On the surface, “the idea of vegan pork rinds doesn’t make any sense at all honestly,” company co-founder Samy Kobrosly told FoodNavigator-USA at a Meet the Makers event hosted by Washington, DC-based incubator Union Kitchen March 4.
And yet, the launch of Snacklins last year was perfectly timed to tap into Americans’ love-affair with all types of meat snacks – sticks, bars & jerky – and the dueling rising demand for plant-based alternatives to animal products. These warring trends also led to the creation of Lightlife’s Smart Jerky and several coconut-based vegan bacon options.
Even though many Americans are embracing plant-based alternatives to animal products, Kobrosly said the idea of a plant-based chicharrone is a bit mind-blowing.
“People go: ‘Whaaat?!’ when we say we are a plant-based chicharrone. And then our biggest problem is that people think we are lying and that we are not vegan – especially once they taste it,” he said, explaining, “they have the same texture as pork rinds and the same flavor as a pork rind.”
The brand achieved this feat by using dehydrated yucca that is then flash fried to create “that nice puff – that crispy, airiness to it” that many people associate with pork rinds, Kobrosly said. As for the taste, that comes in part from mushroom, which contributes a “meaty umami.”
New packaging & new pricing open new possibilities
The product’s current packaging features two sassy vegetables laughing – an image that reflects the co-founders sense of humor and hints at the snack’s origin as a joke, but which might not suggest a serious business partner to retailers.
So, as the company starts to take the product seriously, it has opted for more refined packaging, which will launch exclusively at Whole Foods in mid-March before eventually rolling out to other retailers.
The new packages “are much more fancy and will have a window and our new tag line: No meat, no gluten, no GMO and no guilt,” Kobrosly added.
In the coming year, the startup will tackle another hurdle that is holding it back from mainstream distribution – its suggested retail price.
Currently set at $3.50 for a small bag, the price point makes Snacklins a premium product of the kind that natural and health food shoppers often are willing to pay, but which is out of reach of many other consumers – especially when stocked next to less expensive potato and corn chips, Kobrosly said. As such, the company plans to cut its price almost in half to $1.99, he noted.
“With the new price you will be able to buy Snacklins without hurting your wallet and you will feel a lot less guilty” than if you bought conventional chips, Kobrosly said.
The price cut also will help the snack move out of the natural channel and into more conventional channels, including convenience stores, Kobrosly added.