The brainchild of Italian serial entrepreneur Livio Bisterzo - who spent most of his adult life in London but now lives in California - Hippeas organic chickpea puffs were conceived in spring 2015, debuted on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously in summer 2016, and have already secured shelf space at 18,500 stores from Starbucks (nationwide), Whole Foods Market (one region this year, several more in 2017), and Amazon in the US, to WH Smith (travel division), Boots, Holland & Barrett and Waitrose in the UK.
Talks are also progressing with major retailers and foodservice providers in both markets, says Bisterzo, founder of brand owner Green Park Brands, who reckons that Hippeas could achieve wholesale revenues of $35m by the end of 2018 if sales continue on their current trajectory.
“I’ve been working with CPG brands for a long time and I've never seen anything take off like this. It's been extraordinary."
From zero to 18,500 stores in three months
While such broad and rapid distribution out of the blocks is no guarantee of success – and can indeed be a risk for new brands (which are always advised to go deep before they go wide) - early sales data is giving Bisterzo the confidence to move fast, while he has contracts in place to secure sufficient supplies of organic chickpeas to meet the brand’s predicted rapid expansion.
“We’ve been in Boots [leading high street retailer in the UK known for health, beauty and grab & go sandwiches and snacks] for two months and they’ve just told us that they want to double distribution already. The velocity we’re seeing in Starbucks is also way better than everyone anticipated.
"It just feels like the right product at the right time. We sold out on Amazon within an hour so they had to order more almost immediately.
“We’ve also had a lot of interest from some international foodservice companies; I think people have confidence in us because we are well-funded, we have the capacity in place to grow, and we have created a comprehensive brand and a proposition that is market ready – in the way that a big brand would be – but we also meet all of the major consumer trends.
"But what really gives me confidence is the level of consumer engagement; we’re getting 200-300 emails a day from people telling us they love the product or asking where can I get it?”
A natural & organic brand with mainstream appeal
The gluten-free snacks – which are manufactured by co-packers in the US and in Ireland – require specialized extrusion equipment and are crunchier than extruded corn snacks, with an appealing nutritional profile (3g fiber, 4g protein and 130 calories per 28g/1oz serving).
"This looks like a very interesting product launch. The packaging is bright and eye-catching, and the brand is an odd combination of trendy yet retro which could resonate with the target audience of Millennial consumers.
"Chickpeas are definitely trending as a 'better for you' snack ingredient, so much so that packaged foods giants like Mondelez are beginning to use them in snack products which is an indication that they are on the path to becoming a mainstream snack ingredient. Mondelez recently launched Nabisco Good Thins crackers, a line that includes a variety made with chickpeas. A chickpea snack called Chic-a-Peas is also making waves [along with roasted chickpea snacks from The Good Bean, Biena Foods, Saffron Foods et al].
"The protein content of this snack is likely to attract attention. According to a brand new, 2016 Canadean consumer survey, 38% of American consumers say they are trying to eat as much protein as possible while 44% are trying to eat at least a moderate amount of protein. But if you look at the findings by age, protein is a huge draw for younger, Millennial-age consumers. 56% of consumers in the 25-34 year old age group say they are trying to eat as much protein as possible, suggesting that protein-rich snacks geared toward this age group have the potential to be well received.
"Another factor which may help here is that the snack is not corn-based and has no GMOs. Corn is closely associated with GMOs which is a trigger issue for younger consumers."
Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director, Canadean
The secret of the brand’s early success, says Bisterzo, is that it appeals to the natural & organic foods crowd – ticking all the health and sustainability boxes – but it also has far broader appeal (the packaging, from design agency Jones Knowles Ritchie, was designed to appeal to a mainstream audience).
“I wanted to create something scalable that would appeal to Millennials around the globe, a brand with global appeal in a high velocity food category that would deliver on taste,” said Bisterzo.
“There are several roasted chickpea snacks out there but I’ve not seen anything else extruded and baked like this before.”
"They've tapped into the most iconic symbol of happiness and appropriated it in a way that leverages all of its inherent strength while simultanesouly making it their own, recognizable and above all else memorable. I have spotted them at Starbucks and they always bring a smile to my face. It will be interesting to see how the branding plays out in more competitive environments like a Whole Foods snack set."
Blake Mitchell, principal, Interact (food product packaging design and branding agency).
Hippeas is the first product to emerge from Los Angeles-based Green Park Brands, a holding company founded in 2015 by Italian entrepreneur Livio Bisterzo, who is best known for developing the high-end men’s skincare line Kyoku for Men and turning the Danish tea and juice brand Little Miracles into one of the fastest-growing brands in the category.
Longer-term the company will look to develop a portfolio of better-for-you brands developed in-house and by other entpreneurial start-ups, says Bisterzo, who has raised an undisclosed sum from a network of high net worth individuals to support the rapid expansion of Hippeas.
Where next for beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils?
Register HERE for our FREE, online 60-minute Pulse Innovation Forum on November 2, featuring Brami (lupini beans), Beanitos (bean snacks), Eat Well Embrace Life ('other bean hummus'), Pulse Canada, and Banza (chickpea pasta).