Joe Serventi takes the helm at HIPPEAS as Livio Bisterzo moves into chairman role

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Joe Serventi takes the helm at HIPPEAS as Livio Bisterzo moves into chairman role

Related tags HIPPEAS

Former barkThins, Pirate’s Booty and Glaceau executive Joe Serventi, who joined HIPPEAS last year as general manager, has been elevated to global CEO, while founder Livio Bisterzo is moving into the role of chairman, as the team seeks to build a $100m brand “in the next two to three years.”

HIPPEAS snacks debuted on both sides of the Atlantic in summer 2016, and have since secured shelf space at almost 100,000 retail locations from Starbucks and Whole Foods Market, to Wegmans,

Safeway/Albertsons, Kroger, CVS, Target, and Costco, and attracted investment from Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA about his new role, Serventi said HIPPEAS was generating triple digit growth, and performing well across multiple channels from coffee shops and drug stores to conventional grocery stores, despite the fact that on paper, organic extruded chickpea puffs might sound like niche natural products.

“What surprised me is how strong our velocities are across all channels of trade. It’s working as a single serve, it’s working as a pantry pack, a club pack, and Millennial Moms are loving our multi-packs, which we just launched three months ago, so we can go to each of these channels of trade with something that keeps their customers excited. We’re also still growing at Starbucks at 15-20% year on year. I think that once we put the puff on the front of the pack​ [so consumers could see what the product was], it really took off.

“The brand has grown 5X this year in the States and it’s doing well in the UK, and we’re really pushing our new multi-packs and we’ve got a couple of new flavors coming out. We’ve had inquiries from several other countries and there will be an opportunity, if not in 2019, definitely in 2020, to move into other markets. Canada is an interesting market for example, but right now there is so much upside in the markets we are already in that we we are laser focused on building that out first.”

As part of the reorganization, Serventi will oversee the business globally, while Bisterzo will “continue to be actively involved”​ overseeing brand marketing, innovation and the company’s charitable work, said Serventi.

Hippeas give peas a chance

Hippeas gluten-free organic puffs – which are manufactured by co-packers in the US and in Ireland – require specialized extrusion equipment and are crunchier than extruded corn snacks, with an appealing nutritional profile (3g fiber, 4g protein and 130 calories per 28g/1oz serving).

“The extruded puffs category is worth more than $2b so there is an amazing opportunity here.”

Asked whether the HIPPEAS brand could extend beyond puffs, he said: “100%. Probably in 2020 and beyond, but right now we are focused on building a $100m puff brand in the next two to three years.”

Livio Bisterzo Hippeas at Starbucks

On paper, organic extruded chickpea puffs might sound like niche natural products, but the meteoric ascent of HIPPEAS proves that edgy natural brands can hit the mainstream in record time if they have a compelling product and a brand that punches above its weight, said Livio Bisterzo at the Winter Fancy Food Show in January.

Watch the video​.​  

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