Starbucks is taking Dang's sriracha flavored sticky rice chips into its snack baskets in 500 stores in Chicago and Seattle with a bespoke grab-and-go pack (MSRP $1.99), while Kroger is taking Dang's aged cheddar and coconut crunch sticky rice SKUs into its natural salty snacks set across all of its west coast banners, cofounder and CEO Vincent Kitirattragarn told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Whole Foods is taking on more SKUs in its functional snack set: three coconut chip SKUs and four sticky rice SKUs, including our new savory seaweed flavor, which we felt would be a really good fit.
“We’re also going into 550 Hudson News stores with both our coconut chips and our sticky rice chips, which is great visibility for the brand, and we’re at the stage of our development where it makes sense to go into 1,000 Walmart stores. They have created a really attention-grabbing snacks set in the produce section that we’re going into around June.”
Sticky rice chips gaining traction
Kitirattragarn - who impressed his first major customer (Whole Foods) with his toasted coconut chips via a chance encounter at a trade show in 2011, launched his first products in July 2012, and notched up revenues of $4m in 2014 and $8m in 2015 - has not disclosed revenues for 2016 and 2017, but said the brand had notched up “double digit growth in each of the past four years and anticipate it yet again this year.”
He added: “The distribution the sticky rice chips are gaining is way beyond what the coconut chips were doing at the same stage in their development so we’ve very excited about these.”
Onion chips lacked mainstream appeal
Dang’s crispy caramelized sliced onion chips – which launched in 2016 - had some loyal fans, but ultimately have not proved as successful as its other products, conceded Kitirattragarn, who speculated that the higher price point coupled with the strong flavor made them too polarizing.
“People would say I really like them but I’m worried about my breath. We ultimately decided to pull them, but we managed to keep the distribution by swapping out the items for sticky rice chips.”
Forays into the drug channel, meanwhile, have also proved more challenging than he had originally anticipated, he added: “It’s been very hard to get the velocities we needed.”
Dang’s performance in other channels has been very encouraging however, said Kitirattragarn, who is also working on a project to enable direct to consumer sales through the brand’s website that should come online this summer following sharp growth on online platforms including Amazon.
“Our ACV in natural is around 90% so that’s the strongest, but we’re only at around 20% in the conventional channel so there is strong room for growth there. The club channel will also be super important for us going forward. We launched an organic item with L.A. Costco recently and we’re doing upwards of $1,000 a store/week, so that’s a good benchmark.”
New products in the pipeline, expanded sales team
There are several things in Dang’s new product development pipeline, including something in the $6bn cookie category, he said.
“We see an opportunity for Dang to bring Asian-inspired but simple products with uncompromising flavors to really big categories where we have serious product and brand differentiation and think we can bring something new to the category,” added Kitirattragarn, who has recently brought on Matt Davis, formerly of BarkTHINS (now part of Hershey), as VP of sales.
“Matt was running a bunch of Hershey’s artisan brands and he has been really transformative in terms of bring a skillset and experience in DSD and alternative channels such as ecommerce, travel and club," he added. "He’s worked across multiple snack categories from chocolate to salty snacks, so he knows snacks like the back of his hand.”
Visit Dang Foods at Expo West at booth #4919
Berkeley-based Dang Foods has recently expanded its sales team to include Matt Davis, formerly of barkThins and Pirate’s Booty; and Mel Zamy and Cameron Davidov, formerly of Mamma Chia. It has also brought on Lindsay Naple, formerly of Peanut Butter & Co, and Zoe Salter, formerly of the fashion company Dolls Kill, to focus on Dang's digital initiatives.