On April 2 in Orlando, FL, SNAC International's SNAXPO19 featured the inaugural "SNAC Tank," a pitch competition for innovative start-up snack brands.
Five finalists pitched their brands to a panel of judges, including special guest judge Barbara Corcoran, investor, entrepreneur, and star on the hit show Shark Tank.
Chirps Chips, a producer of tortilla chips made using sustainable cricket protein, won the audience vote and impressed the panel of judges, taking home the $20,000 grand prize.
In her pitch, Laura touted the nutritional benefits of cricket protein. One serving of Chirps contains as much protein as an egg white, 25 percent daily value of vitamin B12, as well as more iron and calcium than traditional snacks. She highlighted that crickets are also sustainable: they require 2,000 times less water, 100 times less land, and produce 100 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than beef. Laura noted that for each bag of Chirps eaten, six gallons of water are saved (compared to whey protein). The products are especially targeted to kids and millennials, who are open to trying anything new and different (like eating bugs).
"If you're a snack company, I'd suggest applying for next year," Laura D'Asaro, co-founder, Chirps Chips, said. "It's an amazing experience to get to meet suppliers and talk in front of that many people who are in the industry. Also to get to meet CEO's of other companies and to get their advice, it was a great experience."
Laura remarked that the $20,000 prize will help the company scale its snack business.
"It's going to go a long way; the $20,000 is going to let us get into another 300 stores," she said.
"SNAC is pleased to have provided a platform for some of the most innovative start-ups in our category to showcase their products in front of record-breaking attendance at this year's SNAXPO," said Elizabeth Avery, president & CEO, SNAC International. "Entrepreneurs like these are what makes this category so exciting, and they continue to drive an expanding, evolving snack industry. Congratulations to Chirps on the big win."
Four other finalists also pitched, including: Legally Addictive Foods, a producer of sweet and savory "part cracker, all cookie" hybrid snacks; Nora Seaweed Snacks, whose founders are on a mission to bring the popular Asian snack food to the U.S.; Shrewd Food, a producer of low carb, high protein cookies and crisps; and Squeaky Pops, a producer of popped chickpea chips for children. Additionally, three semifinalists participated, including Mozaics, Smart Alex Snacks, and The Snack Brigade, and all eight companies exhibited in the SNAC Tank Showcase, a dedicated area of the exhibit hall.
The expert panel of judges included: Robert Bies, professor of Management, Georgetown University, and leader of SNAC's Emerging Leaders Program; Tom Dempsey, retired president & CEO, SNAC International and retired president, Utz Quality Foods; Chris Olivier, principal, Craft Catalyst; and Megan Reamer, co-founder and CEO, Jackson's Honest.