he's one of the Sahale Snacks founders and we launch deep into conversation.

Truth be told, I've had my sights set on Sahale Snacks from the early days. Their modern day success story goes like this: two media guys form a friendship and discover a mutual love of climbing. The problem? Nourishing and delicious food for the trail is tough to find. Raise your criteria with a desire for organic, all natural, AND delicious? The solution is...make it yourself.

Descending from a climb on Mount Rainier, a plan began to take shape. Once on terra firma, the two took to the kitchen and played mad scientist, whipping up a myriad of flavor combinations. Riffling through the cabinets, co-founder Josh Schroeter admits, "My wife thought I was crazy!"

The pair continued to work out recipe formulations, and brought in an outside consultant for some refinement. Eventually, they had a retail ready product and scheduled a demo at a local market. They quickly sold out and as Josh tells it, "I called Edmond and said, 'We've got something here.' "

That was in 2003.

By 2007, Sahale Snacks was sold in over 4,000 locations...and continued growing. Today they're in over 9,000 Starbucks, hundreds of Costcos, and nearly 300 Whole Foods across the US and Canada.

Earlier this week, I joined Sahale Snack founders Edmond Sanctis and Josh Schroeter for a tour of their manufacturing facilities. While they're not open to the public, they've given me permission to write about it.

Come along with me....

Home of Sahale Snacks, located in a non-descript warehouse south of Seattle.

The original line up:

Sing Buri
cashews, pineapple, peanuts, lemongrass and Chinese chili

pistachios, sesame seeds, pepitas, fig and Moroccan Harissa

almonds, apple, flax seed, date, balsamic vinegar and red pepper

pecans, sweet cranberries, black pepper, and orange zest

In the boardroom with Sahale co-founder Edmond Sanctis. In the foreground...biscotti crisps, a new product fresh on the market (see the bag on the right? Mock up label, which is actually a giant sticker on the face of the bag. Final design is the bag on the left. Differences are subtle, but most notably is the text across the top--option 1: above the recloseable seal, option 2: text below the seal.)

Another newly launched product: Tuscan Almonds, flavored with grated parmesan, sun-dried tomato, basil, oregano, and thyme. (One of my favorites.)

Food safety: We grab lab coats, hair nets and wash our hands before entering the manufacturing plant. Like a medical facility, no touching the sink faucets. To start the water, we lean into stainless steel pedals mounted on the side of the sink. (I forgot to wear my hair up. Stuffing my long hair into a hairnet was comical!)

Hand sorting cashews, looking for defects.

On our visit, the entire production was dedicated to Sahale's Cashews with Pomegranate + Vanilla. Pictured here is the spice blend. Behind me is a large walk-in style oven and to the right, a large vat of glaze rests on the stovetop. Once the nuts are roasted, they'll be tossed with the glaze, then the spice mix.

Cashews, hot out of the oven. This entire cart is wheeled into the oven. I'm told the rack, hot out of the oven, continues to hold heat. To speed the cooling process, the sheet pans are transferred to a different rack.

For an intense pomegranate flavor, Sahale makes a minced pate de fruit.

50 pound bags of Brazilian cashews, vacuum-packed.

The finished product is loaded into a hopper. Next up: packaging. Notice the size of the holes? While clusters of nuts are desirable, large clumps are not. The size of the hole ensures large clusters are broken down before packaging. (Side note: the large sheet pans are lined with Silpats. While that's an expensive choice for a non-stick surface, they've found nothing works better.)

Packaging styles vary. This is a wrap set up.

Behind: sheets of packaging on the roller. In the foreground: a finished "wrap-style" package.

This batch is going to Canada. Notice the label in French and English?

In process: a larger packaging style with a recloseable seal at the top. Here, product is loaded from above. "We used to package these by hand!"

Coming to a store near you!

The warehouse is massive. Supplies are here. Behind me is the finished product, ready for shipment.

Giant bags of peanuts. Pictured here is Eric Rivera from (Notice the attractive hot pink "visitors" badge.)

Sahale Snacks founders, Josh Schroeter (left) and Edmond Sanctis (right.)

Outer perimeter: Core ingredients for Cashews with Pomegranate + Vanilla. Bottom right to top left: spice blend, pomegranate bits, raw cashews, roasted cashews, finished product. Center: ground Madagascar vanilla beans (no artificial "vanilla essence" here).

Above and to the right: Tuscan Almonds and herbs (basil, oregano, and thyme). To maximize herb flavor, they use flash-frozen herbs. Tossed with the glaze and spices, the herbs dry in the roasting process, locking in that bold fresh herb flavor.

Back in the boardroom, we sample the new line of Tuscan Almonds, Barbeque Almonds, and Southwest Cashews. While much thought is given to the nut flavors, Edmond and Josh discovered they pair best with beer. Redhook's new summer brew, "Rope Swing" was perfect.