The Good Bean brings “fun” to healthy snacks, see growth opportunity through convenience stores

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

The Good Bean brings “fun” to healthy snacks, see growth opportunity through convenience stores
Consumers want to eat healthier, but when it comes to snacking a desire for decadent and indulgent usually wins out over virtuous, which is why Berkeley, Calif.-based The Good Bean wants to “reclaim fun for the better-for-you-chip space” with the launch of its line of Bean with Sweet Potato + Quinoa chips.

“We want to bring fun and enjoyment back to the healthy chip space in a way that delivers a real chip experience and not a better-for-you-chip experience,” ​said Sarah Wallace, co-founder of The Good Bean.

She explained better-for-you chips often ask consumers to trade good taste or familiar mouth-feel for healthy, which changes the quality of the eating experience because the healthier option often is not as addictive or comforting as conventional chips.

But The Good Bean hopes to change that with launch of healthier-for-you chips that mimic the flavors of conventional chips, including sea salt, BBQ bacon, sweet chili, nacho and jalapeno cheddar.

These chips are “indulgent and naughty … but also nutritious,”​ Wallace said.

Like The Good Bean’s Fruit and No-Nut Bars and all natural roasted chickpea snacks, the firm’s chips are made of chickpeas, along with lentils and navy beans. But they also have quinoa and sweet potatoes, “so they are bean chips, but don’t have a beany flavor,”​ which can be off-putting to some snackers, Wallace said.

“They taste just like a fantastic corn chip, but they are corn free,”​ she said, adding the chips also are free from GMO ingredients and gluten.

But it is not what the chips are missing that makes them healthier than some conventional chips – although the lack of cholesterol, trans fat and reduced saturated fat at only 0.5 grams per 1-ounce serving helps. Rather, it is what they include that makes them healthy: beans.

“Beans are an amazing ingredient, because they’re packed with protein, fiber and real nutrition,”​ Wallace said. As a result, each 1-ounce serving of the chips includes 2 to 3 grams of fiber and 10% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A. They also pack 4 grams of protein, which allows the firm to tap into consumers’ growing demand for on-the-go protein.

The bold-colored packaging also reflects the firm’s goal of adding fun to the category.

“This is not virtuous-looking packaging,”​ Wallace said. Rather the imagery of sizzling bacon, long peppers and vivid blocks of cheddar cheese recall the imagery of conventional chip favorite Doritos.

A better-for-the-bottom-line chip

The Good Bean hopes the new chip line is not only better for consumers’ health, but for its bottom line as well.

Wallace said the firm was drawn to the vegetable chip segment in part because it is growing 42% year-over-year, according to SPINS data. Corn and tortilla chips, however, are growing at a much slower 14% rate, the firm notes.

Much of the growth in the vegetable and fruit chip category is due to the rising popularity of bean chips, the company says. And while the trend is promising, it is a double-edged sword with stiff competition from Beanitos and Simply 7 cutting from the other side.

Wallace is not worried about category crowding though, noting initial reaction to her company’s chips “has been fantastic”​ since the launch in October. She notes The Good Bean is finalizing agreements with “big, national retailers”​ to distribute chips broadly beginning in January.

The chips will be priced at a slight premium at $3.49 to $3.99 for 5-ounce bags, compared to $1.98 for a 13-ounce bag of Mission tortilla chips and $2.98 for an 11-ounce bag of Doritos at Walmart.

Corner stores could hold key to category growth

Convenience stores and corner markets – especially in food deserts – could offer big growth opportunities for The Good Bean’s chip line, and healthier-for-you snacks in general, Wallace said.

She explained that while she is pleased that The Good Bean’s revenue has quadrupled from last year and that the business has grown 300% year over year since it launched in September 2010, she thinks the firm – and alternative snack category overall – can do better.

“When we talk about growth, you have to look at market share, and ours is microscopic compared to traditional snacks,”​ she said.

One way to change that is to reach beyond Whole Food and health food store shoppers who tend to be early adopters of healthy snacks, and reach the much larger proportion of consumers who dash into corner stores for groceries, Wallace said.

She noted many convenience and corner stores in food deserts increasingly are offering better-for-you snacks and fresh foods in part to qualify for funding from the government-backed Health Food Financing Initiative, which offers small businesses that sell healthy foods grants and low interest loans to further develop their infrastructure to offer more such products.

Other stores, like 7-Eleven, offer better-for-you snacks to meet consumers increasing demand for on-the-go products that can replace meals and still provide necessary nutrition, the Dallas-based chain said when it expanded its gourmet and healthy snack selection in 2013.

“For the last several years, designated meal times have given way to multiple eating opportunities. In 2012, more than half of all eating occasions among Americans were snacking occasions,”​ 7-Eleven said at the time, citing data from The Hartman Group’s Eating Occasions Database.

Distribution of healthy snacks through stores like 7-Eleven and airport kiosks also is driving innovation in form and flavors, Wallace said.

“I think it is heartening to see how mainstream is embracing alternative snacks,”​ and how people are now trying new foods offered in less-intimidating snack-sized packages like seaweed, flavored pumpkin seeds and even Brussels sprouts, Wallace concluded. “This is about feeding everyone healthier food.”

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