Biena raises $3.75m to fuel chickpea snacks empire; unveils plan to 'reinvent what a chocolate snack can be'

Biena's chocolate covered roasted chickpeas have 130-140 calories, 4g of protein and 4g of fiber per 28g serving

Boston-based Biena has raised $3.75m to expand its chickpea-fueled snacking empire from a series of high profile investors as it prepares to roll out its first major line extension: chocolate coated roasted chickpeas, new territory for pulse-based snacks, says founder Poorvi Patodia.

The latest funding round includes ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell,  Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Jesse Itzler (co-founder of private jet sharing company Marquis Jet), Blueberry Ventures, Centerman Capital and New Ground Ventures, said Patodia, who has to date financed the rapidly-growing business (launched in 2012) through her own money and a friends and family round two years ago.

Darren had been thinking about getting into the food space for a while. We met at the Fancy Food Show last year and he kind of fell in love with the brand,” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “He travels a lot for work and saw us in the airports and he has got to know our team. He and his partners created a fund called Tastemaker Capital and Biena is the first investment. 

“He then reached out to people in his network from athletes to business people and brought them to the table, so it’s been really really exciting as they have such a wide range of expertise from social media and marketing to growing a successful brand.”

The cash injection will help Biena fund larger scale marketing efforts, hire additional staff, and support distribution growth in natural and conventional channels (Biena recently did a deal with Weight Watchers adding 6,000 locations to its 9,000 grocery stores, and has just secured shelf space in Kroger, Safeway and Wegmans that will add an additional 2,000 locations by the end of the year).

We’re reinventing what a chocolate snack can be

Typically we go in the healthy snacks set, and if retailers don’t have one, we can go in produce or even the nuts section," added Patodia, who said the brand was growing at 200% year-on-year. 

New single-serve 1.2oz snack packs launched earlier this year are performing well, while new chocolate covered roasted chickpeas (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, salted caramel) - unveiled for the first time at Expo West in March - will be launching at Wegmans this summer, she said.

“We thought the single serve packs would be ideal for foodservice accounts where you might grab a snack pack with your sandwich, but what we’ve found is that a lot of retailers are also interested in sticking them at the checkout as a lot of them are swapping out candy for healthier snacks there.”

As for the new chocolate covered line, she said: “I think this is going to be a real game changer. I haven’t been as excited about a product line since we launched our original line. We’ve seen a huge consumer need that’s not been met. We’re basically reinventing what a chocolate snack can be.

"It’s a real indulgent chocolate snack experience - people tell us that the milk chocolate ones remind them of eating a Twix - but you’re getting half the calories and half the fat.”

When Poorvi Patodia first started pitching roasted chickpeas to retail buyers in 2012, not everyone was convinced they could be a mainstream hit. Today, they are gracing shelves in 9,000+ stores from Sprouts to Stop & Shop and 6,000 Weight Watchers locations, while pulses of all kinds (beans, peas, lentils) are now in every self-respecting snack formulator’s toolkit. 

Like many food entrepreneurs, Patodia was in part motivated by frustration when she created Biena in 2011; in her case at the lack of healthy, but satisfying, savory snack options when she was pregnant and craving a crunchy, salty fix, but didn’t want to pig out on potato chips and feel guilty afterwards.

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Comments (1)

Tim Williams - 22 Jun 2017 | 12:39

Potential Candidate

Matt McCartly, Love the product line! I would love to be part of the Team to help take Biena Foods to the next level! I’ve had a very successful career at The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and The Gillette Company and these companies have allowed me the opportunities to develop the required skills to be successful at any CPG company. However, combining these sales skills with my commitment, enthusiasm and positive attitude, I feel I can be an incredible asset to Biena Foods! I was responsible for driving Ghirardelli sales within the Specialty Retailers located in the eastern part of the United States, a significant number of National Specialty and Off Price Retailers. I increased my sales in 2016 from $27,910,409 to $33,980,034, which represents just over $6 million dollars or a 22% increase! Please note, this represented 18.5% of the company's 2016 incremental sales. As the Eastern Specialty Sales Manager at Ghirardelli, I feel I’ve been extremely successful in 3 key areas: 1. Expanding our featured product lines to existing – new retailers during Category Reviews and generating unique and creative ideas to drive secondary placement by leveraging IRI or AC Nielsen data. 2. Developing new items and distribution methods to driving incremental sales at new retail outlets. For example, I started calling on the Off Price retailers 8 years ago and in 2016 I generating over $20 million dollars in annual sales. By working with the Senior Management Team’s within the Off Price Retailers, I was also able to change their distribution model to allow year round shipments to their stores via a distributor. This should generate an additional $10 - $15 million dollars in incremental sales starting in 2017. 3. Leveraging Brokers and Distributors to support our existing sales opportunities and drive our incremental sales at new retail outlets. I feel this has also allowed us to manage our “cost to serve model” and eliminated “retailer out of stock situations”. I also think my experience at managing Gillette’s entire portfolio helps demonstrate my strategic thinking, marketing and sales skills. It also demonstrates my ability to manage a $58 million dollar territory while meeting – exceeding the expectations of the unique Brand Managers, Internal Teams and Retailers. Last, I feel this portion of my career experience demonstrates that I can handle multiple complex and timely tasks such as product line reviews, developing promotional programs and forecasting. I’d greatly appreciate your consideration to help grow BienaFoods and I’m looking forward to discussing my qualifications in more detail at your convenience. Sincerely, Tim Williams Ph.: 561 806 - 3803

22-Jun-2017 at 00:39 GMT

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