The Next Chapter

The surprising story behind Canada's beloved Cheezies

Janis Thiessen is a historian whose book Snacks: A Canadian Food History tells the story of some of Canada's most beloved snack food.
Janis Thiessen is a University Of Winnipeg professor and author of Snacks: A Canadian Food History. (UW Communications)

Janis Thiessen explores the history of snacks in her book Snacks: A Canadian Food History. She dedicates a whole chapter to Hawkins Cheezies, exploring the production, popularity and origins of Hawkins and other Canadian snack food companies. This interview originally aired on Dec. 4, 2017. 

Progressively old-fashioned

"I was not a Cheezie lover until I toured the company and learned about their history. I saw how they operate and actually will now consume the product from time to time out of affection for their work process. Hawkins uses all of the original equipment in a plant within a small-town in Ontario, so you get every size and shape of Cheezie imaginable. It's a very tiny operation. They don't work Friday afternoon or weekends. Their evening shifts are only cleaning shifts and they do not advertise because they would have to increase production. There are other options out there, but the difference with the Cheezie is that the process of making them is not computerized."

Companies of all shapes and sizes

"When we think of snack foods, we automatically think of 'junk food' and multinationals like Frito-Lay. There are so many independent, family-owned, snack-making companies across Canada. Some of them are content to keep doing what they've been doing for decades. Even Old Dutch, which has certainly expanded over the years, moved to Winnipeg only because distributors asked for the company to start a new plant to keep up with demand." 

Janis Thiessen's comments have been edited and condensed.