Conagra and Taco Bell are teaming up on a spicy sunflower seed product inspired by the Mexican fast-food chain, according to Food Business News.
BIGS Taco Bell Taco Supreme Seeds are designed to add spicy taco flavor and crunch to fire-roasted sunflower seeds. The product, available in 2.75-ounce and 5.35-ounce package sizes, is scheduled to be in stores during the first half of next year.
"The BIGS sunflower seed brand really leverages some incredible brand partnerships, with folks like Vlasic, Old Bay, Hidden Valley, etc.," Erik Havlick, co-founder of BIGS and vice-president of sales for Conagra's Thanasi Foods, told the business publication.
This spicy sunflower seed product follows a line of other BIGS partnerships with well-known brands resulting in unusual sunflower seed flavors such as Tapatío Chile Limón, Vlasic Dill Pickle, Bacon Salt Sizzlin’ Bacon, Hidden Valley Ranch, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q and Old Bay Seasoned.
The popularity of these protein-laden snack combinations is due to their connection with iconic brands and amount to a way of "validating flavor and expanding awareness of the category," as BIGS co-founder and Thanasi Foods vice-president Havlick told Food Business News.
BIGS and the Duke’s meat snacks brand were acquired last spring by Conagra as part of its Thanasi purchase, which helped consolidate the food giant's hold on the snack sector. The partnership with Taco Bell is a smart way to capitalize on the restaurant chain's name, while further expanding shopper recognition of the BIGS brand.
It's not the first time that two big companies have come together to partner on a new product. 7-Eleven and General Mills announced in September they are teaming up again to introduce the new Pillsbury Stuffed Waffle. In 2016, Hostess teamed up with Walmart to develop a frozen Deep-Fried Twinkies.
And Dollar General offered exclusive branded products for the summer, including Oreo Mississippi Mud Pie cookies, a 16-ounce Coca-Cola can series honoring military veterans, Regal Cinemas brand popcorn and an exclusive six-pack of Mott's mango juice. As companies look to make their brands stand out, it wouldn't be a surprise to see more partnerships like this come together.
Snacking is especially popular with millennials and members of Generation Z, who tend to be more concerned with their health. A study from the NPD Group found almost a quarter of all snack food eating now occurs during main meals. The purchase of trendy companies focused on proteins and snacks made with better-for-you ingredients is likely to continue as food manufacturers position themselves in an increasingly competitive food landscape.
And since millennials also like to experiment with different and more exotic foods and beverages, flavored sunflower seeds could be top of mind when they're looking for a healthier snack. Conagra will need to find ways to keep shoppers aware of the new BIGS snack considering it won't be available until next spring. They could turn to social media or a larger campaign using traditional outlets to boost recognition as the launch date gets closer, perhaps when spring training begins in February.
Helping to drive the considerable popularity of sunflower seeds is their connection with baseball. Since the 1950s and 1960s, some players began replacing chewing tobacco with a handful of sunflower seeds in their pockets. An online bat company — JustBats.com — even recently blogged about the five best sunflower seed brands and BIGS made the list for both their one-of-a-kind flavored products and also because they only use U.S.-grown seeds.
Given these factors and the heft of Conagra's snack focus, this spicy BIGS Taco Bell product could end up hitting a home run with consumers.