FAIRFIELD, CALIF. — Since its introduction 12 years ago, the Jagabee brand has become one of Tokyo-based Calbee International’s top-selling products. The french fry-inspired snack has found a loyal following in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. And after rounds of consumer testing and intense R.&D., the product is ready to make its U.S. debut as Spudkins Fry Cuts.
“We’re excited to leverage Calbee’s international expertise in potato snacks by launching Spudkins, a brand that builds upon the Jagabee industry-leading heritage and specifically targeted toward North American audiences,” said Paul Laubscher, director of marketing for Calbee North America. “Fry Cuts is the first product in an exciting line of deliciously crisp potato snacks to launch under the Spudkins brand name.”
While some french fry-inspired snacks are created with corn, Fry Cuts are made with authentic ingredients such as russet potatoes, canola oil and seasonings. The product also delivers an airy crunch through Calbee’s proprietary frying method.
“There has never been a perfectly seasoned potato product that crunches like a chip, is cut like a fry and contains 25% less oil than traditional potato snacks,” Mr. Laubscher noted.
When deciding on flavors for the North American market, Calbee went straight to U.S. consumers. Mr. Laubscher said the company conducted market research in several cities, testing traditional and offbeat varieties. Ultimately, the brand landed on three quintessential American flavors: Sour cream and onion, honey barbecue and yellow cheddar.
“Our market research shows that North American consumers love the flavor selections, crunch and familiar fry shape,” Mr. Laubscher explained. “There are a stable of other flavors waiting to augment the line and we are energized by the future offerings.”
Spudkins Fry Cuts were previewed at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., and at Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago earlier this year. The snack was launched this summer in 5-oz bags with a suggested retail price of $2.49 to $2.99. To support the debut, the company launched www.spudkins.com and social media campaigns. The brand also is sampling the snack at supermarkets to build a buzz.
Mr. Laubscher said after testing the product at trade shows and with consumers — along with its track record in other countries —the brand anticipates a devoted following to develop in the United States.
“It’s just pure goodness,” he said. “That authentic potato taste and light-and-crispy crunch is really what leaves people so amazed.”