24 Jan Next: Young Entrepreneur Brittany Charlton
Bringing Inclusion to Snacking
When Brittany Charlton realized, at 18, that she had a peanut and treenut allergy, she didn’t want to be deprived of her favorite snacks. So the Toronto native came up with her own peanut-free recipes. A few years later, she decided to turn those and similar recipes into a business.
“When I was younger, I’d been allergic to dairy,” says Charlton, now 28. “At day care, my mom always made sure we had sherbet, so on ice cream day we were able to have something as well. You should feel included no matter what people are eating.”
It was that sentiment that inspired Charlton to launch Ohh! Foods in 2018. All of the products—which include apple pie, coconut brownie bites, and cookie dough—are vegan, gluten-free, and free of the top 10 allergens.
Getting the business up and running wasn’t easy. “To start a food brand successfully, you need at least 10K,” Charlton says. Having worked three jobs while in college, she had amassed some savings. She also found a few small grants and loans for the company.
Networking has been key to her success. In 2019, Charlton attended an event sponsored by WEConnect International, an organization for women entrepreneurs. There, she met a buyer from Walmart who loved Ohh! Foods’ products. That connection led to the mega chain distributing Ohh! Foods in Canada.
She also used LinkedIn strategically to keep contacts updated on products the company was developing. “I would go to events and people were like, ‘Hey, I saw your post on LinkedIn,’” she says. In some cases, the posts even led to business through distributors who determined that her product might be a fit for their customers.
Today, Ohh! Foods are sold in 1,800 locations in Canada. Charlton hopes to repeat that level of success when the company launches in the United States in 2023.
The best thing about expanding its customer base is being able to spread the idea of “inclusive snacking.” She says, “Our mission is just to make sure that we empower people to have snacks that they truly love.”