Seaweed chip brand Taokaenoi Food and Marketing PCL of Thailand debuted in the US market this week through Amazon and other online retailers under the company name Nora (a play on “nori”) and will be launching in early October at Fairway Markets in Manhattan.
The company is focused on the East and West coast to start with, but will eventually reach natural distribution, according to Minges.
Can seaweed snacks reach mainstream appeal?
Nora is looking to appeal to natural and mainstream consumers alike, according to Minges.
Seaweed snacks aren’t a brand new concept to US consumers as there are a number of retailers that carry roasted sheets of seaweed packaged in plastic trays, but the limitation is those products are largely relegated to the Asian food aisle, Minges noted.
"Roasted was America’s introduction to seaweed as a snack , we see our crispy and tempura chips with their mainstream appeal as next generation innovations to get the seaweed category to a billion," Minges said.
Nora does make a roasted seaweed snack product, but it projects that its more chip-like products will reach a broader audience wandering down the salty snacks aisle.
As such, Nora’s other non-GMO, MSG-free snack products – Spicy Tempura, Original Tempura, and Crispy Original – are intentionally packaged in bags to sit alongside other mainstream chip brands with a suggested retail price of $3.29 a bag or, depending on the retailer, two bags for $5.
“If you’re going to be a breakout success you have to get into the mainstream snack aisle,” he said.
Nora’s Tempura seaweed chips, which Minges describes as a “crossover product”, “eats like a potato chip” but with all the nutritional “street cred” to satisfy the natural shopper.
To give the product a similar crunchy snacking experience as a potato chip, the company batters and flash fries cut up sheets of seaweed in rice bran oil, which results in a curled up chip.
“The No. 1 thing I’ve learned in 32 years of snacks is taste is king: smuggled nutrition is great, real nutrition is even better, but if it doesn’t taste good, you’re wasting your time. At the end of the day, a snack is about taste – You’re choosing to replace a meal calorie with a snack calorie,” Minges said.
The state of snacking: ‘It’s not just about carbs anymore’
“If you think about it in an absolute macro sense, consumers are eating more, but I think the most important thing is they’re eating away from home,” Minges said.
“You’ve got this dynamic of a two-income family, many more urban consumers who tend to eat out of home, and that really feeds into the impulse nature of snack and beverage.”
Minges, who spent 32 years with PepsiCo launching the Frito and Lay’s brands throughout the Asia Pacific market, said that salty snacks in particular are a universal impulse purchase.
“Why salty vs. sweet? It’s satiation, clear and simple. You could eat a 100g of potato chips in a single sitting, try and eat 100g of cookies, it’s just different,” Minges explained.
The $12bn salty snacks category has consistently registered growth (5% CAGR over the last five years) as many are seen as an “acceptable indulgence,” according to Mintel.
According to Minges, the desire to reach for something salty will not fade, but what is changing are the types of salty snacks.
“You’re starting to see more proteins become salty snacks, it’s not just about carbs anymore,” he said.
“You take something that’s a commodity, originally carbs, increasingly proteins and other bases, through processing you add value, and you make it taste amazing, and the ones that get taste right are the ones that win.”
Want to hear more about Tim Minges' snack knowledge? Tune into our LIVE, FREE-TO-ATTEND Snacking Trends Webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. We will end with a Q&A from the audience where you can quiz Tim and the other panelists on what's next in the snacking market.