From a standing start in 2011, Simply7 snacks are now in 10-15,000 stores nationwide in chains from Whole Foods and Sprouts to Safeway, Kroger, Publix, H.E.B. and Wegmans, and sales are growing at more than 250% year-on-year.
To make the Simply7 grade, each snack must have: 1) zero grams of trans-fat and no cholesterol; 2) no artificial colors or flavors; 3) no preservatives; 4) only gluten free ingredients; 5) all-natural recipes; 6) simple ingredients; and 7) be “simply delicious”.
While being ‘natural’ or gluten-free doesn’t make a product healthy, the seven principles are a great starting point before you start looking at things like nutrient density, VP Paul Albrecht told FoodNavigator-USA.
If you’re making a quinoa chip, people expect quinoa to be the first ingredient
So what else do consumers look for in snacks these days?
“People first look at the front of the pack, they see the brand, the picture, the claims and the certifications and so on and then they turn over the pack and investigate the ingredients, and the nutrition facts panel, where they look for things like fiber and protein,” says Albrecht.
And when they look at the ingredients, they are asking themselves: How many ingredients are there? Do I recognize them? And are the ‘healthy’ ingredients’ highlighted on the front of pack or in the product name near the top of the ingredients list or are they really very minor ingredients?
“For our quinoa chips, quinoa flour is the first ingredient,” says Albrecht. “For our lentil chips, lentil flour is the first ingredient; for our hummus chips, chickpea flour is the first ingredient.
“The exception is the pomegranate chips, where we couldn’t make a great chip with pomegranate powder as the first ingredient.”
We’re not a health food company
When he talks to retail buyers he always stresses that, “We’re not a health food company; we want to make snacks that are enjoyable and delicious and a healthier alternative [to regular chips].”
As for the production process, he adds, “Snacks like PopChips that use a different production process are great, but we didn’t like that kind of flavor and texture, so we bake our products and then flash fry them, which is better than deep frying them and means you still get that light crispy texture.”
So what’s next for Simply7, and can the meteoric growth continue?
Says Albrecht: “It’s an exciting time to be in snacks as just in the last few years you have seen all these brands come in with lentils, chickpeas, beans and other ingredients instead of corn and potato. But we were one of the first to do this and we’ve managed to keep growing even as some big brands have launched products in this area.”
As to new products, he says: “We’re looking for opportunities to launch snack products with unique ingredients that are #1 on the ingredients list.
“But we want to be recognized in other categories too, though, like Amy’s or Kashi, so we’re looking at lots of new concepts at the moment so that we can stay relevant and exciting and keep things fresh.”
Houston-based Simply7 Snacks is run by president Rashim Oberoi, whose family has been in the food industry since the 1950s and moved to the US in the 1990s, when they started manufacturing snacks for grocery chains and third-party brands. Simply7 Snacks began in 2011.