BOSTON — Snack puffs have surged in popularity recently, but many options in the marketplace failed to meet Poorvi Patodia’s standards of nutrition and taste. As the founder and chief executive officer of Biena Snacks, Ms. Patodia saw an opportunity to expand her brand’s portfolio of plant-based snacks with the introduction of baked chickpea puffs in three varieties: Aged White Cheddar, Vegan Ranch and Blazin’ Hot.
Made from chickpeas, lentils and sunflower oil, the puffs provide 7 grams of plant protein and up to 40% fewer carbs than other puffed snacks per serving.
“You’ve got these incumbent legacy brands such as Pirate’s Booty and Cheetos, and then you have a number of healthier options that have launched in the last few years, and when we looked at the market, we realized there was still a significant gap in terms of a consumer need that hadn’t fully been met,” Ms. Patodia told Food Business News. “The healthier options in the market today don’t taste as good as the legacy brands, and they also actually don’t have a ton of nutrition. Most of these brands have three to four grams of protein, and they tend to have a harder, grittier texture.”
Many puffed snacks contain rice or corn ingredients, she added. Biena Chickpea Puffs do not.
“This project has been underway for six to nine months,” Ms. Patodia said. “We worked with best-in-class manufacturers and R.&D. food specialists. We looked at every single possible ingredient that could work here to help us achieve a far superior nutritional profile but also deliver on taste. We did a lot of experimentation.”
The puffs feature a light, airy texture and a “poppable” shape, Ms. Patodia said.
“We have reinvented the cheesy puff from the ground up,” she said. “Instead of being a doodle shape, it’s more of a circular shape. You don’t have to hold on to it for as long, so you get less seasoning on the hands.”
The Blazin’ Hot flavor was inspired by a similar product in the marketplace that contains artificial dyes.
“We used natural color from vegetables and fruits like beets and tomatoes,” Ms. Patodia said.
The puffs are slated to launch in April. A multipack offering will include single-serve portions that are keto-certified.
Since its debut in 2012, Biena has become the top-selling brand of roasted chickpea snacks, with distribution in more than 15,000 retail locations, including Walmart, Kroger, CVS, Target and Whole Foods Market. Flavors range from barbecue, habanero and sea salt to dark chocolate and a Girl Scout Cookie inspired Thin Mints variety.
“The core principles that were baked into that line from the beginning are the same things that have allowed us to take leadership of the category,” Ms. Patodia said. “We’re delivering flavor profiles people love and in a different way than other brands. You’re getting a lighter texture and crunch, you’re getting more flavor in every single bite.”
This summer, the brand is unveiling a new logo and packaging that evokes positivity and playfulness, Ms. Patodia said. As the company expands to create a broader platform of plant protein snacks, she said, “we wanted to have a brand identity that worked across multiple product lines, but also had strong unifying visual elements that brought all of the designs together.”