PHOENIX — Five snack makers pitched their products and answered questions from a panel of snack industry judges at SNAC International’s SNAC Tank competition, and it was the brand Candid that walked away with the $10,000 prize for Noons, sustainably and ethically sourced chocolate crunch bites.
But Chris Kajander, co-founder and chief executive officer of Candid, wasn’t the only one to walk away from the contest with a check from SNX, SNAC’s education and collaboration event held March 27-29.
The audience vote went to Pulp Pantry, a brand of veggie chips made from upcycled vegetable fiber. It was advertised as a bragging-rights only honor, but Rohan Oza, a guest judge on TV’s “Shark Tank” who served on the panel, said he thought the distinction deserved a prize so he pledged $5,000 to the brand pitched by Kaitlin Mogentale, company founder and CEO.
Each snack pitched had a better-for-you pedigree for both people and the planet. For instance, Noons uses a part of the cacao that is normally thrown away.
“We are the first to use the cacao fruit as a sweetener,” Mr. Kajander said. “Cacao is like a pod that has seeds. It’s surrounded by this fleshy fruit that’s actually really delicious and nutritious, and it’s usually discarded.”
He's working with 1,000 farmers in Costa Rica and Peru using regenerative agro forestry, and the product comes in compostable packaging.
Pulp Pantry uses upcycled vegetable fiber left over from making cold-pressed juice. The company recently adopted compostable packaging for the company’s single-serve bags.
“We work with suppliers to take all the fibrous by-product, the fibrous good stuff, and we make it into a line of real veggie chips that actually have fresh ingredients as the first ingredient,” Ms. Mogentale said. “Each serving has five grams of fiber, so a bag of chips is your full day serving of fiber.”
Another competitor included Cosmic Carrot Chews pitched by Seth Goldman, the founder of the brand Honest Tea. His latest venture is the company Eat the Change, which recently launched Cosmic Carrot Chews, veggie products that are akin to fruit chews for children. The carrots in the product are cooked slightly, which increases their bioavailability, or the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
“The first ingredient is whole carrots, organic carrots,” Mr. Goldman said. “The second ingredient is organic apple juice and then some flavoring. In a lot of ways they look like little fruit chews. But from a nutritional perspective, the consumer or kid is getting a full serving of carrots in every pouch.”
Daily Crunch Snacks, a line of sprouted almonds and trail mixes, pitched products at the competition as well. The gluten-free, vegan snacks come in bags made from recycled plastic.
“We have this patent pending of the spouted dehydration process that sheds the phytic acid and makes (the almonds) much more nutrient dense and bioavailable, but also gives it that crunch that really differentiates us in the marketplace,” said Laurel Orley, CEO and co-founder. “For us, it’s really about our innovative flavors.”
The final pitch came from Dustin Finkel, CEO of Awakened Foods, maker of Ka-Pop!, a sorghum-based vegan and gluten-free snack.
“We’re using sorghum, which is an incredibly regenerative and biodiverse grain,” he said. “Unlike the rest of the world grains like corn, rice and wheat, we have no fillers so we’re densely nutritious.”