"The product forms and flavors that everyone has mainly associated with entrees is now moving into more snack-sized formats," CEO Mike Guanella told FoodNavigator-USA.
"I think that frozen is starting to see a renaissance of better for you snacking."
According to a report by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the $56.7bn US retail frozen food category notched up +2.6% dollar growth in 2018, outpacing total center store food product sales, with high household penetration (99.4% of shoppers reported buying at least some frozen food last year).
Meanwhile, consumer interest in ethnic flavors continues to increase, with strong demand for Latin American flavors, according to Innova Market Insights. Between 2014 and 2018, global launches of ready meals featuring Latin American flavors or preparation styles grew by a 32% CAGR.
Push into empanadas
Brazi Bites hit mainstream retail with frozen, ready to bake Brazilian pão de queijo -- bite sized balls of cheese bread with a gluten-free bread crust (made from tapioca flour, eggs, milk, cheese, and safflower oil) exterior and gooey cheese inside.
"The core promise of Brazi bites is that it's a great tasting product," Guanella said. "It’s got an appeal across the family. We’ve got a base of consumers that love us for being gluten free and others that love us for being very 'snackable' and easy preparation for kids."
Seeing strong success with Brazi Bites' pão de queijo, Guanella along with the company's original founders, Junea Rocha and Cameron MacMullin (who started the brand in 2010), recently added to its frozen line with empanadas, a baked or fried pastry and filling popular in many Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile where the dough and filling varies by region.
According to Guanella, Brazi Bites' empanadas maintain their gluten-free bread exterior but now offer a range of fillings (i.e. black bean & cheddar, chicken & cheese, beef & bean, chickpea veggie).
"It’s the same bread that people know and love on the outside, we’ve just put a little more substantive center inside of it for a different eating experience but still one that is very traditional Brazi Bites," he said.
The empanadas line debuted at Expo West in March and has started to ship to retail stores this month.
"Read outs are very early but very positive," said Guanella. "We’ve got nearly national distribution with Target and extensive Costco pickups this month in the Midwest. We expect to have pretty wide availability this fall in time for some major holidays."
'We’re excited of where the brand can be as a platform'
While Brazi Bites is seeing strong success from its two product lines, now available in approximately 8,000 points of distribution, the brand is constantly focused on the next production innovation and retail expansion, said Guanella.
"We still have some work to do with getting our core Brazi Bites cheese bread into more points of distribution. In parallel with expanding distribution which is a very classic play, we’re excited of where the brand can be as a platform," Guanella said.
Co-founders Rocha and MacMullin, who stayed with the brand after selling a majority stake to San Francisco Equity Partners in July 2018, have been spearheading the product development side of the business.
"I’m excited that they’re already looking at what that next generation is," Guanellla added. "I think the early read outs of empanadas show us that we can absolutely venture outside of our classic form and we’re exploring other areas, day parts and formats."