August 31, 2018

Healthier junk food option aims for flavor, not ‘wellness’ 

According to the 2018 State of the Snack Food Industry report put out by consumer insight firm IRI, of the four categories of snack food (permissible indulgence, true indulgence, treats and wellness) only one saw its sales drop – wellness.

Nick Desai, CEO of Snack It Forward-World Peas Brand, which makes Peatos, said he’s seen separate numbers showing that last year traditional snacks like Cheetos and Doritos grew 2 percent while wellness snacks were down for the first time.

In the future, he said the fastest growing category will be “alternative” snacks, like Peatos. Desai defines alternative snacks such as Peatos as those that are made from alternative ingredients but don’t prioritize health claims as their selling point.

“I think you’ll see more and more consumers not willing to make a sacrifice. It won’t be the ‘either or’ anymore,” Desai said. “It won’t be that ‘either I want to eat healthy today or satisfy my taste buds.’ It’s going to be ‘I want to do both.’”

Desai said that the traditional Cheetos have sales of around $1.7 billion while the number two snack in the category only comes in with $60 million in sales. That told him it was high time to “shake things up.”

Having grown up on American-style crunchy, salty snacks, Desai sought out the same type of taste on trips to India while growing up. During those visits, he saw a lot of pulse-based snacks. That gave him idea for a puffed snack that uses peas and lentils instead of corn.

However, Peatos was not intended to be a health food, but something closer to a better-for-you junk food, something that would appeal to a Walmart shopper. That meant the pea taste needed to be undetectable.

“It’s got to look, act and feel a lot like a piece of junk food,” he said.

That is not to say that Peatos lacks any nutritional advantages over traditional snacks. Compared to Cheetos, Peatos have 2 grams of additional protein and 30 fewer calories per serving. Also, though it wasn’t a goal of the company, one of Peatos’ flavors, fiery hot, is vegan.

Desai said those in the vegan community had been searching for vegan version of a hot Cheeto and were ecstatic when they discovered that Peatos came out with an option.

Peatos launched nationally in Kroger stores in May of this year.

-Scott Stuntz, managing editor



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