Let's Eat

Meet the Israeli businesswoman on a mission to make healthy snacks

Dafna Bonas has turned her expertise from tech to food


Dafna Bonas, is on a mission to reduce obesity. One snack at a time. Her weapon? Crunchy, protein packed, baked pretzel balls. 
“They’re based on Israeli bageleh ” says the St John’s Wood based, mother of three with an impressive business career under her belt. I wanted a snack that actually tasted good. All the so-called ‘healthy’ snack foods I tasted were either like dust or left you starving an hour or so later.” 
These pretzels, which she has branded Indie Bay, are made from nutritious grains (like spelt and quinoa) and packed with seeds.  The idea was conceived when she couldn’t source healthy snacks for herself or her three children — aged 17, 15 and 11. 
Her decision to create her own brand is hardly surprising, given the list of achievements she has already notched up. After attending Stanford University, she completed a brand management training programme with Procter and Gamble, before attending Harvard Business School. “My time in retail has been the building blocks for now.” This was followed by 15 years in the world of tech, working for and heading up various companies and consultancies. 
Clearly driven, she was one of Time Magazine’s 30 under 30, and one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders of Tomorrow. The list of achievements includes co-founding Founders for Good (now Founders Pledge) with Martha Lane Fox. “We compelled founders of tech businesses to pledge to give back a percentage of their profits if they were lucky enough to be successful.”
If she wasn’t so likeable, her achievements might be intimidating. Especially when I discover that not only is she a power woman, she’s also a balaboosta. She cooks from scratch each night for husband Charles Bonas and the children, and sends the children to school each day with thermos flasks of freshly cooked food. 
Where does she find the time? “If you work with fresh ingredients, home cooking can be faster than going out. I don’t own a microwave and my mother never did. A quick stir-fry takes minutes. I’m a big believer in healthy food as sustenance for busy lives.”  
Which was why she felt there should be healthy snack choices available. “I wanted to reinvent a classic and give people something they love, updated with more fibre and protein and reduced fat and salt, something actually good for you.” 
In her home cooking,  she has always tried to ensure that even “treat” food is as  nutritious as possible. “When I make pancakes, I don’t want them ‘empty’ [of nutrients], so I experiment with different grains to increase the nutritional value.”  
To apply the same principle to pretzels, she worked with a recipe developer to create a nutrient-dense snack, so tasty no one would realise they were eating something good for them. “I call it stealth health.” 
Growing up, healthy eating was a given. “My mother, Atara, was ahead of her time, ensuring what we ate was healthy. Meals would be a big mezze of salads and dips — houmous, labneh, tabbouleh and chopped salad.”
Although both parents were born in Israel, her grandparents were all immigrants from Eastern Europe, so their menu was heavily Ashkenazi, but her mother would add fresh Israeli fruits and vegetables. Bonas learned to cook from her and from her maternal grandmother. “My mother’s mother, Blanca, was an amazing baker — she made all the Ashkenaz classics and baked a challah every Shabbat.” 
During her childhood, Bonas, her parents and two siblings relocated to the US for her father’s work for the Israeli government. They spent time in both countries as her father, Joseph Ciechanover, moved from post to post. “He ran the Israeli foreign affairs office, and various commissions for ministers and prime ministers, including Ben Gurion, Dayan, Peres and Netanhanyu.”
He was not the only high achiever in the family. Bonas’s uncle, Aaron Ciechanover, is a Nobel-winning chemist, and her mother, Atara, a published author and successful fund-raiser. No surprise that Bonas has been so driven. 
Her work for Founders Pledge has received more than $1 billion in pledges and distributed several million dollars. This track record led to an invitation to become a trustee of the Jamie Oliver Foundation. It was here she became acutely aware of the growing obesity crisis in our country. 
“Jamie’s commitment to healthier eating, low sugar and food education permeated through everything we did. It educated me about the scale of the crisis and the lack of healthy options in our stores.” 
She was shocked at the impact bad food choices are having on our young. “It used to be rare for ten year olds to be diabetic, but is becoming more common. In tech, when you see a big problem with millions of people doing it wrong, and you cannot find a solution, you go out and create your own.” 
So she did. In September 2017, a year after her light-bulb moment, the first brightly coloured packs appeared on the shelves of Selfridge’s Food Hall. She’d appointed designers to produce packaging as colourful and attractive as the tempting snacks packed with fat, sugars and salt. 
The product range is now stocked in more than 1,000 stores and is also sold in Germany. For every pack sold, 1p is donated to educating children about nutrition. 
“We wanted to give back right here at home, and because healthy habits start in childhood, that’s what we wanted to embrace.” 
Her plan is to make Indie Bay a household brand. “I grew up in a house where everything was possible if you just worked hard enough and didn’t quit. I’m thankful that my father instilled that drive in my siblings and me.” 

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive