The Boston-based entrepreneur noticed that during her frequent business travels, it’s hard to find healthy snacks at transportation hubs like airports and train stations—and it’s a complaint she often hears from people.
In the coming months, her company’s toasted chickpeas will be sold at travel channel retailers such as Hudson News, HMS Host, and Paradies Lagardère. “We’ll be adding about 1,000 points of distribution through the travel channel,” she told FoodNavigator-USA.
“And how cool is that? These large retailers—a majority of what they carry, at least 50% or more, tends to be traditional or legacy brands. So for them to see it seems like healthy snacking is where a lot of the growth is, that’s what consumers want—for us that’s just been a great validation to the work that we’re doing and the food itself,” she added.
International Year of Pulses, a big year for Biena
This year has been designated as the International Year of Pulses by the United Nations, prompting a boost of activity from the sector and awareness of the commodity. The year-long program gave Biena an additional platform to promote roasted chickpeas, a legume, as a health and wellness snack.
“The pulse as a food group is being embraced by a number of different categories, not just snacks,” Patodia said. She has noticed a boom in products that contain, and heavily promote the inclusion of pulses such as beans, peas, and chickpeas —a sentiment that mirrors Pulse Canada data.
Citing Euromonitor data from 2010-2015, Jackie Tenuta, director of marketing development at Pulse Canada told FoodNavigator-USA: “For snack food and the pasta category, growth rates are anywhere between 10% and 26%. From the majority cases for the end categories we’ve looked at, the growth rate for pulse inclusion are higher than the overall growth rate for that product category.”
According to Patodia, her company didn’t have to spend too much time building awareness around chickpeas’ benefits. “We’ve really benefitted from the growth of the hummus category, because it’s created so much mainstream awareness and that category was doing so much consumer education for us because it began 10 years before we launched,” Patodia said.
But the UN event still provided an opportunity for Biena to spread its name out there. Patodia said that without her company even knowing, Biena roasted chickpeas were handed out to dietitian attendees at a Year of Pulses event in Southern California, and Biena’s social media team is jumping on content creation and hashtags related to the event, riding on the commodity’s momentum brought on by the UN’s promotion.
Mainstreaming with major drugstore distribution and a ranch flavored variety
“Our distribution has grown quite a bit. By the end of this year, we will be nearly doubling our distribution point,” Patodia said, adding that the company began 2016 with 2,500 to 4,000 distribution points, and now slated to reach 7,500 to 8,000 by the year’s end.
The biggest partnerships slated this Q4 includes a major national drugstore and the travel channel retailers. “It’s about making the snacks available and accessible to more people,” Patodia said.
This year, it also launched single-serve packaging to fit in squarely with the portion control trend, as well as launched a ranch flavor variety, which has become the company’s second best-selling product in terms of velocity. “It’s very much a mainstream snack flavor,” Patodia said. “So it’s a very well-recognized snack flavor by the everyday consumer in the US.”
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).