Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as its new toasted coconut SKU and the new packaging started rolling out to stores, co-founder Krik Angacian said he is projecting sales in 2016 to be five times what they were in 2015 as the protein-fueled brand continues to gain momentum in the US and overseas, and is now exploring moves into new categories beyond protein chips.
The Protes brand is now in around 2,000 stores in the US and overseas (1,000+ in the US) in chains including Wegmans, ShopRite, LuckyVitamin.com and Amazon, said Angacian, who is now targeting chains such as HEB, Kroger and Sprouts.
While most retailers don’t yet have a protein chips ‘set’ – in part because there are not enough brands in this space to warrant it – they increasingly want to stock at least one protein chip, he said.
“There are really not that many brands doing this yet. There’s Quest, which uses whey and milk protein, so isn’t vegan; Ips Chips, which uses egg white, but has far less protein than the other players in the category; Kay’s Naturals, which uses soy, but has very antiquated packaging in my opinion; Simply Protein, which is more niblets than chips; I Won, which uses pea; and Chirps, which uses cricket powder; but the instore velocity we are seeing is just top notch. We’ve got the best-tasting protein chip on the market, and a very clean label.”
The cash injection – most of which came from “one of the 10 largest CPG companies in the world” – will be spent on building the team and continuing the push into conventional retail channels, said Angacian, who also secured some funding from venture capital firm SOSV on the back of Proformance Foods’ participation in the spring 2016 cohort at the Food-X accelerator program (click HERE).
Trademark dispute with B&G Foods
A bi-annual food accelerator program backed by SOSV, Food-X was also able to help Angacian and co-founder Ryan Wiltse navigate the legal dispute with B&G, he said.
“We filed a trademark application in early 2013. We were aware of Original Tings from the outset, but we didn’t have any petitions challenging our trademark, and our trademark was approved, and for two years there was no problem.
“And then last year – just as we were starting to gain traction with major grocery retailers - we had a threatening letter from B&G Foods saying we were infringing their [Original Tings] trademark."
We don’t have $200,000 to fight a lawsuit, even one we think we’ll win
He added: “We lawyered up and fought it for a while, because we weren’t taking away any of their customers, we’re in a completely different category and the brands look completely different; we’re making high protein chips and they’re making crunchy corn sticks for children.
“But after a full year, we couldn’t afford to pay the legal fees, and so we backed down and agreed to change the name and surrender the trademark, but to me, it showed the worst of corporate America. We’re doing really well, but we don’t have another couple of hundred thousand dollars to fight a lawsuit, even one we are confident we would win.”
B&G Foods told FoodNavigator-USA said the issue had been resolved via mutual agreement, adding: "Unfortunately, ProFormance Foods received poor advice before choosing the name ProTings, a name that infringed upon the trademark for our Tings brand.
"As a branded food company and trademark owner, B&G Foods must take steps to protect our valuable trademarks and brands. We confirm that in the spirit of goodwill we contacted ProFormance Foods to resolve this trademark issue and that the issue was resolved by mutual agreement of the parties."
After months of burning the midnight oil honing their chip recipes at the end of long days working in corporate finance jobs in New York City, ProTings (now Protes) co-founders Krik Angacian and Ryan Wiltse - who were roommates at Boston College - first test-marketed their chips in a soft launch in 2013.
“We were cooking until three or four in the morning every night trying to figure it out,” recalls Angacian. “We tried vital wheat gluten, rice, soy, hemp and whey protein but pea was the best for getting the right crunch."
Today the brand is in around 2,000 stores in the US and overseas, and is distributed by Europa Sports Products, the biggest sports nutrition distributor in the country, and UNFI.