RW Garcia: 'We're the best kept secret in snack food'

by Monica Watrous
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RW Garcia pulse tortilla chips
RW Garcia introduced a new line of tortilla chips made with pulses at the Summer Fancy Food Show/

NEW YORK — RW Garcia, a San Jose, Calif.-based maker of specialty snacks, introduced a new line of tortilla chips made with pulses at the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 26-28 in New York. Varieties include black bean with red quinoa and chia seeds, chickpea with red bell pepper flakes, and lentil with amaranth.

The timing of the product launch couldn’t be better, said Genelle Chetcuti, senior director of marketing. Her mother is Margaret Garcia, vice-president of sales and marketing for the family-owned company, who first learned about pulse crops last year.

Genelle Chetcuti, RW Garcia
Genelle Chetcuti, senior director of marketing for RW Garcia

“We started playing with the idea and doing some R.&D., and all of a sudden it comes out that 2016 was declared the International Year of Pulses,” Ms. Chetcuti said. “And we thought, ‘This is timely.’ It makes perfect sense. It goes with our sustainability efforts. They’re so nutrient dense and have protein and fiber and are low in fat.”

The first iteration of the product line’s packaging prominently touted the inclusion of pulses, but the company soon learned such a callout may not resonate with most consumers, she said.

“When we first built this package, it said ‘pulse chips’ on it, and the feedback from the buyers was, ‘I don’t know what that is,’” Ms. Chetcuti said. “So that’s why we went back to this is not a pulse chip, but this is a tortilla chip made with pulses.”

She added: “I think people don’t even realize they’re eating pulse crops. Everyone eats hummus, black bean soup, sweet peas. Americans eat pulses all the time; they just don’t know they’re pulses or the sustainability component of it.”

RW Garcia product line
RW Garcia offers an array of specialty snacks.

To help educate consumers, RW Garcia highlights the health and environmental benefits of pulses on the packaging. It’s not the first time the company has been tasked with explaining a concept to consumers. RW Garcia was the first snack company to achieve Non-GMO Project verification for its tortilla chips in 2007, she said. Back then, most consumers were unfamiliar with genetically modified ingredients.

“It’s similar to when the Non-GMO Project first came out; people where like, ‘I don’t understand… why do I care?’” Ms. Chetcuti said. “And then we went through that fad phase where everybody was putting ‘non-G.M.O.’ on their products even if their product had nothing to do with G.M.O.s

“But for us, with corn, it is a big deal because 90% of the corn grown in America is genetically modified. So for us, sourcing Non-GMO Project corn is a big deal, and it was exciting to be the first company to do that.”

Founded in 1982, RW Garcia has manufacturing facilities in Nevada and North Carolina, with national distribution of its branded products and private label business.

“Our brand growth is about 15% year over year,” Ms. Chetcuti said. “So we’re seeing an incredible amount of growth in year-over-year sales. Not in every store will you see all of our products, so our story of distribution is we’re really looking to expand, to have our full line or as many products as possible in as many stores as possible.”

To help with that mission, RW Garcia earlier this year hired a new director of sales with more than two decades of experience as a buyer in the grocery category. The company also recently redesigned its logo and packaging.

“When you’re rebranding, you’ve got to stay in the wheelhouse so your consumers can find you, but you want to also expand to a new market that may not know about you,” Ms. Chetcuti said. “We’ve been around for 30 years, but we’re the best kept secret in snack food.” 
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READER COMMENTS (1)

By judy bannon 10/6/2016 12:36:53 PM
I am interested in the possibility of importing your snack products to sell at Food Fairs in England.