Departure Snacks makes global flavors – and the cultures they come from -- accessible at a local level

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Departure Snacks makes global flavors accessible at a local level
On the surface, consumer demand for global flavors and desire to eat locally appear to contradict, but Chicago-based startup Departure Snacks has found a way to combine the two – creating a synergistic sales model and allowing consumers to have their cake – or in this case almonds – and eat it, too.

“I created Departure Snacks as a way to bring travel to people’s daily grind. You know, so many of us our passionate about traveling or want to travel more, but in reality we have jobs and families and commitments that keep us in one place,”​ Conor McInerney, founder of Departure Snacks, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“So, Departure Snacks is an effort to bring global destinations to a local level and we do so in a clean, healthy way, by highlighting exotic spice blends … as a way to tell the story of these different cultures,”​ he explained. To make these blends more approachable, he added, the company uses almonds – a familiar snack in the US – as the base.

“With almonds, people are familiar with it. They know what it tastes like. So, the spices come through very clearly,”​ and the overall product is not intimidating, he said.

In addition to meeting emerging consumer desire for more adventurous, global flavors, the company also is filling a white space in the current snack market.

“Most of the snacks you see today are sugar and salt. As far as ethnic flavors go, you can get some wasabi or sriracha, but not a lot else. And if there are different flavors, many are filled with crazy chemicals and stuff. Whereas our product is just three simple ingredients: almonds, spices and a little tapioca starch”​ to help the spices stick to the nuts, McInerney said.

The company’s initial launch brings consumers three flavors from around the world: Ethiopian Berbere, Argentinian Chimichurri and Mediterranean Za’atar. Each of the spice blends represent a cultural touchstone for the regions from which they come, and they all pair well with the dry roasted almonds, McInerney said.

He also emphasized that while the blends combine multiple spices, they are not spicy – a common mistake that holds many Americans back from trying new flavors.

“A lot of American consumers as soon as they hear the word spice, they have a polarized view of either loving or hating spicy food. But spice doesn’t always mean spicy. And we are actually here to celebrate the flavors behind the spices – not just what is on the heat index,”​ McInerney said.

For that reason, the Ethiopian Berbere blend has much less heat from chilies than one might find in Ethiopia, he said.

New packaging emphasizes adventure

Recently redesigned packages reinforce the company’s effort to bring global local by featuring globes on the front of each pack with an airplane made from an almond flying along a travel route represented by a dotted line that originates in the country or region of each spice blend.

The playful design pops on bright, jewel-toned backgrounds that is eye-catching and will help the brand cut through the competitive nut snack category, which is heavily dominated by flat blues, browns and whites, McInerney said. The color-coding also helps consumers quickly find which flavor they want at repurchase.

The travel-themed design is the company’s second stab at packaging. The first used “ethnic patterns, which were fun, but didn’t really communicate that these are globally inspired foods that we are bringing to a local level,”​ McInerney said.

While the company is focused on almonds now, McInereny says, it eventually will branch out into other snacks – all of which will share the central theme of bold, flavorful spice blends.

“While we are a snack company, we are also a spice company as well, and there are very few players in this space. So the way we see it,”​ there is lots of room for growth, he said.

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