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Here at Smith Brothers, we look forward to any opportunity to take a snack break – and, to try something new in the ever-changing world of food marketing. So the stars aligned perfectly for this week’s edition of Try It Tuesday – where we sampled several interesting varieties of better-for-you tortilla chips, in honor of Cinco de Mayo!

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As we learned at this year’s Natural Products Expo West, the snack food category has exploded in the past five years – with snacking occasions up 67%, and over half of the U.S. population consuming 3+ snacks per day1. It’s no surprise then that the salty snacks category has grown to a staggering $5.6 billion in sales2 – and an ever-growing percentage of that is attributable to the natural/specialty food sub-category.

In that vein, we decided to try some relative newcomers that advertised chips on the healthier side – to see if our cravings could still be satisfied by these Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Vegan and Organic varieties. From sweet and spicy to healthy and hearty, we taste-tested a wide variety of brands and flavors, including:

Cabo Chips

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These classic cantina-style tortilla chips are inspired by the vibrant Baja region of Mexico. Cabo Chips are made with 100% whole grain corn and ancient grains (Non-GMO Project Verified and gluten-free), and come in enticing flavors like Mango Chili Lime and Churro (a sweet chip made with organic vanilla, and sprinkled with organic cinnamon and sugar).

Late July Organic Snacks

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The brainchild of Nicole Bernard Dawes (daughter of Cape Cod Potato Chips founder, Stephen Bernard), Late July has been rocking the chip aisle since 2012 with USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified tortilla chip varieties. Not only are they organic, but also insanely delicious – in flavors like Mild Green Mojo (green chiles with cheese and a hint of lime) and Bacon Habanero (a completely vegan product!).

The Better Chip

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These delicious tortilla chips are made with a few simple ingredients – corn masa flour, sunflower/canola oil and sea salt – and benefit from the addition of fresh vegetables like beets, spinach and kale. The Better Chip’s brilliantly colored rounds both look and taste amazing – and even provide an additional nutrient boost (one serving of the Spinach & Kale variety contains 60% of your daily dose of Vitamin K!).

Six Foods

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The founders of Six Foods (three brilliant Harvard women) believe that “six legs are better than four” – and are committed to making healthy, delicious and sustainable foods from insects. That’s right – these chips are actually “chirps,” made with cricket flour (boasting 3x more protein than regular chips). Last year, Smith Brothers backed Six Foods in their Kickstarter campaign – and we were recently among the first to receive a shipment of the Chirps product (in Natural, BBQ and Cheddar flavors).

Six Foods joins the ranks of more than 30 other cricket-food startups like EXO and Chapul (the latter backed by Shark Tank investor, Mark Cuban) that believe that these critters represent the next great culinary frontier – and they may be on to something. Restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman recently forecasted that insect protein powder would be among the hottest food and drink trends of 20153.

Without further ado, here is what our team thought of these tasty new offerings:

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Tina: I thought the Cabo Chips were the best! They were the only chips out of the bunch that tasted out of the ordinary – and that I would go out of my way to find in a specialty grocery store. The Mango Chili Lime were super flavorful, and the aftertaste actually tasted like I had just eaten a chunk of mango!

Brian: Cabo Chips’ Churro were one of my favorites. Great flavor – totally addicting! Tastes just as advertised on package.

April: I loved Late July’s Mild Green Mojo chips! A great flavor without being overwhelming. They were filling without making me feel sick (like some chips do). 

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Alex: The Bacon Habanero from Late July – it’s really vegan? I didn’t realize that when I was shoveling them into my face. So good! The habanero was present, but not overpowering.

Brandi: The Late July chips (both flavors) were my favorite! I’m seriously going to buy them this week. I like that they’re a standalone chip – no dip needed. Great for summer parties, or unexpected guests (if you can keep them in your cabinet!)

Dave: The Better Chips were among my favorites. I wish they had slightly more flavor, especially the beet ones. On the other hand, I think they would be an awesome chip to put out with dips. If they are truly healthier than normal chips, I think they could replace a standard tortilla chip for the health-conscious crowd.

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Ryan: My favorite chips on the table – as both a marketer and as a snacker – were the Beet and Spinach/Kale chips by The Better Chip. With a quick comparison to Doritos, it’s clear that “The Better Chip” really isn’t that much better at all. But, the name makes a statement – and, most people walking through the store will probably believe it.

Nate: I appreciate the “insect snacks” for a new and tasty option. Interesting how the cricket chips were more hearty, in comparison to the others. The cheddar flavor takes my vote for best “chirp.”

Kristen: I actually really enjoyed the cricket chips. I liked the heartiness of the chip, because I like snacks that are more filling or dense. I wasn’t too weirded out by the idea of cricket flour. I like that is has a little extra protein in it, too – because usually chips are just corn and oil.

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While we unanimously enjoyed the variety and innovation displayed in this assortment of brands and flavors, we were left to wonder – are these really any “better” for you than the standard chip? Or, do they just make us feel better about indulging?

While it seems to be more a matter of preference than fact (as one staff member noted, the nutrition panels of most of these “healthier” options are fairly comparable to the old standbys), U.S. consumption trends point to better-for-you brands leading the way in terms of new growth for the industry. While both healthy and indulgent categories grew globally over the past two years, healthy products outpaced indulgent ones (+5% and +2%, respectively)4.

When it comes to snacking, we’re not quite ready to give up our junk food. But we’re more than happy to try out some healthier alternatives – and welcome into our pantries those that bring something new to the party.

Sources:  

  1. IRI – State of the Snack Food Industry (2014)
  2. Mintel – Salty Snacks – US (2015)
  3. Popular Science “The Rise of the Incredible Edible Insect” (April 2015)
  4. Nielsen – Global Health & Wellness Survey (2015)
Nora DiNuzzo
Nora DiNuzzo
Director Of Business Development

Nora leads business development efforts for SBA, introducing the agency to prospective clients and partners through outreach and engagement. She began her career in client service, but quickly realized that new business was the most exciting place to flex her strategic, creative and organizational management skills. With over a decade of experience, Nora has contributed to hundreds of pitches – and has stayed in at least one very strange hotel along the way. She holds a B.A. in Communication & Rhetoric from the University of Pittsburgh.