The brainchild of Dang’s founder Vincent Kitirattragarn, a “foodie at heart” and a recent convert to the ketogenic diet, the 100% plant-based FATBAR touts its ‘keto-friendly’ credentials on the front of pack, but does not have the ‘special diet’ or ‘ultra-processed’ look and feel of some other keto bars on the market, explains Kitirattragarn on the Indiegogo page for the new bars.
“Lots of other ‘keto-friendly’ bars have found ways to bring the net carb count low while keeping the fat and protein high but ruin their ingredient lists with animal fat and sugar alcohols and, to be honest, just taste like $#*!”
Other high protein bars, meanwhile, have ditched high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar but replaced them with dates, honey, maple syrup, or rice syrup, which are still sugars, he pointed out: “Sugar is sugar, and sugar drives the carb count up no matter the form it comes in.”
High fat, moderate protein, low carb
With around 14-15g fat (from almond or cashew butter), 9-10g protein (mostly from pea protein concentrate, but also from the nuts), 6g fiber (mostly from chicory root) and 2-3g of naturally occurring sugar per 40g, 200-calorie bar, the FATBARs have a macronutrient profile that appeals to Keto fans, but are not just for people on the keto diet, stressed Kitirattragarn.
“FATBAR is designed for anyone looking for a wholesome, delicious bar that doesn't taste like protein powder or animal fat. It's designed for anyone looking for a filling, satiating snack that brings sustained energy and doesn't spike your blood sugar like other honey/maple/brown rice syrup laden bars.”
The bars - which are sweetened with stevia extract and come in three flavors (almond vanilla, lemon matcha, and chocolate sea salt) - will launch on Amazon in September and hit shelves at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide in early 2019.
Blake Mitchell: It feels disjointed from the rest of the portfolio
Asked for his thoughts on the packaging mock ups on the Indiegogo website, Blake Mitchell, principal at branding and packaging studio Interact Boulder, told FoodNavigator-USA that he was a big fan of Dang Foods, but thought the packaging might evolve before the retail launch.
"I love fat and Dang. [But] this looks like a bit of a shameless grab for consumers with the FATBAR callout. It feels disjointed from the rest of the portfolio and the bar will likely be in a new category for Dang, the bar category, so that feels like a missed opportunity to introduce the Dang portfolio to new consumers who may not shop the other products in their portfolio.
"This also could be a mock-up for the Amazon launch that will likely evolve for a retail launch as we see more brands launching products online for some quick learnings prior to an official launch."
Tom Vierhile: Fat has gone from health enemy to health friend
Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Globaldata, said that Google Trends data showed that US searches for 'keto' had quadrupled over the past year, "which is a sign that 'keto' and the Ketogenic diet are moving from niche concepts into more of a mainstream direction.
"Clearly, Dang Foods is an early mover on this trend. Convenience matters a lot to consumers, so an on-the-go snack that helps a consumer stay on-track with the Keto diet may resonate... The bar may appeal to consumers familiar with products like Bulletproof Coffee and Bulletproof FatWater that position certain ingredients rich in fat as brain energizers."
He added: "We seem to be in the middle of a transformation where fat has gone from health enemy to health friend. The consumer survey data I have seen on fat does not yet seem to reflect this shift, but we are clearly seeing a lot of industry interest in newish high fat ingredients like MCT oil which is associated with the Ketogenic diet.
"The latter diet promotes some saturated fats as healthy within the context of a low carbohydrate diet, but I'm not sure that consumers are convinced of that just yet. According to the International Food Information Council’s 2018 Food & Health Survey, just 11% of Americans perceive saturated fats to be healthy. In contrast, 37% perceive unsaturated fats to be healthy." [Editor's note: In Dang's FATBARs the primary source of fat looks to be cashew butter, which has high levels of unsaturated fat. However, it also includes cocoa butter, which contains a high proportion of saturated fats.]
Dang Foods founder Vincent Kitirattragarn 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.
He has not disclosed revenues for 2016 and 2017, but told us in March 2018 that Dang - the first brand to be supported by KRAVE founder Job Sebastiani's Sonoma Brands - had notched up “double digit growth in each of the past four years and anticipate it yet again this year.”
Dang has picked up a sizeable chunk of new business this year with Walmart, Kroger, Starbucks, Hudson News and Whole Foods that will see it boost store numbers to 11,000 by the summer, added Kitirattragarn.
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.”