The puffs, which launched in September, also already are the company’s fastest growing item with dollar and unit velocity twice as high as its top two best-selling products – making it popchips’ most successful launch and third best seller after only two months in the market, according to the company.
“This is a bold new place for us,” and a game-changer for the salty-snack aisle, which up until now hasn’t offered many shapes beyond basic circles, triangles and rectangles, Marc Seguin, the chief marketing officer for popchips, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that by creating custom-made storm trooper helmets, millennium falcons and R2D2s, the brand was able to “bring to life” the characters in a way that goes beyond typical licensing deals and that helped the popchips brand engage with consumers beyond simply “borrowed interest” from the movie.
“We did a lot of research with moms and kids before we launched this product … and what we found was that kids really enjoy having something that is kind of tactile and has a little bit of play value with it that they could pull out and look at and not only is it visually interesting, it obviously tastes great – so they are not just mindlessly throwing them back,” Seguin said.
He added that the “mindful eating piece is something that popchips at its core philosophy is all about creating” because it helps consumers who are snacking at a much faster rate than ever before continue do so in a healthier manner.
“Having something that you can engage with your hands and have that tactile play value is a big new space, and if I were to guess, now that we have launched these shapes, you will see a lot more new shapes coming into the category in the next 18 months from some of our competitors,” Seguin said.
Indeed, Supermarket Guru and industry expert Phil Lempert predicts that “tactile” food and “mindful eating,” will be two of the biggest trends of 2018.
Other factors driving sales
But it isn’t just the chips’ engaging shape that is fueling their strong sales, Seguin said. He explained the snack’s better-for-you health proposition, excitement around the movie and retailer support also are contributing to the line-up’s success.
“We are of course really excited to be partnering with Disney and the Last Jedi movie as it comes out … but when we put together this product, we were really looking for something to make it compelling for moms who were looking for snacks that their kids would love and that they could feel good about,” Seguin said.
He explained: “Mom has this dilemma we found out about where if she puts something that is healthy in her kid’s lunchbox, it comes home uneaten. But if she puts something that is bad for them, they eat it at school, but then they feel guilty about it. So, mom has this sort of Catch-22.”
The compelling shapes and “super snackable” taste and crunch of popchips means that kids will happily eat them, but parents need not feel guilty for packing them because they have a healthier ingredient profile than traditional chips and many other salty snacks, he said.
This combination of fun and healthier “makes it so much easier for mom in the lunch box. And, I have heard from several moms since we launched it saying that they are the lunchbox hero now because they are putting in snacks they feel good about and the kids are actually eating and enjoying and sharing with their friends at school,” he added.
Seguin also attributes the brand’s success to the deep “love for this Star Wars brand and the enthusiasm around the movie,” and the “hundreds of millions of broad advertising from all kinds of people around the franchise.”
He explained that “people are looking for Star Wars products across every range of things and are very enthusiastic about the movie,” which has created opportunities for popchips to work with its retail partners to create in-store moments with displays that place the brand in front of consumers.
“We have a lot of support from our retail partners, they obviously are excited and participating in the enthusiasm around the Star Wars movie … with lots of displays,” including big pictures of Chewbacca and other characters, he said.
Pulling off a massive launch
While the launch is undeniably a success, Seguin acknowledged pulling it off was a challenge for a relatively small company.
“As a small company launching a big new product, trying to make sure we have our demand forecast right” and can hit in stores at a specific moment in time, which was Force Friday for this brand “is a complicated organizational effort that took all of us, in every part of the company, to zero in and make it our number one priority for several months,” he said.
“While it was not easy, our operations team did a really nice job in sourcing supply and anticipating all the retailer partnership needs” without going over, he said.
Popchips will continue to make the Star Wars shapes for the next three years, with bigger pushes around the movies, but also provide support on a daily basis, Seguin said.
After the licensing arrangement ends, Seguin is confident there will still be fun shapes for popchips, even if they aren’t Star Wars themed.
“There will be a lot more opportunity for us to bring in other shapes because … it really is a bit of a no-brainer that this is something that has been missing from the category” that consumers really want, he said.