“When we first started with our chips [15g protein/serving] we were going after hardcore gym goers and five-days-a-week cross fitters,” co-founder Krik Angacian told FoodNavigator-USA.
“But as the company has grown and we’ve spoken to more consumers, we learned that we’re also appealing to consumers that are paying attention to protein intake, but are also just into general health and wellness, especially women. So when we launched our second line [popcorn with 10g protein/serving], which skews more towards women, we introduced white packaging.
“But when we changed our co-packer last year, it was a good opportunity to look again at the whole range, reformulate to decrease the carbs, increase the fat slightly, and keep the protein the same, and have a complete brand revamp [working with JB Chicago].
"We realized we were going way too strong, way too functional. The brand is about protein, but it’s also about fun, it’s about snacking, and it’s enjoyable.”
The new formulation of the tortilla-style chips (which contain 15g of pea protein) replaces guar gum with vegetable fiber, and potato flakes with Non-GMO corn, he said: “They taste a lot better.”
Pea protein: ‘Every lot before we buy, I test it myself, dilute it in water, swish it a lot and smell it’
As for pea protein – which can be a challenging ingredient to work with - he said: “We’ve used different suppliers over the years. There’s a vast difference between a good and a bad pea protein and I always sample lots, so every lot before we buy, I personally test it myself, dilute it in water, swish it a lot and smell it.
“We were one of the first brands to put pea protein in our products five years ago and they have got a lot better. The price has also skyrocketed in the past three years, although recently it’s started dropping again, which is a relief as it was getting really challenging.”
The Protes popcorn line, which features whey protein isolate, is now in high-profile chains including GNC, Sprouts, and Giant Eagle, and is expanding with a new light butter flavor (“a movie theater flavor”), said Angacian, who founded Protes (previously ProTings) with college roommate Ryan Wiltse in 2013.
Our goal is for 20% of sales to be from ecommerce in 2019
Today Protes products are sold in 10,000+ stores nationwide including Vitamin Shoppe, HEB, Giant Eagle, Sprouts, Safeway, and CVS, with around 10% of sales generated online in 2018, said Angacian.
“Our goal is to double that this year, but there is also a ton of opportunity in [bricks & mortar] grocery and c-stores, and also in Canada. We performed so well in specialty markets there last year; we also launched two SKUs of chips in Walmart and they did phenomenally well, so we feel really good about the Canadian market.”
“The whole sports nutrition category has become so much more accessible to the mainstream consumer. My mother now drinks protein in the morning, and she’s not a fitness buff.
"So you’re seeing chains like GNC rebrand stores to become less intimidating to mainstream consumers, but at the same time grocery stores recognizing that health and wellness is not just about kale and sprouted grains, but also about protein and fitness and working out.”
Krik Angacian, co-founder, Protes protein snacks