WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. — Brownie Brittle, L.L.C. founder Sheila G. Mains was shocked to learn her line of indulgent brownie crisps was endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. as a guilt-free snack. The product, created in 2011, was inspired by the chocolatey, crispy edges of a pan of fresh-baked brownies.
|Sheila G. Mains, founder of Brownie Brittle, L.L.C.|
“If someone had said, ‘You want to put this out as a low-calorie snack and focus on that,’ I would have probably been hesitant to do that initially because I didn’t want people to think this was a diet food,” Ms. Mains told Food Business News. “It’s just a rich indulgent snack that wasn’t going to kill your calorie count for the day.”
With 120 calories per 1-oz serving, Brownie Brittle flavors include chocolate chip, toffee crunch, mint chocolate chip and salted caramel.
This year, the company is launching three organic varieties: chocolate chip, pretzel with dark chocolate, and chocolate with toasted coconut.
“Certainly organic has become important to many consumers, and even though we realize we can’t be all things to all people, if there is a chance that we can make it happen, we do,” Ms. Mains said. “We have had requests for (organic) from our retailers and from our Brownie Brittle fans, and we decided we needed to roll up sleeves and get to work and come up with something great and organic.”
The process took more than a year and required a number of recipe tweaks, she said. The primary challenge that came with using organic ingredients was replicating the flavor and crunch of the original product.
“We raised the bar pretty high with the taste and texture of our regular core line of Brownie Brittle, and we just didn’t want to disappoint customers, so we kept going back (and refining the recipe),” Ms. Mains said. “Sugar, whether you use non-G.M.O. or regular sugar, doesn’t impact the flavor, but there were some key ingredients we needed to make sure were the best so it did deliver the flavor that we were looking for to match our core Brownie Brittle.”
The company began selling brownie products to restaurants, club stores and theme parks in 1992.
“We still do brownies for Disney,” Ms. Mains said.
Ms. Mains said she used to walk through the bakery many afternoons, collecting the crispy brownie batter drippings from the sides of the sheet pans.
“And then I found that the pickings were getting scarce and thought that maybe the baker got really neat, but then I went out there one day a littler earlier and found everyone who worked in the bakery snacking on the little edges,” she said. “It was like a lightbulb (went off).”
After some experimentation in her kitchen, she created Brownie Brittle. Today, the brand is sold in tens of thousands of retail outlets.
“In 2011, we had about 200,000 bags on store shelves, and now we have between 25 million and 30 million,” Ms. Mains said.
After discovering how successful the products were among weight-conscious consumers, the company began listing the calorie content on the front of pack.
“We decided we should probably maximize this (opportunity),” she said. “People are going to walk by and see the package and think, ‘This is going to kill my diet,’ and resist picking it up. We wanted to get past that and encourage them that it really wasn’t going to be detrimental to their diet.”
In addition to the organic varieties, the brand is extending its core lineup with a new dark chocolate and sea salt variety this year.
“It’s a flavor that I think appeals to masses,” Ms. Mains said. “Some flavors are a little more polarizing than others.
“We have a couple other things in the works that I can’t really discuss at this point, but you’ll be seeing more toward the last half of the year.”
The company may even expand beyond the brownie — eventually.“We’re looking at other items that we can put out on the market,” Ms. Mains said. “At the same time, we’re very aware that everyone else is looking at us and wanting to put out a brownie brittle. We want to stay true to our brand, and knowing the competition is at our heels, making sure we do everything right before we say, ‘Now let’s start making cookies or whatever.’ We want to be sure we are paying close attention to our core line and always innovating so we stay fresh and exciting.”