“PeaTos is revolutionising snacking by offering the same great tasting classic snacks that America grew up on, but with dairy-free, plant-based nutrition,” PeaTos founder and CEO Nick Desai told Bakery&Snacks.
For decades, Desai alleges the category has been monopolised by Frito-Lay, ultimately “meaning consumer choice at the retail level is an illusion.
“Anytime there's one player that has so much influence over the market, that choice is going to be limited, especially here in the United States and maybe similar around the world.
“When you have a company like Frito Lay that has such a massive market share in almost every style of salty snacking – they literally have an entire aisle dedicated to themselves … and Frito-Lay employees stock those shelves themselves – that type of clout is extremely difficult to go up against. It limits what is going to get on shelf because you have one party that everything kind of funnels through.
“We see in the media how politicians are concerned when companies like Facebook and Amazon get too big. [It’s a little known fact,] but [Frito-Lay] far exceeds its share of the snacking category that Facebook has in the social media category or what Amazon has in ecommerce,” claimed Desai.
“But those days are over – consumers no longer need to sacrifice taste for nutrition.”
Ticking consumer boxes
In a classic David vs. Goliath battle, Desai is challenging the dominance of the PepsiCo subsidiary with an approach that bridges the gap between junk food taste and better-for-you nutrition. PeaTos replaces the traditional corn base with nutrient-dense peas that offers 2x the protein and 3x the fibre of the leading salty snack counterparts. Of course, with nothing artificial and now with no dairy.
“Snackers love PeaTos because they taste just like old school snacks like Cheetos and Funyuns, but without all the scary artificial ingredients that Frito Lay uses,” said Desai.
“PeaTos are a better choice for the environment, too.”
The Los Angeles-headquartered producer is also a member of social media platform We Won’t Have Time, which works to reduce climate impact and promote an ecologically sound environment.
Added Desai, “Just one kilogramme of cheese has a carbon footprint of 14 kilograms of CO2, whereas dairy-free PeaTos uses no cheese. Reportedly, Cheetos uses more than 6,000 tons of cheddar cheese yearly, yielding a significant carbon footprint. That’s too cheesy!”
However, he believes that when it comes to the snacking category, “indulgence is paramount.”
The brand’s 100% plant-based offerings – launched last year – include Crunchy Onion Rings, (savoury with just a hint of sweet); Crunchy No-Cheese Curls (just the right amount of cheese); Crunchy Fiery Curls (serious heat meets serious crunch); and Crunchy Pizza Rings (a fresh from the oven mix of tomato and cheese).
Earlier this month, PeaTos expanded its line of chips and curls with the introduction of Crunchy Fiery Lime Puffs and Crunchy Cheese-less Puffs.
All offerings bear the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, offering consumers independent, third-party assurance that best practices have been followed to avoid the inclusion of genetically modified organisms.
“With the launch of PeaTos Puffs, we’re giving snackers two more ways to enjoy the savoury, finger-licking sensory experience of America’s favourite snacks, but reimagined with better nutrition and none of the junk.”
On the up and up
Having already attracted attention from industry heavyweights like Carlos Barroso, former head of Global R&D for PepsiCo; Carl Lee, former CEO of Snyder Lance; Apu Mody, past president of Mars Food; and most recently, Post Consumer Brands, PeaTos is experiencing rapid growth, thanks to strong online sales as well as 6,000 new points of distribution since January 2023.
“With more 22,000 points of distribution now secured, we expect our strong sales trajectory to continue throughout 2023, thanks to our new offerings and promotion partners, including our collaboration with Paramount Consumer Products on the upcoming 4 August theatrical release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said Desai.
In celebration of the movie release, PeaTos’ Crunchy Pizza Rings 3oz bags will feature Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. Select variety packs sold online will also feature a branded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles design, meaning fans can be reconciled with their favourite characters at their front door.
“A few years ago, Post Holdings – the company behind massive cereal brands – got involved and they’ve been an amazing partner and helped to provide capital to grow the business further. We’ve become a lot more cognisant about focusing on gross margins and profitability as our investment environment has changed.
“We’ve been able to get a lot more frugal in how we’re using our capital, which has been great. We have less of a reliance and therefore our losses have gone down dramatically. But we've been fortunate to be able to attract all the capital we need.
“Right now, it's just to continue build the company and within 12 months or so, we will be profitable.
“It takes a lot to build these kind of brands. It’s not an overnight success story,” said Desai.
“But we were fortunate – in our first year in business – to have sales that were higher than Kind and SkinnyPop did in their first year combined and those brands have gone on to become extremely successful. So I think we're off to a great start.”
We chat to Desai to find out more about his PepsiCo challenge and what advice he would give a small producer looking to break into the highly competitive snacking space.