The year-old drinkable grains start-up had big hopes for its seven-strong line of sweet and savory liquid snacks – currently retailing in New York and Miami. NUWI Quinoa Snacks are made using organic quinoa flour cooked in water, agave syrup, fruits or vegetables and natural flavoring.
The company totted up sales of around $250,000 in its first year – a figure growing 40-50% each month. Plans were to expand to the East Coast of the US over the next year, its co-founder Gabriel Poblet told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“We have decided to go slow because these are a very unique proposal, so it takes time to educate consumers because it’s totally different; it’s unexpected,” he said.
Education on the benefits of quinoa wasn’t needed, he said, but pushing the concept of drinking the grains was.
“We are a snack in a bottle – that’s something different.”
The yogurt-textured snack is packaged in glass bottles and retails in the refrigerated section of stores. “It looks like a beverage, but it’s not a beverage – it’s a food," said Poblet.
The concept of drinkable foods is something still fairly new to the US, he explained, but had proved successful in Europe with liquid yogurts and soups. “My understanding is that Europeans are open to drinking food. The idea behind NUWI is to leverage that trend, which in New York is very new right now.”
Poblet said many more snack brands were likely to develop drinkable grain products – which would be helpful to business by driving consumer familiarity with the concept.
It’s healthier and tackles bar fatigue
The appeal of a liquid quinoa snack, he said, was that it was a real food, easily digested while on the go.
“A snack in a bottle is convenient and it’s good for the body because you’ll process it immediately. Also, many are tired of grabbing those bars as a snack because it’s still a candy and they’re looking for real food but something that is convenient.”
Quinoa was booming, he said, and this combined with fatigue around bars meant there was a real opening for alternatives.
Consumers were buying NUWI as a bar replacement between meals , he said. “We are a snack. We compete with anything you grab for a snack between meals – mainly bars – because here in New York people eat bars.”
NPD in the pipeline, yes
Asked if the company was working on any new product development, Poblet said there were several ideas. Firstly, NUWI was working on new flavors as consumers demanded more variety and secondly the company was looking into developing variants without agave syrup, he explained.
“I’m looking for all moments of consumption where you can eat a really healthy snack. The possibilities are enormous.”
NUWI, however, would always be quinoa-based. “I prefer to stay with quinoa because I’ve spent almost two years finding the right recipe… Any ancient grain is great, but I know a lot about quinoa so I’d prefer to share my knowledge about quinoa rather than sell something I don’t really know.”
Online expansion a very real possibility
Poblet said NUWI was also seriously considering moving its products online to facilitate US West Coast and international expansion. “There are a lot of people interested in this product. We’ve been contacted from Canada, the UK, Netherlands, Norway – so we caught their attention with the concept. Those markets are high consumers of quinoa as well, so there is a lack of options of quinoa.”
To reach these markets, NUWI is looking into developing an online platform. However, Poblet said his firm would have to go back to the drawing board for its packaging as shipping glass bottles overseas was too risky. “But, probably at the end of this year, we’ll be ready for that,” he added.