Popping up all over

BFY Brands is relatively new to the snack food industry with a business strategy based on a slightly nonconformist agenda. It’s run by an established team headed by Mr. Nardone and Dan Morgan, BFY Brands president and chief sales officer, and past chairman of SNAC International (formerly the Snack Food Association).

The two industry veterans turned entrepreneurs got together two years ago after Permira, a European-based equity firm, acquired Medora Snacks L.L.C. and Ideal Snacks Corp., which had served the healthy snack market for decades.

Back in 2015, PopCorners, Bean Crisps and other products were sold under separate brands until Our Little Rebellion umbrella brand took over. Ideal Snacks serves as the contract manufacturing arm.

To make its distinctive snacks, the company uses more than 800 individual patented compression or puffing machines on 25 processing lines at its 300,000-square-foot co-manufacturing plant in Liberty and at the 105,000-square-foot Our Little Rebellion branded facility in Middletown, N.Y.

“Our real strength within that better-for-you snack subcategory is that we’re different, and nobody else is making our type of product,” Mr. Morgan explained. “We have technology that allows us to combine real vegetables and other inclusions to create snacks that have both terrific health attributes and great taste.”

Mr. Nardone added that the company has only touched the surface of its flexible technology’s capability. It can transform pelletized and raw-grain starches such as corn, potato, soy, rice and cassava into gluten-free popped chips. The snacks are enhanced by specialty ingredients such as chickpea blends, fruit or an array of grains, pulses and other vegetables.

Top-selling PopCorners come in seven varieties, ranging from Salt of the Earth and a buttery Cinema Style snack to Chedda’ Feel Good and Sweetly Salted Caramel that mimic some of the most popular flavors in the chip, popcorn and cheese snack segments.

Made with black beans and green and yellow split peas, its thin Bean Crisps are full of protein and fiber and come in Salt of the Earth, Cha Cha Chili and Saucy Salsa Verde flavors. Meanwhile, Our Little Rebellion Protein Crisps are made with popped peas and soybeans and offer 10 grams of plant-based protein per serving — enough to qualify as a “good source” of protein. Flavors include Sweet & Smokey BBQ and Wasabi Ginger with Honey.

When it comes to co-manufacturing, mainstay flavors — salt, sour cream and onion, BBQ, and cheddar — account for about 75% of the products that Ideal Snacks makes, noted Jesse Shultis, vice-president of operations.

Currently, savory flavors outnumber sweet by a 10-to-1 ratio, but the company still strives to make greater inroads in the indulgence market. At its Liberty facility, Ideal Snacks has a compound-enrobing system that can coat or apply a drizzle of compound coating on crisps to provide consumers with a sweet reward. Mr. Shultis suggested the line’s oven can even caramelize a snack coated in a sugar or non-nutritive sweetener-based slurry to compete in the cookie aisle.

Ideal Snacks constantly collaborates with its customers to push the envelope on the latest culinary and health trends. The result may be as complex as a tricolor tomato, cheese and sprouted grain crisp or as simple as packaging three different types of flavored snacks into a single bag.

“Companies are always trying all sorts of new and innovative product flavors, such as lentil with tandoori spice or cucumber dill as well as a host of ethnically driven flavor spectrums,” Mr. Shultis pointed out. “What they generally migrate back to, though, are mainstay flavors because they’re trying to capture the broadest audience.”

During SNAXPO 2017 this spring, Ideal Snacks showed off its latest new product concept — probiotic popped beet snacks enrobed in chocolate — to demonstrate its commitment to innovation and swift response to the latest health crazes.

Mr. Morgan pointed out the company’s branded and co-manufacturing units complement each other in BFY Brands’ effort to spread the rebellion and introduce its signature snacks to as many consumers as possible. As the new Our Little Rebellion brand marches toward the West coast from its core markets in the East, Ideal Snacks works a parallel path on an already established beachhead across the nation. Specifically, the Liberty co-manufacturing operation supplies customized popped snacks to small incubators, private label retailers and even many of the largest food companies in the world.

In all, Mr. Nardone suggested, it’s a win-win proposition for the little rebellion and its co-manufacturing customers.

“Our strategic objective is to be the leader in the overall better-for-you snack category,” he said.