“This product is truly snackable, you can down a whole bag real fast, people love salty snacks and plantain chips have not really been innovated on in a meaningful way.”
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the fringes of the Winter Fancy Food Show, Ingersöll said Barnana's new “flavor forward” certified organic chips are fried in organic coconut oil and come in three flavors: Acapulco Lime; Himalayan Pink Salt; Sea Salt & Vinegar.
A different beast to fried banana chips
Made with plantains (part of the banana family, but starchier and lower in sugar, which means that when they are ripe, they remain green), Barnana's chips are a very different beast to the fried and sweetened sliced banana chips you see in the nuts and dried fruit aisles, and belong firmly in the salty snacks aisle, he said.
“We will have to battle that perception a little bit because people are used to these fried banana chips that are sweet with sugar and maybe cinnamon flavor. But for us, where we are placed in the store, and the way the packaging looks, it’s going to be pretty apparent that this is salty, savory and pretty delicious.”
He added: “A lot of people refer to the plantain as a cooking banana; it’s more of a blank slate to add different sorts of flavorings to, whereas bananas are sweet and so the flavor profile is different.
“There’s not a truly snackable plantain chip in the chips aisle. There’s no flavor forward plantain chips; you have some roasted plantain chips and some salted ones, which I love, but we have flavors which are really going to stand out.”
Early feedback from Whole Foods
Asked about how Barnana had validated the new concept – its second line extension following the launch of Barnana brittle in 2017 – he said: “Whole Foods [gave us] some feedback really early on in terms of the flavor profile and they loved it; they really helped champion the idea and give us confidence in what we were doing.
“Of course, when you innovate in a silo it’s very easy to kid yourself, ‘I’ve tested this on 10 friends and all ten of them love it!’ So you have to be a little bit careful, but the packaging, the product, the taste, the seasonings … I truly feel that we’ve put something together in this package that is truly unique and awesome.”
The plantain chips feature a new design that is being rolled out across the Barnara portfolio, added Ingersöll.
“What you’ll see is a transition for the whole brand moving towards a technicolor, multicolor, bright vibrant banana leaf that changes per flavor and you’ll see the logo color change as the packaging color changes. It’s going to be a really nice rainbow on the shelf.
“The redesign is already done for banana brittle… and the [original] bites line is getting a refresh too, they will be rolling out March… It’s going to be a game-changer.”
Bites, brittle, chips…
Barnana is the brainchild of Caue Suplicy, a triathlete who used to snack on partially dehydrated bananas when he was growing up in Brazil, and later hooked up with Matt Clifford and Nik Ingersöll to take the concept to the US market in 2012.
The Santa Monica-based brand's first product line: dense, chewy banana bites (now available in original, coffee, coconut, chocolate, peanut butter, and apple cinnamon varieties), was an instant hit, and is now sold at chains including Whole Foods, Starbucks, Costco, Sprouts, Safeway, Target and Walmart as well as online platforms from Thrive Market to Amazon.
Its second product line - crunchy banana brittle combining bananas, oat flour, coconut palm sugar, coconut oil, almond flour, and cassava starch – followed in 2017.
The latest innovation – ridged plantain chips now available at Barnana.com and Amazon.com (MSRP $4.99/5oz bag) - should significantly broaden the reach of the brand, which raised $5.3m* last year to support new launches, ramp up digital marketing, and extend into new channels, said Ingersöll.
*The funding round was led by Trently Advisors, with additional investment by Blueberry Ventures, Boulder Food Group and Finn Capital Partners, who all bring something to the table in addition to cash, said Ingersöll.