A Canadian Food History

Janis Thiessen (Author)

Snacks is a history of Canadian snack foods, the independent producers and workers who make them, and the consumers who can’t put them down.

Janis Thiessen profiles several iconic Canadian snack food companies, including Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies, and chocolatier Ganong. These companies have developed in distinctive ways, reflecting the unique stories of their founders and their intense connection to specific places.

These stories of salty or sweet confections also reveal a history that is at odds with popular notions of ‘junk food.’ Through extensive oral history and archival research, Thiessen uncovers the roots of our deep loyalties to different snack foods, what it means to be an independent snack food producer, and the often-quirky ways snacks have been created and marketed.

Clearly written, extensively illustrated, and lavish with detail about some of Canadians’ favorite snacks, this is a lively and entertaining look at food and labour history.


  • NOMINEE, McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, Manitoba Book Awards (2018)
  • NOMINEE, Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction, Manitoba Book Awards (2018)
  • NOMINEE, Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher, Manitoba Book Awards (2018)
  • NOMINEE, Manitoba Day Award for Best Publication, Association of Manitoba Archives (2018)


“A lively and entertaining look at our epicurian past.”

Canadian Living

“A wide-ranging and comprehensive dive into the deep end of snack food.”

Michael Melgaard, National Post

“Thiessen’s book is a lively and revelatory work of food history. It’s also an antidote to much of the moralistic writing on these so-called ‘junkfoods’ that have, until now, focused mostly on the health risks associated with snacks like chips, cheezies, chocolates and candies. Instead, Thiessen provides a compelling and unique study of not just snack food consumers but also the farmers, factory workers and business owners responsible for producing some of Canada’s most popular guilty pleasures.”

– Ian Mosby, author of Food Will Win the War

“Pizza and hamburgers and poke bowls and spicy tuna rolls are consumed everywhere; ketchup chips remain ours. Snacks are the id to supper’s ego. This is Thiessen’s starting point for Snacks: A Canadian Food History : an important part of our national identity can be found in our vending machines. And her version of that history aims to include the people who make, market, and munch on this vital Canadiana.”

– Benjamin Errett, The Walrus

“Highly informative, filled with nostalgia and amusement.’

– Ian Austen, New York Times

“Indulging in a snack, for many people, represents a rare moment of pleasure, to be enjoyed on breaks, nights off, and at gatherings with friends and family. Thiessen points out that snacks are a staple at celebrations and holidays, where they are shared between people who are making connections. Continuing to enjoy them represents a quiet insistence on indulging in pleasure, even faced with culinary narratives that stress hard work, family values and self-denial—the Protestant work ethic applied to food. In fact, choosing pleasure in an era in which culinary discourses are really discourses of virtue is practically an act of rebellion. Snackers of the world, unite!”

– Christine Sismondo, Literary Review of Canada

“An excellent oral history that delves into the nostalgic and wonderful world of favourite Canadian brands.”

Joel Ralph, Canada’s History

“Alternating between the viewpoint of the manufacturer, the consumer, and the researcher, Thiessen’s work provides a truly refreshing perspective on a vast and rich subject that has somehow managed to stay hidden in plain sight. It is also worth mentioning that, in addition to the author’s fun and accessible style, this book is truffled with old photos and images of product advertisements, thus making this read as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.”

Liza Bolen, Canadian Literature

“Now, if you cannot fathom how a book about the history of snack food might be fascinating, then I’m not going to try to win you over, but if Snacks already sounds intriguing to you, you won’t be sorry. “

Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

“In her new book, the whimsical and informative Snacks: A Canadian Food History , Thiessen delves into the stories behind the independent makers of some of Canada’s most beloved snacks in the hope that readers will develop a greater understanding of the role snack food companies have played in our nation’s history, and ideally, a new respect for those who produce—and those who enjoy—junk food.

Jessica Wong, NUVO Magazine

“If you are at all interested in food history or learning how things are made, you will enjoy this book. “

Cathy Walsh, Walsh Cooks

“A delightful history of snacks in Canada that merges food and labor history, considering the lives and perspectives of the workers and small independent companies themselves that produce some of Canadians favorite chips, chocolates, and candy.”

– Emily Contois, Goodreads

“An enjoyable salty-and-sweet read that is undeniably informative in many respects. Its key virtue is in opening a new field of enquiry that links culture and snacks.”

– Patrice Dutil, Ryerson University, Canadian Business History Association

About the Author

Janis Thiessen is an associate professor of History and Associate Director of the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg. Her favourite snack food is dill pickle potato chips.

Book Details

Purchase Online

Additional Content

Related Titles