Calbee launches Harvest Snaps flavor with Walmart, focuses on growing Japanese snack brands in US

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Calbee
Image Credit: Calbee

Related tags Calbee

Snack brand Calbee is growing through a two-pronged approach: driving its core US brand Harvest Snaps at the same time as elevating its Japanese snack brands to a new level among US consumers, company CCO Tim Bateman told FoodNavigator-USA.

Partnering with Walmart, expanding Harvest Snaps options

As part of its multi-pronged growth strategy, Calbee recently partnered with Walmart on a Hot & Spicy flavor of its baked red lentil snack, Harvest Snaps Crunchy Loops. The product has “an exclusive 90-day on shelf deal​” with Walmart, before launching in Target in September, Bateman said.   

While the flavor launch has been a success at Walmart, Bateman acknowledged that Harvest Snaps footprint in the store has changed from “a really good presence in the produce department to having a decent one in the snack aisle​” over the last several years. However, Calbee now offers five SKUs of its product at Walmart, and it nearly doubled its store count, he added.

The company also is expanding through multipacks, “as retailers are really expanding that space,​” Bateman said. Currently, Calbee offers a six-pack of its baked green pea snack, including two packs of Lightly Salted, Tomato Basil, and Sour Cream & Onion flavors. 

Back to school timing is great, and it's usually the biggest lift, but [multipacks have] become an everyday item for most retailers. You will still see strong sales in March, as you will in August and September ... so our goal is to make more variations.​”

Though Harvest Snaps sales are still up this year, the snacks category is experiencing some softness, as there isn’t “as much pantry loading as there was last year,​” Bateman noted. Like many brands, Calbee raised its price on Harvest Snaps last years to counteract inflation and other business pressure, and it found that consumers still gravitated to the brand, he added.

We're still at a price point that consumers said, ‘It's a little bit more expensive, but it's still the best value compared to all these other brands,’​” Bateman said. “We've benefited from that. We benefited from some consumer shifting because we were more expensive, but we were still a better value than everybody else.​”

Tapping into pop culture, rethinking the Asian food aisle to grow legacy brands

While Harvest Snap is Calbee’s main product in the US, Bateman said he sees an opportunity to grow its legacy Japanese snack brands, including Calbee Potato Chips, Takoyaki Ball, Shrimp Chips, Jagabee, and others as consumers look for more globally-inspired flavor, and pop culture drives attention to Japanese snacks and foods.

If we're going to grow, we've got to go to Kroger, we got to go to Safeway, we got to go to Walmart, we got to go to Costco, we got to go to Sam’s. We got to go to all these places where these other brands are getting in that don't really belong.​”

This year was also the second year that Calbee attended the popular anime convention Anime Expo, where it invested nearly eight-times more this year. At the show, it promoted its line up of Asian snacks while also promoting them on its homepage during the event to drive awareness, Bateman said.

Calbee is expanding its presence within the Asian food aisle but also working to move its snack alongside it’s competitor like Frito-Lays, Doritos, etc. in the salty snack aisle, Bateman noted.

You got an eight-foot section filled with sauce [in the Asian food aisle], and things that maybe turn a bottle a year. [Retailers] really need to focus on immediate consumable like ramen, like beverages, and like snacks. And if you're going to lean in on it with a snack supplier, well, we’re your guy because number one, I'm already shipping you two truckloads a month on Harvest Snaps, so I might as well start shipping you half a truckload on some of these Asians snacks.​”

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