Made from pea and lentil flour, fava bean protein, pea fiber, high-oleic safflower oil, rice, and seasonings, Peatos target consumers that want the taste and texture of Cheetos (which are denser and crunchier than puffs), without the empty calories, said Desai.
And it's squarely targeting mainstream consumers and retailers, he told FoodNavigator-USA at the Natural Products Expo West show earlier this month: "This is not a niche natural brand.
"Our mission at World Peas [Peatos' brand owner] is to make 90% of people eat 10% better, not 10% of people eat 90% better. We want to do what Beyond Meat did in the meat category [by targeting plant-based burgers at meat eaters] in the $28bn corn- and potato-based junk food snack category with pulse-based analogs.
“We’re a flavor first company, not an ingredient first company, and Peatos are for people that like junk food, but want a better for you version.”
'We’re seeing outstanding conversion rates from in-store demos...'
It took almost two years to perfect the proprietary manufacturing process, he added, but the patent-pending technique delivers a higher protein, higher fiber, extruded snack.
“The more starch you have in your formulation, the easier it is to extrude, which is why corn and potato work so well, but if you want protein and fiber, you’ve got a challenge on your hands.
"But we’ve been able to get 4g protein [twice that of Cheetos] and 3g fiber [three times that of Cheetos] and 130 calories [vs 160 for Cheetos] per serving with no artificial colors, flavors or MSG and less fat [8g vs 10g] and sodium [200mg vs 250mg].”
Currently available in the produce section at Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons, Peatos will be rolling out to Kroger, Safeway and Amazon later this spring/early summer, he said.
“We’ve convinced some retailers that plant-based protein belongs in the produce set while others are putting us by the checklanes, but we’re seeing outstanding conversion rates of more than 40% at live product demos we conduct in stores. Kroger called us."
The portfolio at Los Angeles-based Snack it Forward includes World Peas and Sunkist Snacks (made under license).