Calbee to enter granola and veggie puffs categories in US

By Douglas Yu contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: BAS
Pic: BAS
The Japanese snacks company Calbee is introducing two new snack brands, Granola Medley and Honestly Veggie Popper Duos, to the US early next year, adding to its existing US portfolio of Harvest Snaps, shrimp and potato chips in the market.

At the recent Expo East in Baltimore, Maryland, Paul Laubscher, director of marketing at Calbee North America, said the US accounts for a small portion of the company’s overall sales, but it is becoming increasing important due to the sheer volume of snacks consumption.

“We are targeting good growth with a strong focus on North America, and hope to expand beyond ethnic stores and enter the mainstream US channel with more Asian-inspired products,”​ he said.

Frugra vs ‘Grafru’

Laubscher noted Calbee’s Medley launch marks its entry into the US granola market, even though the company has a long history of producing granola in Asia.

“We wanted to make a granola brand customized for this market and were very careful with our branding,”​ he told BakeryandSnacks.

“We talked to consumers for nine months. What we learned from them is they love granola, but they are tired of the hard crunch. So we made a granola that has both the middle crunch and softer crunch. This is also a very family-friendly product targeting millennials who have kids.”

“We have a tradition of using very high quality ingredients and have carried that through all of the products we are bringing to North America,”​ said Laubscher.

He noted the US version contains more oats compared to Calbee’s Asian granola brand.

“The products sold in Asia are called Frugra, meaning fruit and granola coming together. But consumers in the US like granola crunch more than the fruit flavor, and they really like oats. So [we’ve added] more oats in Medley… making it more of a ‘Grafru’,”​ he said.

Eat vegetables, not potatoes

Another new brand Calbee debuted at the show was Honestly Veggie, which was designed for vegetarian snackers aged between eight and 12.

Its first product line, Popper Duos, is made of baked vegetables and it contains no artificial colors or flavors.

According to Laubscher, the brand was developed after Calbee found many snack products with “veggie”​ in their names were actually made from potatoes or other types of starch, which are not as healthy as vegetables like peas.

“Consumers are yearning for products that are actually better for you, so we made a promise when we created Honestly Veggie that the first ingredient is always vegetables,”​ said Laubscher. “For our puffed cheese balls, we provide poppers with two different flavors in every bag: barbecue and ranch. That’s why we called it Popper Duos.”

Creating puffed snacks is easy for Calbee thanks to its adept skills in making shrimp chips.

“The first products we made in Asia were shrimp chips, so the process of creating these light, aerial crisps and puffs is something we know very well. It makes sense [for us to develop Popper Duos] after we found consumers’ desire for vegetables-based snacks,”​ said Laubscher. 

Pulling out of its potato chips venture in the Philippines

In other news, Calbee is moving out of its potato chips venture in the Philippines with Universal Robina Corporation (URC), which was created in 2014 to expand Calbee’s footprint in the country.

The venture has been struggling to make a profit, according to the snacks maker.

The split is amicable with both entities agreeing to URC taking it over.

The venture will continue to produce and sell Calbee’s products under a licensing agreement as the snack market in the Philippines remains ‘promising,’ ​said Calbee.

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