Greener than many other sources of protein thanks to their ability to lock in nitrogen from the air into the soil, beans are replacing or supplementing rice, corn and potatoes in many snacks as formulators look to boost fiber and protein, and marketers tap into their gluten-free and non-GMO credentials, said CEO Sarah Wallace, who co-founded The Good Bean with former Pixar animator Suzanne Slatcher in 2010 – the same year Beanitos arrived on the scene.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after unveiling new packaging for its roasted chickpeas at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, Wallace said: “The viability of beans as snacks is something that has only really happened in the US in the last three to four years, but chickpeas are now outselling a number of chips, which I would not have predicted when we started.
“Our brand has the highest velocity growth year-over-year in the bean snacks space. We’re outpacing other brands in terms of sales per point of distribution.”
The roasted chickpea snacks come in seven flavors: Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper, Smoky Chili & Lime, Mesquite BBQ, Thai Coconut, Sweet Cinnamon, and Chocolate. They contain 120 calories, 5g fiber and 5g protein per 28g serving.
When we first started out, the ‘bean snacks category’ didn’t really exist
She added:“When we first started out, the ‘bean snacks category’ didn’t really exist. Today, there are plenty of players, some with a real point of difference in terms of products or branding, others more what I’d call me-too products.
“In the roasted chickpea space, Saffron Road – which is a great brand - has a more global, ethnic feel, while ours is more American gourmet,” said Wallace, who cut her CPG teeth by working on high-profile snack brands including Luna, PopChips and thinkThin before launching The Good Bean.
As for taste, nutrition and texture, there are also differences between some of the chickpea snack players owing to different processing techniques, said Wallace, who has secured real estate on shelf at a wide range of natural and conventional retailers including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans, Shaws, Ahold and Costco.
“We buy raw beans from American farmers, soak them and roast them. But with some of the other products on the market, the chickpeas are cooked before they are roasted, which creates a lighter texture, but I don’t know if it impacts the nutrition by denaturing the proteins.”
We’re making the taste profile more accessible
The bean chips category, which The Good Bean entered in 2014, is currently dominated by Beanitos, but Wallace says her product has a more accessible taste profile designed to appeal to tortilla chip lovers that want something more nutritious, but may not want something quite as 'beany' as Beanitos.
Her chips, which combine chickpeas, navy beans, red lentils, and pea protein isolate with sweet potato and quinoa, are equally nutritious (each 28g serving has 4g protein, 2-3 g fiber and 130 calories), however, she stresses.
“We’re making the taste profile more accessible to broaden the market potential, so it’s more like a tortilla chip to bring in people that might otherwise not be attracted to the [bean snacks] category. The sweet potato reduces some of the beany taste."
While the ‘pay to play’ aspect of the ultra-competitive salty snacks category makes it hard for new brands to secure real estate at some retailers, The Good Bean is making solid progress in the category, she said.
“We’re still new in very competitive category, but we’re growing distribution because we have a strong product and a strong package, and where we are available, our sales are strong."
Where next for beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils?
Register for our FREE, online 60-minute Pulse Innovation Forum on November 2, featuring Brami (lupini beans), Beanitos (bean snacks), Eat Well Embrace Life ('other bean hummus'), Pulse Canada, and Banza (chickpea pasta).