Hain Celestial’s Garden Veggie brand is taking aim at the $9 billion tortilla chip category with a better-for-you offering the company says is missing from the marketplace.
The tortilla chip market grew double digits in 2023, according to Spins data provided by Hain. But only 8% of that segment is considered healthy, largely coming from what a top Hain executive called “very serious and adult-focused” diet options like Keto and low-calorie. At the same time, more well-known brands, such as PepsiCo’s Doritos and Tostitos, lack the healthier attributes many people seek. Most shoppers view them as an indulgent snack.
The absence of a better-for-you option that can play in both mainstream and specialty channels provided the opening for Hain to launch its Garden Veggie’s Flavor Burst tortilla chip. The snack will initially be available in two flavors, Zesty Ranch and Nacho Cheese.
“The ability to offer an item in this segment, which doesn't really exist today, that is truly parent-approved and kid-loved is exciting for us and has the potential to be a great launch,” Melinda Goldstein, chief marketing officer at Hain Celestial, said in an interview.
Hain, with nearly $2 billion in annual sales, has been moving aggressively under CEO Wendy Davidson to innovate and expand its reach beyond big-box stores and health and wellness retailers as consumers look for healthier items they can eat and drink on the go. It is targeting colleges, hospitals, airports, hotels, convenience stores and other locations as potential growth opportunities.
The tortilla chip is the first major innovation under that new strategy.
“We need to prove that we can grow and build brands, and we need to prove that we can navigate external macro-environment factors and control our destiny,” Davidson told Food Dive in an interview last year. Consumers and retailers love our “purpose-driven brands and they want us to be successful, but they feel like, and to be honest, internally we feel like, we’ve fallen short of our own expectations of what the potential of our portfolio is.”
Garden Veggie launched in 2008 with its straw-shaped offering. It has been a popular source of innovation for Hain during the last decade, expanding into chips in 2014 and puffs in 2021, among other areas.
Garden Veggie is the largest snacking brand in Hain’s portfolio — which also includes Terra chips, Greek Gods yogurt and Parm Crisps — with sales jumping 13% for the 12 weeks ending Oct. 8, according to Spins and Circana, due largely to strength in club stores and e-commerce.
Similar to other Garden Veggie products, Flavor Burst tortilla chips respond to a host of trends that are popular with consumers. They are certified gluten-free, contain non-GMO corn, no artificial flavors or preservatives and are made with different vegetables — spinach, beet, red bell pepper, carrot and tomato.
The new Flavor Burst tortilla chips will be priced competitively to most conventional or specialty tortilla brands.
“We know that the lines for better-for-you have blurred, and we are competing with conventional items as well,” Goldstein said. “So what we need to make sure is that we are competitively priced against conventional and we want to be that entry point into better-for-you for consumers. We believe if we can get them to try it, they will love the taste and continue to buy this product.”
Early tests so far have been promising. Goldstein said an unbranded test with consumers of Flavor Burst against leading seasoned tortilla chip products found people chose its item as often as the competition. Other testing also showed the flavor and crunch rated by consumers exceeded what Hain was looking for initially with the product.
Hain is launching Flavor Burst in mid-January 2024 on Amazon, with the chips appearing on store shelves and other online retailers next month.
Goldstein said Hain has scoured the snacking market for opportunities, such as tortilla chips, that it could target with its Garden Veggie line. More innovation is expected, though she declined to provide details.
“We have a lot of opportunities in our pipeline overall and it's really about selecting the right one that we think makes the most sense for the consumer,” she said. “This is a brand that has a lot of momentum and that we believe has a lot of opportunity going forward.”