Starting in June, Snak King will unleash the power ofThe Whole Earth, a line of new gourmet snacks that are naturally good to eat and inspired from foods around the world.

Starting in June, Snak King will unleash the power ofThe Whole Earth, a line of new gourmet snacks that are naturally good to eat and inspired from foods around the world.

The Whole Earthbrand, which was quietly acquired when Snak King purchasedGranny Gooseseveral years ago, suddenly seems to be a perfect fit with the current trend toward high-end products that are supernatural – and possibly even organic – while providing great taste that even a connoisseur of fine wines might even enjoy, notes Joe Papiri, vice president of sales and marketing for the City of Industry, Calif.-based company.

Papiri spoke with Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine for the publication’s extensive 2009 State of the Industry report, which comes out later in June.

“From a marketing perspective, I still think the health and wellness and the indulgent category can be the same thing,” Papiri says. “We’re seeing that morphing of the gourmet business with the natural business.”
In a sneak preview, he notes that the line features products such as baked pita chips that are made with real olive oil. The product concept involves creating an innovative snack that’s made with oil that that’s good for you, albeit in moderation. It also leverages the growing popularity of hummus and the Mediterranean Diet much in the way that tortilla chips and salsa have done with the Mexican food segment for decades.

“It contains 100% extra virgin olive oil, and it’s super-premium,” Papiri says. “We’re actually going to tout the health benefits of olive oil on the bag with the FDA claim that it may help reduce the risk of coronary hearth disease.”

The movement toward health and wellness not only includes fiber and whole grains, but also a product’s sodium or fat attributes. By substituting olive for other types of oils, Snak King is addressing one of the key issues that have challenged snack producers for eons.

“Here, you can get a snack with a fat that you actually need in your diet,” Papiri says. “It’s not about less is more. It’s about more is more. It’s like I need my olive oil today.”

The Whole Earth line also features packaging that reflects the products’ natural, almost sustainable, positioning. Some bags have windows while others are metalized, depending on the variety, and have been designed with an attractive gloss combined with matte finish.

Additionally, Papiri says, each bag contains a compass as a logo and tells a story, whether it’s about the ingredients or about the product itself. The packaging for the pita chips describes the history of pita bread in the Middle East as well as nutritional facts and other information.

The Whole Earth line is consistent with the company’s unique positioning in the market. Papiri describes Snak King an “anomaly” compared with conventional snack producers in that it produces a number of niche products such as Veggie Chips and Sticks, organic popcorn,Guacachiptortilla chips made with real guacamole and itsEl SabrosoSalsitas spicy salsa chips, which now include a supercharged chipotle flavor.

“We’ve been co-packing for the natural food industry for a long time, and we’re trying to take some of our items that might be non-competitive to the co-pack customers we have in that area and put together our own offering of new and different things,” Papiri notes.

Snak King continues to grow geographically with branded and private label products. It’s also seeing expansion in club stores and other channels of distribution.

“We’re pretty good at coming up with new and innovative products that are kind of niche-y and appeal to that class of trade,” he says.

Overall, he adds, Snak King is having a pretty strong year, although he has seen some migrations toward value-type products.

“We’re talking a multifaceted approach to value,” Papiri says. “We’re not just price cutting, but offering additional benefits, targeting consumer needs better and providing solutions. Value is such a big world -- it’s the perceived quality of the product as a proportion of the price. It may involve putting on a gourmet or health and wellness attribute that builds in a higher, value-added feature to the product.”

Editor’s Note: Check out our June issue of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine, which will be published later this month.