popchips Grain Free utilizes the cassava root, popping it with heat and pressure to create a light and airy chip for shoppers avoiding grains without sacrificing taste, or just looking for variety; while popchips corn chips “offer the same crispy, crunchy satisfaction of a typical corn chip, without the greasiness of an oil fry.”
Debuting this month at 2,000+ Kroger stores, the new lines offer a healthier take on familiar products, VSB CEO Amit Pandhi told FoodNavigator-USA.
“It’s one of the only corn chips on the market that’s not fried. It’s actually a different technology and production line than our core popchips. It’s got half the fat [4g] of traditional corn chips and it’s non-GMO.”
While some retailers have become more cautious about taking on new products and brands as they have focused on keeping shelves stocked with tried and trusted brands, popchips had a “99% fill rate across every customer from March through all of the summer, so we could show our customers that we could deliver," said Pandhi.
“It built confidence and trust, so when we approached them with new innovations, they were excited to provide something new for their consumers.”
While it has not yet made any announcements about acquisitions or investments, VSB has evaluated several opportunities in salty, sweet and nutrition bar categories, and is also in advanced conversations with retail partners about developing new in-house brands that meet gaps in the market, he said.
“We’ve been in talks with a number of brands,” said Pandhi, who said VSB was interested in brands with material retail traction that have “created an emotional connection with the consumer and provide for an unmet need.”
So how is the popchips brand – which was founded in 2007 by Keith Belling and Patrick Turpin using heat and pressure to ‘pop’ (rather than fry) potato and rice – performing?
While foodservice snacks sales have suffered, many consumers are snacking more than ever now they are stuck at home, said Pandhi, and they're looking for better for you options that still provide comfort and satisfaction.
“On the retail front, the popchips brand is up year over year, and it varies from 10% to 30% depending on the retailer, but it’s been a tremendous year."
VSB is also investing heavily in e-commerce, he said: “We’ve seen great increases on Instacart and an incredible amount of growth on the retailer dot.coms.
"We’ve had a very strong Amazon business for a number of years and this year we’ve invested heavily in it; we’re also building a direct to consumer platform because we believe we’re seeing a long-term shift [towards e-commerce] that covid has just accelerated.
"Having a direct relationship with consumers is valuable, understanding their buying behaviors, being able to retarget, and share innovations with them... And then longer term as we acquire other brands we can cross market and cross sell products for each specific demographic."
Founded in 2007 by Keith Belling and Patrick Turpin, the popchips brand debuted with ‘popped’ potato and rice chips (‘popped’ using heat and pressure, with some oil and seasoning added afterwards) and has since expanded into ridged chips (‘Ridges’), puffed peanut extruded snacks (‘Nutter Puffs’), and popped pea chips (‘Yes Peas’).
The brand is now sold in 30,000+ stores across North America in retailers including Albertson’s-Safeway, select Costco locations, Kroger, Sprouts, Target, Walmart, Wegmans and Amazon.com.