Whether consumers are looking for something that fits into a gluten-free diet or an overall healthier option, chips and other snack foods that include alternative ingredients are growing more popular in the grocery aisle. Chickpeas, gluten-free oats, black beans and green peas are among some of the ingredients that snack brands are tapping into rather than the traditionally used wheat or rye.
One of the companies making a mark in the category is chickpea-based snack brand Hippeas, which “focuses on reinterpreting broadly appealing category favorites – like puffs and tortilla chips – within a better-for-you framework,” said Julia Hecht, chief marketing officer of Hippeas.
Chicago-based granola brand Ms. P’s Gluten Free is also making a name for itself in the gluten-free space. The product first launched in 2015 and has continued to grow its footprint, expanding into Chicago-area Whole Foods stores and soon-to-be all Mariano’s locations.
“And I think as more consumers become conscious of what we’re putting in our mouths, that’s affecting our bodies, that you’ll see the gluten-free CPG world explode,” said founder and CEO Lisa Marsh.
Ingredients that are better for you
Legacy companies, startups and nearly every size of brand in between are seeking out alternative snack ingredients. PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America already has the Off the Eaten Path snack brand that features vegetables and is gluten-free, but Frito-Lay is also interested in bringing these ingredients and their nutritional value to its more well-known brands, according to PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta.
Hippeas chose to showcase the chickpea in its portfolio because of its “super food benefits” that are a healthy choice for both people and the planet.
Chickpeas “support a healthy and diverse farm by naturally keeping nutrients in the soil and also use less fertilizer by pulling nitrogen from the air, which helps lower our carbon footprint,” added Hecht.
While Hippeas puffs were a simple first product to launch, the brand faced new challenges when taking chickpeas to the tortilla chip category. To ensure that the chips had a classic crunchy texture, the research and development team adjusted flour granulation and machine settings, shared Hecht. The chips maintained their crunch while being higher in protein, fiber and vegetable content.
Hippeas’ entire brand is gluten-free, dairy-free and allergen friendly, which is labeled on the packaging to help “inspire and enable motivated consumers to lead healthier lifestyles,” Hecht said.
Lisa Marsh became gluten-free in 2009 when she realized that gluten made her ill. While some people told her that gluten-free food was a health trend or fad that would pass, Marsh knew that the diet was essential for her and many other consumers.
She also added that the belief that women of color can’t have a gluten allergy is a barrier for many, but Ms. P’s is committed to combatting that myth and providing those women as well as its other customers with delicious snack alternatives. As doctors begin to recommend a gluten-free diet more frequently, the market is likely to continue to grow.
“Those of us who are living the gluten-free lifestyle many times are not because we want to it’s because it’s a must for our health,” she said.
Marsh also emphasized the importance of clear, front-of-product labeling to make sure that shoppers, especially those who are gluten-free, understand what they are consuming. While some brands don’t wish to advertise their gluten-free status, Ms. P’s wishes to be an transparent as possible.
“We’re just letting people know right up front, that if you have issues, this is the product for you,” added Marsh. “It’s about eating healthier, eating cleaner, moving more and living longer. And we are going to be singing that from the rooftops!”
Hecht echoed these thoughts, adding that the gluten-free CPG market is expected to grow because of the rise in gluten-related disorders as well as general health consciousness. She added that Hippeas fulfills that gluten-free snack needs while also offering a source of protein and fiber.
“We believe that snacks can taste good and do good,” said Hecht.
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