Biena chocolate covered chickpeas
The new range of snacks from Biena Foods combines chickpeas and chocolate.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Debuting at Natural Products Expo West, a new range of snacks from Biena Foods combines chickpeas and chocolate. The product line is positioned as a permissible indulgence, featuring crunchy roasted chickpeas covered in dark chocolate, milk chocolate or salted caramel.

Poorva Patodia, Biena
Poorvi Patodia, founder and c.e.o. of Biena Foods

“The line is based on this simple but powerful consumer insight that people today love chocolate and want to indulge, but they want to be smarter about it,” said Poorvi Patodia, founder and chief executive officer of Biena Foods, in an interview with Food Business News. “There isn’t anything else on the market today that offers this kind of real chocolate crunchy snack experience for the type of nutritionals we can offer. One serving is about 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and only 4 grams of sugar.”

The launch marks the brand’s first big product extension since it debuted in 2012. Developed as a healthier alternative to traditional salty snacks, Biena’s flagship line of roasted chickpeas includes such varieties as sea salt, honey roasted, cinnamon and barbecue, plus more recent additions habanero and ranch. The products are sold in about 8,000 retail outlets nationwide.

“The category and our brand have gained mainstream acceptance of taking this chickpea or bean-based snack and making it broadly available and really meeting the consumer needs for a clean, healthy, protein snack,” Ms. Patodia said.

Biena roasted chickpea snacks
Biena’s flagship line of roasted chickpeas debuted in 2012.

The idea to add chocolate came a little more than six months ago.

“Someone on our team was playing around with chocolate and had our snacks and tried it together, and it tasted great,” Ms. Patodia said. “We were all blown away by the overall taste experience of a real dark chocolate with our sea salt chickpeas.”

Early feedback has been “incredibly positive,” she said.

“Our retail partners recognize this is something consumers want,” Ms. Patodia said. “Frankly, there’s a big gap in the marketplace… Consumers want real food. They don’t want artificial sweeteners or things like that, so they’re eating chocolate but would rather eat less chocolate to get that chocolate fix.”

Biena Weight Watchers sea salt chickpea snacks
Weight Watchers partnered with Biena Foods to create a line of co-branded chickpea snacks.

A recent surge in product development featuring beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils has driven more consumer awareness of such ingredients and has helped Biena Foods capture significant growth in recent years.

“Chickpeas are now being found in brownies as well as chickpea pasta and chickpea crisps and other bean-based snacking items,” Ms. Patodia said. “For us, it’s been a great benefit in the sense that it’s definitely grown the category and it has driven more consumer awareness of the category.

“More and more retailers are putting multiple brands on the shelf, which is really the most exciting thing because once our retailer partners start dedicating shelf space, it’s also a signal to the consumer that this is something to pay attention to.”

Biena Weight Watchers sour cream and onion chickpea snacks
Weight Watchers and Biena Foods created an exclusive sour cream and onion flavor.

The trend recently caught the attention of Weight Watchers, which has partnered with Biena Foods to create a line of co-branded chickpea snacks in sea salt and a new, exclusive sour cream and onion flavor. The single-serve multipacks will be available beginning in April at 6,000 Weight Watchers meeting locations nationwide.

“When I created this brand, even at that time I recognized that our snacks could play a really important role in weight management,” Ms. Patodia said. “It’s not a diet food, but it’s more that this is a natural snack that has protein and fiber in it.”

A study published last year in the journal Appetite suggested eating one daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils could contribute to modest weight loss.    

“From talking with the core team over at Weight Watchers, their consumers are wanting foods like these,” Ms. Patodia said. “We’re all really excited about the partnership and getting the brand out there.”