This isn't an apology for junk foods. It's an attempt to add another dimension to snack foods.
—Janis Thiessen, professor
Janis Thiessen makes no apologies for her love of junk food.
Salty snacks like Old Dutch dill pickle chips and Hawkins Cheezies are her treats of choice. "I'm all about the salt. If there was never another baked product in my house that would be fine."
But her adoration goes far beyond getting a junk-food fix, says the University of Winnipeg history professor. The snack food industry also provides a rich history of business, labour and consumerism in Canada that's worth exploring, she says.
Cheezies, Old Dutch chips and pink popcorn are part of Thiessen's study of the history of junk foods, the companies, the employees and the consumers that devour them. (Robin Summerfield)
And given that snack foods are second only to dinner in terms of meal consumption, according to the Canadian Snack Food Association, a closer look is needed, says Thiessen, who has embarked on a broad study of the industry, its employees and consumers.
"This isn't an apology for junk foods. It's an attempt to add another dimension to snack foods."
To that end, Thiessen, two, full-time grad students and four short-term student researchers will study snack-food companies across Canada, digging into their history, talking to owners, past and present employees, managers and the people who buy the treats, now and then. A search of newspaper articles, reports and trade journals will also shed light.
Winnipeg-based companies Old Dutch and Nutty Club are on her list as well as Canadian companies Hawkins Cheezies, Hard Bite Potato Chips, Purity, Robertson's Candy and Super Pufft, the makers of Pink Elephant Popcorn.
Thiessen is also on the hunt people who appeared on the circa '60s and '70s television game show Old Dutch Kids Bids, which ran on stations across Western Canada.
Her interest in the industry is an extension of previous research she's done into the history of Canadian manufacturing and Mennonite manufacturing practices in particular.
Thiessen hopes to publish a book about junk food at the completion of her two-year project.
To participate in Thiessen's study please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-786-994.