“There are meat bars and protein bars with low sugar and a Paleo positioning, but we’re trying to create a keto subcategory [high fat, moderate protein, low carb] that’s made with whole foods and plant-based fats and keto certified," he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Ever since we launched our coconut chips [Dang’s first product] people were asking how much sugar is there? The [SKU] without added sugar was one of our best moving items, so we asked ourselves, what else can we do? Can we make a bar that tastes good with 10% net carbs or less?”
The Dang Bar (originally called the FATBAR) features an almond base (it was originally cashew butter, but this proved too crumbly), says Kitirattragarn, who is selling the bars on the Dang Foods website and on Amazon, and will be rolling out to Whole Foods stores nationwide in January. “We’ve also had significant interest from other retailers – Whole Foods has an exclusivity period up until March 1.
“Retail buyers really liked the flavors and the texture of our bar. The pea protein crisps emulate the texture you miss when you’re on keto, as everything you eat can have the texture of butter after a while. They also asked if we could develop bites, which we may look at in the longer term.”
Dang Bars: Not just for keto fans
But the bars (SRP $2.49) - which are sweetened with stevia extract and come in three flavors (almond vanilla, lemon matcha, and chocolate sea salt) – are not just for people on the keto diet, he stressed: “They are for people looking for a bar that tastes dang good with less sugar.”
But how do the new bars fit in with the Dang brand, which was originally about taking concepts established in Asian markets (such as sticky rice chips) and giving them an American twist?
Says Kitirattragarn: "We've previously taken an Asian format and introduced it to the US with more American flavors. Here we're taking a format more familiar to Americans - the bar - and putting the Dang spin on it in terms of flavors, so we have things like lemon matcha and we've got three new flavors coming out at the end of the year: cardamon chai, toasted coconut, and Saigon cinnamon chocolate."
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 that Dang’s core lines “are growing about 30% at retailers this year.” He added: “Our sticky rice chip line has gained significant distribution in 2018 and velocity increases of our lightly salted coconut chips with no added sugar have propelled our coconut chip sales.”
Dang has picked up a sizeable chunk of new business this year with Walmart, Kroger, Starbucks, Hudson News and Whole Foods that has boosted store numbers to 12,000, added Kitirattragarn.