A Canadian Food History


Snacks is a history of Canadian snack foods, of the independent producers and workers who make them, and of 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 chocolate maker Ganong. These companies have developed in distinctive ways, reflecting the unique stories of their founders and their intense connection to specific locations.

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.


“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 ‘junk-foods’ 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

“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

“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

“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: 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

“In her new book, the whimsical and informative Snacks, 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

About the Author

Janis Thiessen is Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg, and the author of Snacks: A Canadian Food History (among other books). One of her favourite Manitoba foods is the cheese dog at VJ’s Drive-Inn.

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Old Dutch Potato Chips: A Canadian Company?
Ch. 2 The Changing Chip Industry: Potato Growers and Federated Fine Foods
Ch. 3 Corporate Mythology and Culinary Tourism: Hardbite and Covered Bridge Potato Chips
Ch. 4 Cheezies: A No Growth Model
Ch. 5 The “Romance” of Chocolate: Paulins, Moirs, and Ganong
Ch. 6 Candy Manufacturers: Surviving in an Anti-Sugar World
Ch. 7 Kids Bids Television: Advertising and Child Consumers