Jon Springer: Peatos bypassed the natural
food channel and went direct to traditional
retailers such as Albertsons and Kroger;
how and why did this happen?
Nick Desai: The natural channel is not so
natural anymore. Pricing pressures and
consolidation among distributors, as well
as a lack of transparency, have caused the
natural channel leaders to resemble the big
retailers and alienated their core small-brand
clientele. Meanwhile, the big conventional
retailers have shifted their mindset to attract
millennials seeking challenger brands. We
found a very friendly and supportive launch
partner for Peatos in Kroger. Given that
they sell six times the groceries nationally of
Whole Foods, and they were willing to really
get behind a younger brand, it was an easy
choice for us.
To what extent have traditional retailers’
receptiveness to new brands softened, in
I would say things have shifted dramatically.
What would have been unheard of years ago
is now very real. More forward-minded traditional retailers are seeking out and coddling
younger innovative brands and challengers.
They want to attract the new generation of
consumers and millennials, and well-managed retailers like Kroger and Walmart are
really shifting their mindset. Others are
catching up or struggling. Natural retailers have made it easy by losing some of the
“touchy-feely” elements that historically
made them great launch partners for new
Would debuting in Kroger and Albertsons
have even been possible a few years ago?
It would have been much more difficult.
Brands used to have to develop as a “child”
in the natural channel so they could graduate
to the “adulthood” of the conventional world.
That is so different now. Bear in mind this
doesn’t apply to all retailers; we have found
certain retailers to be more progressive than
others. Kroger and Walmart are doing particularly good jobs at this, in our view. When we
chose Kroger to become our national launch
partner for one of the most innovative snacks
to hit the market in decades, we did not take
the decision lightly.
Do you have a preference whether your
products are merchandised in produce
departments or with snacks?
Yes. We are a produce-centric brand.
Plant-protein snacks belong in produce and,
candidly, this is a huge opportunity for the
produce department. Plant protein was proclaimed one of the hottest tech trends by Goo-gle leader Eric Schmidt. Proteins are merchandised in the perimeter of the store. Millennials shop in the produce section and have
the highest level of interest in plant proteins. It
all points to produce as the place where these
types of snacks should be merchandised. We
have other product lines in development that
may include “fresh” components.
So what are pulses, anyway? And what do
consumers need to know about them?
Pulses are the edible seeds of leguminous
plants. Commonly known pulses are beans,
peas and lentils, but there are so many pulses
virtually unknown in the West. They are an
amazing source of plant protein and fiber
and other key nutrients like iron, zinc and
folates. Pulses are a primary source of protein in some countries like India. Peatos are
a crunchy, puffed snack made with a combination of pulses—beans, peas, chickpeas and
lentils—that contains 4 grams of protein and
3 grams of fiber per serving.
You’ve made no secret of the mainstream
CPG competitor consumers should compare Peatos to, and appear to be replicating
the taste, texture and appearance of. Have
you heard anything from the Cheetah?
We have a great admiration for the Cheetah.
Used to be one of my favorite snacks when
I was younger. But like the T. rex, the corny
Cheetah failed to evolve and adapt, and
therefore may face extinction.
Nick Desai is CEO of Snack
It Forward, maker of World Peas
Brand Peatos, a plant-based
puffed cheese snack that
debuted in Kroger and
Albertsons stores this year.
A one-on-one conversation with an industry impresario
What unhealthy habits have you yet
to break? McDonald’s french fries.
Eating late at night.
What’s the best piece of business
advice you’ve gotten? Stay hungry,
Who does the food shopping
for your family? My wife. Costco,
Walmart, Ralphs and Trader Joe’s.