The story of My Smart Snacker begins with a man eating out of a portable dog bowl. The man is Brighton resident Loren "Sam" Samuelson, whose sister invented the To Go Bowl, a water bowl for pets that fits into a cup holder; Samuelson would fill the bowl with snacks to enjoy while making long drives to visit his parents.
"The problem was, it eliminated the use of your cup holder," remembers Samuelson. "I thought, 'If I could redesign this product to incorporate a cup holder and a snack compartment, I think we would have a product that would be for a much larger market.'"
So three years ago, he started designing My Smart Snacker, which fits in a car's cup holder and has its own cup holder, as well as a compartment for snacks with a snap-on lid.
"Twenty-five percent of all accidents are caused by driver distraction," explains Samuelson. "Some of the major distractions are not just talking on the phone or texting or putting on makeup or things like that. It's also eating. If I can save one life by making snacking and driving safer, then I think I've done a good service for mankind."
Samuelson, who retired in 2006 from a thirty-year-career in purchasing, submitted his patent application in November 2008, began showing his product at trade shows shortly thereafter, and soon connected with a Canadian company that wanted to exclusively manufacture and market My Smart Snacker. But after six months of telling him that the process was on target, the company failed to start production on the date it was supposed to.
So Samuelson decided to produce and market the product himself. This September, he finally got approval of his patent application and launched his DIY campaign. "The whole idea right now is to get the word out there so people are talking about it, get the buzz going," says Samuelson. "The more people I have who are using My Smart Snacker, they spread the word around about how cool the product is and how much fun it is to use when they travel and how many other uses they can use it for."
One woman says she uses it as a portion-control tool for her kids; she can load up My Smart Snacker with the amount of food she wants them to have rather than handing them an entire bag of chips. Another woman told Samuelson she uses it for crafting: drink in the cup holder, crafting supplies in the snack container.
And the contraption works outside of the car, too: If she'd used My Smart Stacker at a recent crafting gathering, the woman said, it would have averted a wet cleanup. Recalls Samuelson: "She said, 'If I had my cup of coffee in your product, I never would have had this problem, because it stabilizes the cup.' It's almost impossible to tip over, so that's why I say that My Smart Snacker is better than a coaster."
Samuelson is planning to shoot a My Smart Snacker infomercial, which he'll post on YouTube. He also hopes to sell the product in the Camping World catalogue next year, as well as at truck stops. And he's already envisioning a Smart Snacker Jr. for kids and a Smart Snacker XL, for large-beverage enthusiasts.
So far, the feedback has been positive.
"The only thing people have come to me with is, they kind of scratch their head and say, 'My God, why hasn't anybody ever thought of this?'" says Samuelson. "They can't believe it hasn't been on the market before. That kind of makes me feel good."