Bean chip maker dials up flavor excitement

by Jeff Gelski
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Beanitos Hint of Lime and Chipotle BBQ bean chips
Bold flavors such as chipotle BBQ and hot chili lime draw attention to Beanitos, which contain fiber and protein.

MINNEAPOLIS — To gain the approval of retail buyers, the product first needed to look more like a conventional snack. Then, to attract the curiosity of consumers, Beanitos could get bolder, appearing in such flavors as hint of lime and chipotle BBQ.

Beanitos bean chips now sell in 19,500 stores in all 50 states. They are exported to eight countries. Dan Costello, chief executive officer of the company for the past 3.5 years, gave insight on the company’s marketing strategy in an Oct. 19 presentation at the AACC International’s centenary meeting in Minneapolis.

Dan Costello, Beanitos
Dan Costello, c.e.o. of Beanitos

“Brand building is hard,” he said. “It’s far harder to build a new brand on a new platform because people don’t have experience with that platform.”

Getting into retail outlets proved difficult. The black bean chips from Austin, Texas-based Beanitos, Inc. initially failed to convince retail buyers.

“Compared to what the rest of the salty snack category was, it didn’t look appetizing,” Mr. Costello said.

Beanitos switched to white beans and made the product look more like a corn chip. Retailers put Beanitos on the shelves. After sales took off, the door opened for flavor innovation.

Mr. Costello said the company’s surveys revealed consumers associated beans with health and protein. Most people had never heard of bean chips, but most people were interested in trying them.

Beanitos contain 4 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving, but Mr. Costello said flavor variety raises the interest level for the bean chips. Beanitos made out of white beans now come in such flavors as hint of lime, real cheesy, white cheddar, hot chili lime, restaurant style and nacho cheese. Beanitos made out of black beans come in the flavors of chipotle BBQ and original black bean. Beanitos made out of pinto beans are in the flavors of simply pinto bean and better cheddar.

Beanitos originated in 2009 when two brothers, Doug and Dave Foreman, sought to create a low-glycemic chip because relatives had diabetes, Mr. Costello said. The chips also may appeal to people who are dairy intolerant, gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, or allergic to corn or nuts.

Mr. Costello previously worked for Frito-Lay, Nestle Waters and Sweet Leaf Tea. When he initially joined Beanitos, the company employed seven people.

 “I never thought I’d work for a company that small after some of the companies I’ve worked for,” Mr. Costello said. “I actually did think this was going to be a big, big deal. So that’s why I decided to do it.”
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