Inspired by classic chicken dishes like Nashville hot chicken, chicken and waffles and barbecue chicken, Wright maintained that the familiar flavors from these dishes, which are packed into a healthy chip, drew consumers to the brand, while differentiating itself from potato chip brands.
“We take what works well on classic chicken dishes and turn that into a healthy snack. We thought that could separate us from any comparison to a potato chip, and that people would make the connection that this product is crafted from chicken breast with these flavors. That was just a big bond for us when we tap into flavors that work well with chicken dishes,” he explained.
WILDE relied on in-store sampling and face-to-face feedback with customers to fine tune its delivery in the retail sector. The brand initially launched at Whole Foods and Sprouts, tapping into the natural snacking category and expanded into Costco, Target and Walmart this year where the chips blur categories between natural and grocery to sports nutrition aisles.
“The brand really lived in natural for the first three years and then we started slowly transitioning a little bit more to mainstream. You can find WILDE in the sports nutrition section in Target, which the customers are looking for high protein items. In Walmart, we are in a more traditional salty snack aisle and a lot of folks are [looking[ for fun snacking,” he elaborated.
WILDE's Barbecue Chicken launched earlier this year with a national rollout in Walmart, and the company plans to launch its next flavor, Spicy Queso next month. Along with the new flavor launch, WILDE is adding a second production line next month in Winchester, Kentucky, which has been in the works for nearly a year.
‘Not a lot of meat chips exist’
The meat-based chip landscape is sparse, with pork rinds as arguably the most well-known product. While technically chicken chips, the name itself was often misleading for consumers and retailers, Wright explained, and instead changed the name to reflect its protein content.
“Not a lot of meat chips exist,” he said, “And I think it that the way that we started talking about the product, we learned early ‘chicken chips’ were not what you needed to call [it]…People did not realize I was using chicken breasts. The day that I started calling it 'protein chips' crafted from real ingredients, including chicken breast, egg white, bone broth, that was really the game changer.
Wright combined his experience in creating a meat-based protein snack bar with his Southern comfort food favorite, potato chips, to rebrand the snack into a chicken breast chip, “that was healthier, but with the crunch and satisfaction of normal potato chips.”
The chips are made from chicken breasts sourced from Coleman Naturals, chicken bone broth and egg white, with the latter two ingredients contributing to a “very textured, crunchy chip,” Wright explained.
The chips are then crisped in high oleic sunflower oil, which also caters to WILDE's paleo consumers. Wright noted that the distinction between crisped and fried are important, as the chips are cooked in a quarter inch of oil using patented equipment, which also create its signature shape.
“Once it is sliced, we sandwich [the chips] between a bottom belt and a top belt…which are about an eighth of an inch apart. The top belt reminds you of a bulldozer track and the chip wraps around these little shoe plates and ridges. That is what makes our signature wave, and it also keeps the product from sliding over,” he elaborated.