iwon organics to roll out high protein chips to 2,500 GNC stores

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mark Samuel: 'We want to be the brand that people think of when they think of organic protein savory snacks with little to no sugar'
Mark Samuel: 'We want to be the brand that people think of when they think of organic protein savory snacks with little to no sugar'
iwon organics is rolling out its plant-based protein chips to 2,500 GNC stores to give consumers bored of bars and beverages a different way to get their protein on the move.

The organic chips – developed by fitness enthusiast Mark Samuel – contain 12g protein (from peas and black beans) and 5g fiber (mostly from the beans) are currently available online​ and in around 1,000 bricks & mortar locations, from health clubs and nutrition stores to grocers, Samuel told FoodNavigator-USA.

From a formulation perspective, Samuel’s chips have been through several iterations, in part because it is so challenging to create a chip with the taste and texture consumers expect from a chip and a high level of protein, he explained.

We’re seeing more brands such as Luke’s – which are fantastic - highlighting protein on the front of pack, but they only have 5g protein, and ips chips who have been around for a while (whey protein) still only have 6g protein. There are still only a few of us in the high protein chips category such as Protes (pea protein) Quest (milk and whey protein), Kay’s Naturals (soy), Chirps (crickets) and new brands such as Quevos (egg white).

“When I started I thought I could get away with function, and I’d say our initial product was OK, but the reality is, consumers expect the product to taste good, and I learned that very quickly,” ​added Samuel, who reformulated his product and saw revenues grow 300% in the past 12 months vs the previous year.  

Merchandising high protein chips in grocery: Put us in the protein bar set

While iwon is a certified organic ‘plant-based’ snack brand that Samuel claims could perform well in stores such as Whole Foods, the single serve format and high protein positioning make the product best suited to health and fitness brands such as GNC right now, he said.

“For a start, if you don’t have a 5oz bag, you won’t get into many grocery stores, but right now, even if a chain such as Safeway wanted to take our product, they don’t know where to put it," ​he claimed.

"They would say – we’ll put you in the natural aisle, but that won’t work because then you’re competing with 4-5oz bags and products with far less protein.

“Or they say, you’re single serve, we’ll put you in the deli next to brands like Kettle Chips and Late July; but that’s not right for us either. People aren’t going to buy a sandwich or a salad with protein and then a bag of chips with 12g of protein to go with it. It doesn’t make sense.

“So I would say put us in the protein bar set. The people interested in our protein chips are the same people buying protein bars, people like me, and I’ll go into the bar set and buy a whole bunch of them for the week or the month and I think with the right positioning, the chips would move at just the same velocity.”

You don’t know when that check is coming and what’s coming off of it …

Asked about his channel strategy, he added: “We went into stores such as Wegmans and H.E.B. with our old product and it didn’t work. I’ll be frank. The UNFI, KeHE model, it’s a very hard model, especially when you are new to the business. You don’t know when that check is coming and what’s coming off of it, and if you don’t understand how to navigate the distribution model you won’t have any money left.

“We’ve learned that we are better prepared and positioned with our current offering to be more in the health and fitness chains, so this partnership with GNC is a very big deal for us. We also work with distributors that distribute to small to medium health and fitness and wellness stores and we’re doing very well there.

“We’re also going to the Olympia in September to debut a second savory high protein organic single serve snack that no one has done yet. We want to be the brand that people think of when they think of organic protein savory snacks with little to no sugar. That’s the space we’re playing in.”

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