It’s always amazing to discover great new (vegan) snacks. All the best ones seem to originate from the US. But not Nakd or Trek – these are the brand names of a bunch of delicious products that have burst straight out of Wales. The company behind the products (which range from crunchy flapjacks to chewy fruit and nut bars to flavoured raisins) is Natural Balance Foods – and the man that founded Natural Balance Foods is Jamie Combs. We got in touch with Jamie to find out how he came up with the idea for such healthy yet tasty snacks, how he’s managed to get them into not just independent health stores but large supermarkets too, we find out more about how they’ve promoted worthy charitable organisations and even worked with the British Athletic Commission – and what he’s learned about himself, and other people, in the process.






Shari Black Velvet: The company has only been around since 2005. Have you been happy with the growth in that time?
Jamie Combs: I’m delighted and excited with our rapid success and the explosion of the entire Wholefood movement. I think it reflects a broader evolution toward more holistic thinking that more and more people are experiencing in regards to their relationship with their environments, bodies and minds. It is increasingly dawning on the great mass of people that they are a part of nature and grow out of this world like everything else.  They come to realise health and happiness are by-products of aligning with the nature. With the rise of this understanding comes a whole spectrum of social changes, one of which is replacing heavily processed foods with more raw, wholefoods and a focus on a more vegetarian, eco-friendly diet. We’re very happy and proud to be helping to lead the vegan, wholefood side of this bigger holistic shift. 

SBV: You produce Nakd and Trek bars. Prior to these what experience did you have within the food production industry? 
JC: I had only two real bits of experience in the food industry when I started the company. I had worked in the marketing department of Baskin Robbins Ice Cream where I learned how the big guys do it – for better or worse. Later as a business turnaround consultant, I helped food companies in Ukraine and Moldova get back on their feet to compete with the big multi-national brands that were taking over everything at the time. I really came to believe that all companies have an obligation to be part of society’s solutions. That’s why we promote vegan wholefoods and are vocal about issues we care about, like animals rights, personal responsibility, etc. It seems like more companies are coming around to that point of view, which is a good thing.

SBV: One of your aims is to get people healthy – which is why the Nakd range is raw, 100% vegan, with no added sugar or anything artificial. How hard is it for people to change from unhealthy eating habits to a healthier way of life?
JC: I find lifelong health begins in the mind with a big-picture shift of perspective and the simple realisation that the easiest, fastest, cheapest, simplest, most effective way to get healthier, lose weight, feel good, save animals and help the planet is to simply start replacing over-processed foods with wholefood alternatives. The less messed with and the closer to nature your food is the better off we’ll all be. When people adopt a bias toward wholefood and away from processed food they are often surprised how big a positive impact that has on their entire lives. When that way of looking at things becomes part of your identity it becomes easy, and eating too much processed food starts to feel foolish and hypocritical. It’s like becoming a vegetarian or vegan, you first start looking at food from an animal-cruelty perspective and then it becomes part of who you are.

SBV: A lot of people think that if you’re vegan you can’t be getting enough protein – yet your Trek bars have 11g of protein per bar. Do you think that your bars are the answer to anyone worried that they may not get enough protein?
JC: They are certainly one of the answers and many people (myself included!) swear by our Trek bars as a reliable source of quality, vegan protein.  As you know, there are a lot of ‘junk food’ vegetarians and vegans out there who mean well but aren’t particularly healthy or energetic.  We passionately believe a balanced wholefood-based diet is the best route to getting all the nutrients the body needs.

SBV: How and where do the bars themselves actually get produced?
JC: We make Nakd and Trek bars up in Wales where we literally take simple, natural and mostly raw ingredients and smoosh them together, wrap ‘em and ship ‘em. They literally couldn’t be any more natural or simpler. Most cereal bars on the other hand, are smothered in sugary syrups and additives and then processed at high temperatures. In the same way there is a big difference between a Fanta and freshly squeezed orange juice, there is a big difference between Nakd and Trek bars and most hyper-processed cereal bars.

SBV: The flavoured raisins are particularly great. How did you come up with the idea for flavoured raisins?
JC: We like to imagine what Willy Wonka would make if he was as into wholefoods as we are.  Getting kids hooked on health at a young age is important if we are going to avoid the health and obesity disaster that America is facing at the moment. Nothing gets us more excited than discovering some surprisingly tasty wholefood treat. You can imagine how thrilled we were when we tasted our first cherry raisin and realized we could make them without adding any rubbish or intense heat processing.

SBV: How did you start getting the products into stores and how was the leap from independent stores to supermarkets? Is it true that some supermarkets charge companies to have their products on sale in their stores?
JC: Persistence, conviction and a relentlessly cheerful, helpful attitude. Most buyers didn’t know what to make of me when I would call. Eventually, they would meet with me out of curiosity if nothing else. Once we have a chance to make our case, and get someone to sample Nakd and Trek products, we nearly always make a fan and a friend. Our products have the advantage of being genuinely better than our competitors and the case for a growing market for wholefood alternatives is undeniable when you look at all the data. As time went on, we were so successful in independents that the supermarkets had to give us a look.  Dealing with the supermarkets is more impersonal than working with the independents but allows us to get our wholefood message to a much larger audience, which is satisfying in a different way. Yes, some stores charge listing fees and have various promotional/marketing requirements. It’s challenging for young ethically-driven, health-minded companies like ours to go head-to-head with the massive multi-national brands. The fact that we’re doing it successfully is down to a number of factors, not the least of which is that customers are wising up to the reality that processed foods don’t promote health. Wholefoods do.

