Editor’s blog: Trade shows inspire ideas for private brands
Walking the trade show floor at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago this week, I came upon something I did not expect to see — a replica of an old yellow hippie van with reggae music blasting from its radio.
This hippie van was actually a trade show booth and was called a “hippea” van. A sign posted in front of the van said “give peas a chance.” A young gentleman there handed me a small yellow bag that read “Hippeas” in large brown print across the top. Above “Hippeas” in smaller white type on the package identified what was in the package: organic chickpea puffs.
I opened the bag and delved in. The chickpea puffs were shaped like cheese puffs but colored yellow with fajita-tasting seasoning. They were crunchy and tasty.
On the back of the package, Green Park Snacks, the company that manufactures Hippeas, cited its philosophy: “We don’t follow the rest of the snack pack. We go our own way.”
The product, besides being certified USDA Organic, is also certified gluten-free, kosher, vegan and non-GMO. The plant-based snack comes in six trendy flavors, including Maple Haze, Sriracha Sunshine, Vegan White Cheddar and others.
The product flat-out rocks.
Hippeas originated in the United Kingdom and recently debuted in the United States with U.S. operations based in Los Angeles. The product — and several others that I saw this week at the Sweets & Snacks Expo and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show that was also held in Chicago — exemplify everything that leading-edge private brands want to be: They are innovative, exclusive, transparent and tell a good story. They also are dang good and fun to eat.
I asked one of the 30-somethings leading the company if there were any plans to offer Hippeas as store brands. Not now, he told me, as Green Park Snacks wants to establish Hippeas as a brand first, but that could change as the yellow van that serves to identify this company cruises down the road.
There were other ingenious products I saw at the shows that would make or influence exceptional private brands. At the NRA Show, Ontario, Calif.-based Wing Hing was serving up its Asian-inspired appetizers, including its new Reuben eggroll, made with corned beef and kraut. The combination of these two very popular cultural cuisines might sound like a train wreck, but it works. Talk about a flavor explosion.
Great Lakes Potato Chip Co., based in Traverse City, Mich., offered samples of its Michigan Cherry BBQ potato chips. Traverse City is the largest producer of tart cherries in the world, so the flavor profile for this chip makes sense there. In other areas of the country, a cherry BBQ chip might sound like a reach, but it works. If I’m in private brands, I’m thinking this is the type of product that would might excel as a limited-time offering.
Also at the NRA Show, at the Red Feather’s Native American Cuisine booth, I sampled the company’s Green Chile Corn Nuggets, a grab-and-go snack that screams distinction. Le Waf, a Carnelian Bay, Calif.-based company, was sampling its artisan waffle and telling a fine and delectable story behind the product: “Our secret is the European pearl sugar we fold into the dough. While melting during the baking process, it gives our authentic Liege waffle its unique caramelized and crunchy texture.”
The companies at these shows may or may not be offering their products as store brands. If they are, there is an opportunity for retailers to capitalize on their distinction. If they aren’t, retailers can surely be inspired and go back to their drawing boards to find the definitive products to separate themselves from the competition.