Expo East 2016

Probiotics migrate from drink and yogurt chillers to the snack aisle

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Farmhouse Culture CEO John Tucker (right), said probiotics is just a tip of the iceberg in snacks
Farmhouse Culture CEO John Tucker (right), said probiotics is just a tip of the iceberg in snacks

Related tags Fermentation

Probiotic is booming as an ingredient in the US market, particularly in the beverage category as companies target consumer interest in digestive and gut health. 

And at the Natural Product Expo East show in Baltimore last month, BakeryandSnacks found plenty of signs that probiotic has moved into the portable snack sector - with manufacturers declaring this should be expected in a country with as strong a snacking culture as the US.

Inspired by sauerkraut

Among those tapping the trend is Farmhouse Culture, founded by Kathryn Lukas eight years ago after she fell in love with fermented food while traveling in Germany.

The business, which specializes in producing sauerkraut (finely cut fermented cabbage), unveiled a range of added-probiotic chips at Expo East.

Snacks are an easier way to incorporate probiotics into our daily diets, Farmhouse Culture CEO John Tucker told BakeryandSnacks. Although the business is rooted in producing fermented vegetables, chips were a natural way to open a new chapter in its product portfolio, he said.

The chip line comprises five flavors: Dill Pickle, Smoked Jalapeno, Sea Salt, White Cheddar, and Zesty Veggie Garden. Each five-ounce bag sells for between $3.49 and $3.99, depending on the retail channels.

The sauerkraut-based chips are made with corn kasa by California-based Warnock Food Products - the first time Farmhouse Culture has used a co-manufacturer. All five flavors will be available in natural, specialty and mass channels across the US.

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback and interest from retailers ​[at the show],”​ Tucker said.

Everything we do is to build off our foundation of fermentation​,” he added. “Nearly 50% of the consumers in the US are now looking to bring more probiotics to their diet, and 95% of those people would buy products with probiotics in it.”

Tucker, who was CEO of Dave’s Killer Bread​ before it was acquired by Flowers Foods for $275m last year, said “the snack category is driven by innovation… probiotic-rich chips is just a beginning.”

Another Dave’s Killer Bread veteran on the Farmhouse Culture team is VP of sales Greg Intlekofer, who held the same role at the bread business before its acquisition.

Farmhouse Culture has projected its sales this year to be north of $7m if its new probiotic snack wins the market’s favor. The business has experienced 30% year-over-year growth, and it is moving towards its $10m goal in the next few years.

“We are thriving to be the leader in probiotic-rich food and beverages, and snack chips is certainly one of the multitude of ways we can do that,”​ said Tucker.

Luke's Organics

Creating shelf-stable, probiotic snacks

Also launching probiotic chips at Natural Product Expo East was Luke’s Organic, which produces a variety of chip products with ingredients including ancient grain, protein, brown rice and chia seed.

The brand's new probiotic chips come in pumpkin seed and sweet potato flavors, and retail for $3.49 for a five-ounce bag at natural and mass channels in the US.

Luke’s Organic founder Jaap Langenberg said most probiotic products in the market are refrigerated, like beverages and yogurt.

But the new chip product is a shelf-stable, and delivers daily probiotics in a one-ounce serving, he said, adding that probiotics chips offer “an easy, affordable way to improve gut health”.

Probiotic baking mixes

Baking products also appear to be tapping demand for probiotics, Langenberg added.

“We’ve started seeing baking mixes from other companies and other baking applications have started adding probiotics as well. There is a lot of fermentation. The idea of having a shelf-stable product is appealing.”

Luke’s Organic has doubled sales since the inception of its business two years ago, and is hoping to become a multi hundred million-dollar brand in the next three to five years, Langenberg said.

Farmhouse Culture's Tucker is similarly bullish about the prospects of the probiotics market. 

"Now is just a tip of the iceberg in snacks,” ​he said.

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