Inside the creation of Trail Chips
The market for chips and crackers has seen some significant changes over the past few years. One of the new approaches snack producers have employed is use of a more-diverse set of ingredients to build interest and better-for-you nutrition into chips.
Next-generation tortilla chips these days can include anything from seeds to vegetables. One new approach taken by Pure Foods Inc. for its brand-new line of Trail Chips is to bring elements traditionally found in a snack or trail mix, such as seeds and fruit, into an organic, non-GMO tortilla chip format. It’s wildly original and unlike anything on the market.
In order to dig further into the dynamics of this product line—and overall growth and business strategy at the company—we reached out to John Frostad, president and CEO, Pure Foods Inc., Kingsport, TN.
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What was the inspiration for Trail Chips?
John Frostad: I love to hike and be outdoors. One of my favorite national parks is The Arches, northwest of Moab. It’s a 73,000-acre wonderland of eroded sandstone towers, gargoyles, balanced rocks, and, of course, arches.
I was fortunate enough to get to hike there last year, and I love how the landscape is both simple and surprising. It’s similar to our approach to making snacks. We take simple, whole ingredients, direct from the fields, and combine them in innovative ways that result in amazing forms and flavors.
With Trail Chips, we wanted to take a range of organic ingredients, popular in trail mixes, and reshape them. Now, when you bite into one crispy, thin chip, it’s like you’re crunching into a handful of nutritious seeds and berries. Much easier to carry and to dip in your favorite topping!
DJP: Will Trail Chips be available in different flavors?
JF: Two flavors, Wildberry Medley and Tropical Medley, are currently available, and more are in development.
DJP: How did you arrive on the specific selection of ingredients featured in the Wildberry Medley and Tropical Medley products?
JF: We carefully select simple, organic ingredients, so that when you read the label you know exactly what you’re eating! We start monitoring our ingredients while they’re still being grown, and carefully examine the nutrition they provide, so that we know our ingredients are the very best. Our Trail Chips Wildberry Medley combines quinoa, plus pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds with cranberries and blueberries. The Trail Chips Tropical Medley is a refreshing blend of bananas, pineapples and coconuts. Using real fruit gives a hint of sweetness, retains nutrients, and delivers 20 percent of the Daily Values for vitamins A, C, D, E and B6, plus thiamine.
DJP: Why do you think today’s consumers are interested in better-for-you, organic snacks?
JF: Today’s consumer is much more educated on the health effects of their diet and the nutritional value of ingredients. They scrutinize the products they buy and ask, “Why is this good for me, my family and my environment?” They want to see high-quality, natural ingredients from trusted sources, and our organic certification guarantees snacks made with non-GMO, pesticide-free ingredients.
DJP: Have you faced any challenges sourcing sufficient supplies of organic, non-GMO ingredients as you have ramped up production?
JF: Establishing relationships is as important to us as building facilities. The market is subject to a number of variables, like the most recent issue with contaminated sunflower seeds. We rely on stable relationships with organic suppliers to help ensure year-round sourcing of safe, high-quality ingredients.
DJP: Does the new facility include any unique product or ingredient capabilities?
JF: Our new global headquarters, built in Tennessee, has a number of proprietary ingredient sources and novel capabilities. Along with baking, frying and extruding, the plant will incorporate a patented dehydration technology. This allows us to cut down on the time it takes to dry fresh fruits and vegetables for integration into crispy and delicious snacks.
DJP: What is PACKprint?
JF: PACKprint is a new technology that allows each individual snack package to be serialized and/or personalized. This allows for complete traceability of ingredients, as well as specific promotions that people can access using their mobile phones.
DJP: How does the acquisition of Guiltless Gourmet factor into the Pure Foods business plan?
JF: Guiltless Gourmet was the first brand to provide a healthier tortilla chip. This was achieved by baking the chips rather than frying them. The process yields a much lower fat content than conventional tortilla chips, while maintaining a crispy texture for full crunch and taste satisfaction.
By renewing the look of the Guiltless Gourmet brand and developing new flavor profiles, we believe we can establish a mainstream snack that resonates with consumers who are looking for delicious, gourmet flavors to satisfy their cravings—but who are also searching for nutrition profiles that are higher in fiber and lower in fat than their favorite salty snacks. And frankly, that appeals to us all.
DJP: What other types of snack products does Pure Foods manufacture?
JF: Pure Foods is making delicious snacks from a range of novel ingredients, including chickpeas, lentils, sorghum and seaweed, just to name a few. Given our diverse manufacturing capabilities, we’re able to make nutrient-dense snacks in ways that were previously unattainable. The goal for these snacks is to deliver all the taste sensations of conventional products, but provide a much higher nutritional profile and a lower amount of fat.
DJP: When did Trail Chips hit the U.S. market?
JF: Trail Chips hit the market in July 2016.
DJP: Where will Trail Chips be sold?
JF: Trail Chips are available in select Costco locations, Food City, Walmart and other major grocery and natural food retailers throughout North America. They’re also available online at amazon.com.
Read more about Trail Chips here.