PepsiCo snack challenger to finger the ‘junk food in the 21st century’

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The new vegan pea-based snacks that introduce DJ_P ('Queen of the Remix'). Pic: PeaTos
The new vegan pea-based snacks that introduce DJ_P ('Queen of the Remix'). Pic: PeaTos

Related tags Peatos PepsiCo Frito-Lay Funyuns Cheetos Pea protein Junk food non-GMO vegan American Food Innovate Summit

PeaTos founder Nick Desai will take the podium at the upcoming America Food Innovate Summit to highlight the role of technology in promoting ‘junk’ food and controversially, fingering Frito-Lay’s monopoly for the alleged 'lack of progress' in the snacks category.

PeaTos calls itself a revolutionary snack brand, determined to replace corn-based snacks with ‘junk-free’ pea options. Since founding in 2019, the brand has been on a mission to disrupt the status quo of the sector, which it contends is in an unhealthy situation thanks to Frito-Lay.

“For decades, the category has been dominated as a monopoly by PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay, meaning consumer choice at the retail level is an illusion,”​ said Desai.

“But those days are over – consumer no longer need to sacrifice taste for nutrition.”

Shifting the landscape

Desai is set to take the stage on 28 March at the Annual American Food Innovate Summit to discuss ‘Bringing Junk Food to the 21st Century’.

The 14th Annual American Food Innovate Summit is taking place in Chicago on 28-29 March 2022. Topics to be explored include 'Post-COVID learnings for the food industry', 'Entrepreneurial thinking', 'A different approach to NPD' and 'Using AI to predict what shoppers really want', among others.

He will draw from his years of experience in the snack category to highlight the role of technology in improving ‘junk’ food and how this can be ‘reversed’ to come up to 21st​ standards.

In a classic David versus Goliath battle, he will again challenge Frito-Lay’s dominance for the lack of progress in the category, alleging that “for decades, the category has been monopolised by one player, meaning consumer choice at the retail level is an illusion.

“PeaTos makes good on the dream of bridging the gap between junk food taste and better-for-you nutrition. I hope to share with other food innovators some of my own key learnings and to inspire other entrepreneurs in the category,”​ said Desai.

His presentation will include:

  • We don’t have to regulate 'junk food' out of existence or make every choice extreme ('Only fresh fruits and vegetables')
  • Snacks are about taste and sensory experience
  • Eating invokes all five senses
  • Making 'junk food' better with the latest tech and food science
  • Progress has been stymied due to the current monopoly in the snack category
  • PeaTos has found an approach to create a better form of 'junk food' for the 21st​ century’s snack lover

Bold & sassy

PeaTos has recently adopted a proprietary methodology to replicate the dairy experience using only 100% plant-based ingredients to create a vegan snack that offers the taste and sensory experience of America’s favourite snacks such as Cheetos and Funyuns.

It says the upgraded plant-based versions still deliver a true yellow cheddar cheese ‘finger-licking’ flavour, but without any dairy, artificial additives or ingredients.

It also claims its snacks have twice the amount of protein and three times the fibre of its traditional counterparts and are made with non-GMO ingredients.

The new approach has also been given a new face, in the form of bold and sassy mascot DJ_P.

PeaTos is available at more than 4,700 retailers across the US, including Kroger and Sprouts, as well as online and on Amazon. The Los Angeles producer boasts Post Holdings, Carlos Barroso (former head of Global R&D for PepsiCo), Carl Lee (former CEO of Snyder Lance) and Apu Mody (past president of Mars Food) among its leading investors.

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