Monday, October 31, 2011

An Open Letter to Hawkins Cheezies

Dear Mr. Hawkins

Today is Halloween, and I am giving out nothing but Cheezies.

This is not due to any obsession with your product. It is the best of its category, sure, but there are other reasons to give it out.

First of all, I am from Kingston. You are from Belleville. I now live in Ottawa. And your product gives me the opportunity to contribute to a regional family-owned business. My family and I buy local food as much as possible — Ontario wines, and local cheese, meat and produce. So the opportunity to make even our rare junk food purchases (sorry) locavorous is one we appreciate.

Second, I'm having more and more of a problem with chocolate these days. A child labour problem. So much of the cheap chocolate that will be given out tonight to excited children was illegally harvested by children their own age in Ghana and Ivory Coast. These kids are exposed to dangerous working conditions, climbing trees with machetes to harvest pods, and few of them go to school. Many are trafficked from neighbouring countries as slave labour. It's really sad.

That's why my wife and I have tried to move towards Fairtrade chocolate from another regional company, Camino. But that stuff is a little expensive for Halloween giveaways.

Your product, on the other hand, is very affordable. I just wish it had not been so hard to find. But I know how the companies of "Big Chips" dominate shelf space with money and pressure. My sharp-eyed son managed to find two 24-packs of 28g bags of Cheezies stuffed into a bottom shelf at the Halloween display in an Ottawa Wal-Mart. (We had to buy the rest in much more expensive 8-count bags from Metro.)

Part of my Hawkins horde.
I was surprised how few Hawkins Cheezies I could find in local retail. Everyone seems to agree that yours are the best. Humpty Dumpty's cheese things and Cheetos both have long and scary ingredients lists, compared to yours — including MSG. People like your crunch better, too, and the fact that the orange stuff is not quite so stainingly neon.

I would have expected that Halloween was the perfect time to mount a strong regional campaign, touting your provenance and your goodness, to encourage parents around Ontario to act as brand ambassadors to hand out Cheezies samples at their doors. But I saw nothing.

You have a good product, but I'm afraid that your marketing is a little old fashioned. Why can't I find this beloved Canadian brand on Facebook? Where would I hear your great story, if I had not bothered to Google you? You need help.

And it's not just the "promotional" P of marketing that you need to work on. While the product tastes great, I note that you are a hold-out for still using hydrogenated vegetable oil. My son doesn't eat enough Cheezies to make the small amount of trans fats a health issue, but your competitors have already made the switch to better oils. You need to do that, ASAP. The war on trans fats is not going away.

The other thing you could do is make sure your product fully lives up to its local, wholesome, made-in-Canada heritage. If you're using Canadian corn, you should proudly say so. People like that. And while I don't expect you to go organic, as a family-owned company you could become a very popular champion of smaller, family-owned farms that use non-GMO corn. This would also be a great thing to add to your story. Finally, using real aged cheddar is part of your Canadian charm. Is the cheese made regionally, or provincially? This could also be a great story to tell.

And then there's the peanut thing. Humpty Dumpty got their cheese sticks certified peanut free. I'm sure you could, too.

Your product will never be health food. But it is a "feel-good" food. Wouldn't it be great if you were able to out-maneuver your larger competition in Canada by being the cheese-flavoured snack with more to feel good about?

This is a conversation I'd like to have. So if you're in the neighbourhood tonight, please drop by for some Cheezies.


  1. one thing i look forward to on my trips to the great white north :-) is all the different snacks - aero bars, coffee crisp, maple leaf cookies, cream soda...


  2. They listened!!!

  3. if they listened they would have taken care of the hydrogenated vegetable oil issue, I also wrote them an email mentioning that I enjoy their product but don't like being posioned by hydrogenated oils... their reply contained comments along the lines of, "we have to ensure the product taste stays consistent", I doubt the original product back in the 50's had hydrogenated oil in it. Time to start caring about the consumer's health and not the extra .02 cents you're saving on each cheezie.


    1. The whole hydrogenated vegetable oil argument is nonsense. Cholesterol is a genetic issue. The only reason the government/drug complex has found it to be harmful is because they spoon it into mice with a putty knife.

      Cheezies are awesome! There is no equal, to tip over to a Bloomberg-like war cry about how unhealthy it is is unacceptable.

      Every time my friends from Canada come to visit they bring some with them and I'm grateful! Sham

  4. I get the same runaround and same canned response. This company is truly unethical. They will never ever "listen". I wonder what else they produce that keeps their empire alive?

  5. What bothers me these days about Cheezies (& I've eaten them for years)
    is the GMO corn in them as well as the preservatives and food-dyes.
    A shame the product is so full of these kinds of additives.
    So I no longer can eat Cheezies due to allergic reactions to the 'garbage' in them.

  6. This article was written by ownership at Hawkins. Sales are down because Cheezies are FULL of Trans Fats that clog your arteries with their "tasty goodness."