NEW YORK — Beans, lentils and chickpeas have surged in snack innovation recently, with such players as Frito-Lay and Mondelez International hopping on the trend. And then there’s Beanitos, which established the bean chip category several years ago.
|Alicia Ward, vice-president of marketing of Beanitos|
“We’re one of the first fractioned ingredient bean products,” said Alicia Ward, vice-president of marketing of Beanitos. “Beans weren’t used outside of a bean form. We fractioned it, meaning we turned it into a powdered flour base, which allowed us to form it into a non-bean format, such as snacks and chips.”
Founded in 2010, Austin, Texas-based Beanitos offers a lineup of tortilla chips made with black, pinto or white beans in such flavors as honey chipotle barbecue, cheddar and sour cream, and garden fresh salsa. Products are sold nationwide in more than 22,000 retail outlets. Since Beanitos debuted, a number of competing brands have emerged, including The Good Bean, Beanfields, Food Should Taste Good, Boulder Canyon and Garden of Eatin’.
“Competition is growing very dramatically,” Ms. Ward told Food Business News. “In 2016, we saw the largest entrance of bean competitive snacks into the category, whether they’re a bean crisp, like a flat bean, or another bean format. You’re seeing large better-for-you snacking brands bringing beans in as another ingredient and mixing it with their other base chips.”
Despite the rising number of bean-based snack launches in the marketplace, many consumers remain unfamiliar with the concept, Ms. Ward said.
“We spent a lot of money on market research last year, and we learned a ton from our consumers,” Ms. Ward said. “And what we learned is most consumers don’t understand beans as a fractioned ingredient. They don’t understand it as not a can of beans or a bag of dried beans. So to teach them that just like corn is not a kernel into a chip, it’s fractioned, to try to educate that with beans has definitely been a challenge, but it’s definitely becoming more acceptable to consumers.”
Not only do beans add fiber and protein and are gluten-free, but also they are more sustainable than corn and wheat, she said.
“They require substantially less water than corn or wheat, so it’s better for the environment,” Ms. Ward said. “And the great thing about beans is they’re non-G.M.O.”
At the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 26-28 in New York, the brand showcased some of its latest innovation, including Beanitos Baked White Bean Mac N’ Cheese Crunch, a puffed snack with 4 grams of protein per serving.
“We actually had puffed products two years ago, but they were very soft,” Ms. Ward said. “We were a little bit challenged with them. With beans not being a fractioned ingredient in general, we have to do a lot more R.&D.; it’s different than entering another category where there are all these experts who have mastered the forms and extrusion or all these different ways you can transform an ingredient.”
After some recipe and equipment tweaks, the company developed a crunchier, more flavorful puff.
“It has opened our eyes to a lot of other ways we can extrude or create our product in a different form,” Ms. Ward said. “It’s our first step into what other formats and shapes and experiences can we give people in snacking.”
Another new product is Beanitos Baked Hint of Lime Skinny Dippers, which are tortilla chips designed for dipping with 90 calories, 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving.
“You don’t get a higher nutrition chip,” Ms. Ward said. “It comes in a larger bag and sits on a top shelf. Our goal with Skinny Dippers is just to bring a little excitement to your dip.”
Future innovation from Beanitos will address opportunities in the marketplace for allergen-friendly, bean-based snack products with appealing flavors. Ms. Ward said the company currently is working on products to unveil next March at Natural Products Expo West. Like the brand’s existing offerings, forthcoming launches will prioritize non-bioengineered and corn-free ingredients.
“It’s hard to develop seasonings that have no corn derivatives,” Ms. Ward said. “We have an uphill battle but we’re committed to it as a brand.”
By focusing on quality ingredients, Beanitos aims to defend its leading position in the category it pioneered, she said.“At the end of the day, we’re excited to see others seeing the value in beans,” Ms. Ward said. “It’s great to be the first. We started in 2009. We paved the path for a lot of people. And I think our hope is we focus on making a great-tasting product that doesn’t sacrifice ingredients. Beans are always No. 1 for us.”