The idea of creating chips made from egg whites stemmed from co-founder 20-year-old Zack Schreier, who as a Type 1 diabetic had to pay close attention to his sugar and carbohydrate intake daily. When it came to snacks, low-carb, low-sugar options were a challenge, and Schreier would often fall back on making eggs to avoid taking an insulin shot to manage his blood sugar levels. That’s when he found himself snacking on the crispy edges of an omelet that would flake off in the pan after cooking.
“We were crunching on some egg white ‘crispies’ and thought, what if we could make some chips out of egg whites?” co-founder and childhood friend, Nick Hamburger, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Quevos is seeking $10,000 in funding through its Kickstarter campaign (which it surpassed in less than 3 hours) to fuel the brand's growth and is offering "backers" five different tiers of pledges ranging from $20 to $950.
College dropouts turned full-time healthy snack entrepreneurs
Schreier and Hamburger, who were attending college at the time, decided to put their studies on hold to pursue building the healthy snack business full time.
They ran their first prototype past one of their neighbors, Andy Friedman, one of the co-founders of SkinnyPop (owned by Amplify Snack Brands, which was acquired by Hershey for around $1.6bn in December 2017), who provided the duo with valuable feedback on how to succeed in the competitive market of salty snacks.
“He turns out to be a pretty good neighbor to have if you want to start a healthy snacks business,” joked Hamburger.
From there, Schreier and Hamburger, rented out a test kitchen where they experimented with several pieces of equipment to trial different process methods and ingredients, and moved into a larger production space in Chicago to start making and packaging the egg white chips for a larger audience. Tight-lipped on the actual process of making egg-white chips, Hamburger said that the company is in the process of applying for a patent for its production methods.
In January 2018, Quevos won first place and $15,000 in The University of Chicago’s New Venture Challenge. Later that year, Quevos was selected for the inaugural Kraft Heinz Springboard incubator class to help develop its go-to-market strategy and branding.
In October 2018, Quevos introduced its new, better-for-you spin on chips to the Chicago area, testing out the product concept at healthy fast food chain Freshii, gyms, coffee shops, and at on-campus stores at the University of Chicago.
“That was a test market for us. We got in just enough channels to learn what worked and what didn’t,” Hamburger said.
‘Our packaging did not have much shelf presence’
One the very first insights the Quevos team gleaned from their small distribution test footprint is that the packaging (an all-white bag with a large egg-shaped outline) would have to change.
“We learned that our packaging, while it was clean and great in a digital mock up, it did not have much shelf presence and didn’t stand out. The other thing, which is obvious in retrospect, was we had no picture of the product on the package,” said Hamburger.
“We were introducing a new concept and no one knew what it was, so that left a lot of people saying, ‘I’m interested, but I don’t really know what this is, and I’m not willing to take a risk on a couple of bucks’.”
Its new packaging featured on the Kickstarter campaign page replaced the white bag backdrop with bold, eye-popping colors and an image of the egg-white chips displayed prominently in the middle.
The other change the brand made was to its nutrient data (i.e. the grams of protein, fiber, and net carbs).
“We deemphasized the specific nutritional numbers, because we realized our best proposition is the fact that it’s made from egg whites. They’re still on there, they’re still prominent, but they’re maybe No.2 or No. 3 in terms of priority,” explained Hamburger.
Packaging refresh: Top (old packaging of original rancheros flavor), Bottom (New packaging of rancheros product)
The target market
In terms of macro trends, Quevos hits on several, according to Hamburger. Two of its flavors are keto (a core audience for the brand) that come in rancheros and sour cream with 2 grams of net carbs and 10 grams of protein per bag.
“The keto product is mainly going to be available online. There will be some exclusive retail rollouts, but it will mostly be on an online play,” Hamburger said, adding that, “Keto dieters are used to shopping online because up until now, stores have failed to provide a ton of keto options so they’re just used to going online.”
Keeping a general target audience in mind, Quevos has launched two non-keto new flavors -- sweet barbeque and cheddar – on Kickstarter that still maintain a healthier profile than conventional chips (5g of protein and 5g of dietary per bag).
The sweet barbeque and cheddar flavors were formulated to reach a more general crowd, according to Hamburger.
“[It’s for someone] who wants to eat a balanced diet but doesn’t have specific macro goals that are really regimented. We’re definitely thinking about kids’ lunches and offices for those,” he said.
‘Salty snacks is where we want to be at the end of the day’
Quevos has the potential to be the go-to party chips, according to Hamburger, but for now their go-to-market strategy will be in the functional snack set.
“The salty snacks [aisle] is where we want to be at the end of the day as a brand. But for now, I think we look a lot better next to nuts, next to jerky, the functional snacks, even bars, because we’re more price competitive there.”
Following its month-long run on Kickstarter, distribution of Quevos will pick up with regional store rollouts in the natural food channel with an eye on national distribution in early 2020, Hamburger shared.