- Organic chickpea snack brand Hippeas brought aboard CPG veterans Joe Serventi as general manager, Josh Francis as vice president of sales, and Luke Ledyard as director of sales, according to a company statement and an article in Food Business News.
- Serventi was previously executive vice president of corporate development at barkTHINS, leading the brand from sales of $8 million in 2014 to more than $70 million last year when the company was purchased by Hershey. Before barkTHINS, he was in senior management at Pirate Brands.
- Francis and Ledyard were both Serventi's colleagues at Pirate Brands. Francis comes to Hippeas from his position as director of business development at Babyganics. Ledyard was previously director of national accounts at Cookie Chips and director of sales, east at Krave Jerky.
As consumers become more skeptical of "big food," startups are capitalizing on opportunities to increase their marketshare. And food company leaders also are getting involved in the migration.
The new team at Hippeas isn't the only example. Earlier this month, Nestle Waters' North America CEO Tim Brown stepped down from his post to become the president and COO of Chobani. As the current leader in the U.S. yogurt market, Chobani is far from small now, but it got its start as a small factory, and is still self-owned.
Brown described the opportunity to work with Chobani as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" in a press release. He cited the Greek yogurt company's momentum, potential, and its history of changing the food industry's landscape.
Although Hippeas is relatively new — the brand officially launched in July — it could be primed for the same trajectory. Many companies are investing in better-for-you snacks. According to Research and Markets, the global chickpeas market reached a volume of 15.4 million tons in 2016, and posted a CAGR of 6% between 2009 and last year.
If the company is trying to continue growth — and is potentially eyeing becoming acquired by a larger manufacturer — it has secured a team to help it get there. Serventi, Francis and Ledyard all have experience in working with smaller companies that were able to make good on their own and get picked up by a major manufacturer. barkTHINS is one of the most recent successes in this strategy, and the purchase has helped Hershey beat expectations as markets shifted.
Hippeas seems poised to be the next big growth story. The product is now available in more than 18,500 stores, including Whole Foods, Wegmans, H-E-B, Shaw's and Central Market and will soon come to Kroger. And aside from the snack's taste, nutritional profile and texture, it uses a portion of its profits to support chickpea producers through Farm Africa — the kind of mission tailor-made to attract consumers, especially millennials.