Former PepsiCo exec bets big on lupini beans with new snack brand

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture courtesy of Lupii
Picture courtesy of Lupii

Related tags: lupini beans

Lupin or lupini beans, which Italians enjoy pickled as a bar snack, are high in protein, high in fiber, and super low in carbohydrates, but are still a novelty this side of the Atlantic, something New York-based startup Lupii hopes to change by showcasing them in a more familiar product format launching in January 2020.

BRAMI​ – the first brand to introduce lupini bean snacks to the US market – began with a pickled product emulating the format most popular in Europe, but Lupii​, the brainchild of former PepsiCo marketer Alexandra Dempster and Human Ventures entrepreneur in residence Isabelle Steichen, is starting with bars (‘bites’).

We thought a lot about the format​,” said Steichen, who noted that lupini beans are also consumed in Germany and France via burgers, baked goods, yogurt and dairy alternatives, while some big players in the plant-based protein space​ are also exploring their potential as an ingredient as they look beyond soy and pea for meat analogs as the beans have a protein quality score similar to soy.

It’s the only keto-approved bean out there

Our ultimate goal with Lupii is to build a platform for lupini beans,"​ said Dempster. "​​But it made sense to start with bites as​​ consumers are looking for convenience and snacks that are easy to have on the go. I love all the roasted beans you see out there but I think that’s a harder format to win with in the long run as they can become commoditized. 

“We’re trying to redefine the conversation around plant-based protein by introducing a new ingredient to the US market that we think is the best source of plant-based protein," ​added Steichen, who developed the Lupii snacks in her kitchen and refined the recipes after selling them in local stores before working with a co-packer to get to a commercial scale.

"It’s higher in protein than soy, has tons of fiber, and is naturally super low in carbs; it’s the only keto-approved bean out there, plus it’s incredibly sustainable.”

Lupii bar

Lupii bars (MSRP $3.29/bar) come in three flavors: Peanut butter cacao nib, Almond butter cinnamon raisin, and Tahini lemon cranberry. Each 50g bar has 190-200 calories, 7-8g fiber, 9-10g protein, and 16g of naturally occurring sugar (primarily from the dates.

The packaging is simple, with the brand front and center, (strapline: Lupini bean powered bite) says co-founder Alexandra Dempster, with callouts for protein and fiber, ‘no added sweeteners’ and ‘just six ingredients.’

Ingredients list, Peanut butter cacao nib: ​Dates, lupini beans, peanut butter, cacao nibs, water

We don’t use powders or isolates

Dempster added: “When you’re delivering new ingredients, doing that via a familiar format is really powerful, plus the #1 barrier to a more plant-based diet is convenience, so the bar was a no brainer. It’s real whole food nutrition in a format they are comfortable with.

“We don’t use powders or isolates; because the protein content in the beans is naturally so high, we can use whole beans and still get 9-10g protein per serving, but also 7-8g fiber, so they are incredibly satisfying. It’s a third of your daily fiber requirement, but we’re just using a small number of ingredients such as dates, lupini beans and nut butter.”

Building awareness and driving trial

So how do you build a brand around a new ingredient?

“We’ve thought a lot about the messaging hierarchy, but for me, your brand has to be front and center, although it also has to stand on something, so for us that’s lupini beans, hence the name, but people will connect with the brand first,” ​said Dempster.

"We've gone for vibrant colors but also slightly transparent packaging so you can see the product, because we're really proud of the whole foods that are inside."

For a new brand, she said, "The two critical objectives are building awareness and driving trial, and we have strong 360 marketing plans with sampling a massive part of that program, along with working with influencers and experimenting with paid advertising.”

The go to market strategy

The brand will be launching direct to consumer via the firm’s website​, “but to win, you really have to win omnichannel, so physical retail will be a massive focus for us, and we’ve having those conversations now for January delivery as well as with online retailers,​” said Dempster, who was senior global marketing manager at PepsiCo before leaving in May 2019 to join Steichen.

As for funding, New York based venture fund and startup studio Human Ventures​  is Lupii’s first investor, said Steichen, who founded The Plantiful​,​ a podcast and blog that focuses on health, wellness and promoting a vegan lifestyle.

“A lot of buyers have been super impressed by the product and feel like they are achieving the nutrition goals consumers are looking for with whole food ingredients.”

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