Melissa (l) and Xin founded JicaChips little more than a year ago.
The convenience food sector is a hotbed for innovation. Consumers are now demanding healthy, convenient foods, meaning brands must re-think their snack food offerings and come up with new innovations that appeal to health-conscious shoppers. A new company called JicaChips has just launched a new crisp snack using jicama, a relatively unknown vegetable native to Mexico. Boasting health benefits and fewer calories than potatoes, this new alternative looks set to update the crisps market and give “traditional” snacks a run for their money. We spoke with Xin Wang, co-founder of JicaChips, about the brand and the inspiration behind its product.
Tell us about JicaChips – when did the company start and what inspired its creation?
Melissa and I started JicaChips a little more than a year ago. After being introduced to jicama in Mexico, Melissa (who has always been a healthy eater) decided to try to bake chips out of this nutrient-dense root vegetable. I’ve historically loved snacking on potato chips, but after a few bites of her jicama chips, I was addicted. We knew we were onto something and decided to sell the chips at a local farmer’s market. We sold out every week. We leveraged that excitement and expanded to local stores in the suburbs of NYC. That’s when AccelFoods found us. They were drawn to how innovative the company was, and really fell in love with the product. With Accel’s guidance, we were able to scale the company and now are focussed on growing the brand.
What is jicama? What does it taste like and why did you decide to use it?
Jicama is a root vegetable native to Mexico. We fell in love with jicama because of its taste (a cross between an apple and potato). When we discovered jicama’s health benefits we knew JicaChips would be able to elevate better-for-you snacking.
Why do you think it will be the “next superfood”?
Jicama stands out from its competition not only because it has 50% less calories and carbs than a potato, it is also fiber-rich, contains inulin (a prebiotic), and is low glycaemic. With so many health benefits, it’s also amazing how crunchy and delicious it is.
You’re attending Natural Products Expo West this year. How do you plan to stand out from your competitors?
While there will certainly be a lot of other brands showcasing healthy snacks at Expo West, ours is the first and only chips to be made out of jicama. Because many people don’t yet know what jicama is, we’ll be educating show attendees by showing them the root vegetable in whole form and explaining why it’s a healthier alternative to typical potato chips. We want to get America off of potato chips and instead open to healthy snacks like JicaChips made from jicama.
To help bring the vegetable to life, we’ll have a fun-looking jicama character running around the show grounds passing out samples of JicaChips. We will also be focussed on a variety of public relations tactics, such as social media and connecting with media covering the show.
Tell us about your packaging design. Why did you decide upon a pouch format?
As a former package designer, I’ve always loved the versatility of the standup pouch. Because our standup pouches have a peg hole, JicaChips has the flexibility to be placed in many areas of the store – from on the shelf, to hanging on a clip strip. Customers really love the grab-and-go aspect of our packaging.
As a young company, how do you plan to attract consumers and get people noticing your brand?
We’re looking to actively demo our product in stores. We know once consumers try our chips, they will love it as much as we do. We also feel strongly about our packaging. We’ve boldly called out our key attributes to really help us differentiate against the competition. With the bright colours and appetite-appealing photography, this design really will increase “shopability”.
We also have a good understanding of the types of consumers who are likely to buy our products, as well as our target retailers’ shoppers. That understanding enables us to connect with consumers in an authentic and meaningful way.
What’s your plan for 2016?
Nationwide distribution in the USA focussing on retail partners whose shoppers are health-conscious and introducing jicama to many Americans who are not familiar with the root vegetable. We know that once people start eating our chips, they’ll say goodbye to potato chips and say hello to JicaChips.
We’re planning for JicaChips to take its communications to the next level across the next few months; we plan to leverage traditional media and social media to educate and spread our healthy news of jicama across the USA.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018