SBV: What do you think of the choice of food in supermarkets? Do you think there should be more vegan products in them? A lot of people don’t seem to know that half of the vegan food that exists DOES exist. Do you think that’s because supermarkets don’t support enough of these products?
JC: It’s a funny one. I think veganism is set to grow but needs to reposition itself with mainstream consumers. Veganism has been allowed to be sidelined as somehow ‘extreme’ because it’s been identified as an identity, and a person is either in or out. That works great for people who are passionate about the ethical side of veganism and has served to build a very strong, energised activist community. However, to really go the next step and really grow the lifestyle among mainstream consumers, I think the vegan movement needs to not force people into a lifetime identity choice (either they are nice vegans or bad meat eaters), but rather get them to see veganism as a behavioural choice they have at every meal. I think the next step is getting people to acknowledge that eating more vegan meals is a good thing. They will soon naturally discover how many good options they have and how much better they look and feel. Meat-free Mondays, Fruity Fridays, these kind of things are steps in the right direction. Vegetarianism and veganism will really take off when the next generation intuitively feels that meat is not just cruel but also kinda gross, not really good for and bad for the planet. That message is getting through more and more. As that idea spreads, supermarkets will reflect it.

SBV: Natural Balance Foods are a supplier to the British Athletic Commission. How did that happen and what did it involve?
JC: Among the first people to recognize that wholefoods are better than processed foods are athletes, coaches and nutritionists. They simply want the best stuff available. Nakd and Trek are that, so they found us pretty quickly. Part of the reason we’re so confident about the future is that the best-informed, most educated people in society universally agree about the superiority of a wholefood-based diet. It’s simply a matter of education and time. Getting high profile groups like the British Athletic Commission on board, who represent the UK’s most elite athletes, is a big step in the right direction for the wholefood cause.

SBV: You’ve partnered with various charities. Which in particular have been the most rewarding or inspiring to work with?
JC: We’ve worked with Animal Aid from day one and I can’t speak highly enough about them.  My mother is a wildlife rehabilitator, so I grew up surrounded by wounded owls, squirrels, birds… you name it. That had big impact on me and I have great admiration for people who dedicate their energies toward compassionate causes and feel an obligation to help. Every charity we work with is filled with great people. For me, championing a good cause is by far the most rewarding part of what I do.

SBV: What have you learned about other people – and yourself – while working on Natural Balance Foods? What did you discover that you didn’t realise previously?
JC: I have learned and evolved so much since starting this business it has surprised me. I have learned that we live simultaneously in two worlds, our inner-world of thoughts, feelings and ideas and the outer-world of people, places and events. Creating change starts in your inner-world and works its way outward. Additionally, I’ve really come to realise, in a deeply moving way, that we grow out this world in exactly the same way an apple tree grows out of this world and that happiness and fulfilment are found by aligning yourself with nature. Lastly, I have learned that human nature is basically good and people are doing the best they can with the resources they have available. It’s a funny thing, life.

SBV: How have you coped during the recession? Did that affect you at all?
JC: We’ve been booming and doubled in size over the last year.  I think the bigger, long-term trends in our direction have out-weighed the recent downturn. Plus, one of the secrets people come to realise is that eating a wholefood diet is generally cheaper than buying all that processed food, which is nice.

SBV: Are you constantly working on new products? Would you ever consider moving into doing bigger, full meals for example, rather than just snacks? Or do you think you’ll stay as a ‘snack’ company?
JC:  We’re always playing with new ideas. We’ll consider any area where we think people are having a tough time getting tasty, affordable, vegan, wholefood alternatives. At the moment snacks is where we think we can have the biggest impact because there is so much misleading junk out there at the moment. 

SBV: What other ambitions do you have or hope to achieve?
JC: I’m passionate about helping empower people to create fulfilling lives. My next projects revolve around helping spread a more holistic worldview which I think is where society needs to head if we’re going to reach the clean, green, compassionate future we all want. I’ve partnered with other business leaders and activists to form the Holistic Future Network, an educational media organisation that will connect and promote holistic leaders, groups and ideas. It’s early days and very, very exciting. It is a supremely interesting time to be alive.


To find out more about Nakd, Trek and Natural Balance Foods in general, go to – You can order Nakd and Trek straight from the site to come to your doorstep and they sell sampler boxes and prezzie boxes too – all at very affordable prices. You can also find Nakd and Trek in supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsburys and  Morrisons as well as wholefood/health stores, online stores and… other stores! So go on… get nakd! And trek!





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