“Walnuts got a little pigeonholed along the way, a tiny bit there, they tend to be more of a supplement to other things – to your salads or baking, you put them in cookies or you put them cakes, but you won’t necessarily eat them on their own,” Anjali Bhatti, president for Unbound Snacks, told FoodNavigator-USA.
She acknowledged that many of the people who do eat walnuts on their own, often for health reasons and to access their omega-threes, may feel like doing so is a “chore” and be turned off by the stereotypical “papery” aftertaste of the raw nuts.
“So, having it as a snack is a difficult perception to break. But … we are very confident that we can disrupt the category and we can make people want to have walnuts as a first choice snack,” she added.
She explained that walnuts’ health profile with high levels of omega-threes and protein and anti-inflammatory benefits already make them appealing for health conscious snackers, but Unbound Snacks’ roasting and flavoring “is what makes them really craveable and snackable."
She explained, “Roasting them and seasoning them almost eliminates that papery back-note that you get when you’re eating raw walnuts. Right now, we have four different flavors of the roasted walnuts. We have chili lime, sea salt and pepper, toffee and roasted cinnamon.”
Unbound Snacks’ brightly colored, fun packaging also “is inviting and convinces people to want to try what’s inside,” and with images of Einstein’s brain and math equations the packaging helps convey some of the benefits research suggests walnuts offer.
Finally, Bhatti said she believes Unbound Snacks can win over consumers because as third-generation walnut farmers the family behind the brand can control the quality of the nuts and hold them to high standards.
‘The American consumer is looking for a healthy snack’
Overcoming consumers’ perceptions of how to best eat walnuts is only one challenge facing the new brand – Unbound Snacks also faces stiff competition in the nut aisle from well-established and iconic brands as well as a stronghold by private label options.
But Bhatti says she doesn’t feel threatened, and she doesn’t want Unbound Snacks to be constrained to just the nut aisle.
“We do compete with the [other] walnuts and cashews, but they’re almost standalones and it is not like a direct competitor,” she said. Rather, she explained, she sees Unbound Snacks as an alternative to chips and other less healthy options.
“The American consumer is looking for a healthy snack. I think people do love their chips, but they are looking to replace it. And walnuts have such a nice crunch. And … our flavors almost mimic some chip flavors a little bit, too. So, I feel like it’ll encourage people who are snacking on … chips to head in our direction,” she said.