NOSHscape: The Latest Food Brand News

Serventi Steps Up to Global CEO Role at Hippeas

Snack brand Hippeas’ founder Livio Bisterzo will move to the role of chairman while Joe Serventi, current U.S. general manager, will assume the role of global CEO. Bisterzo is also the founder and CEO of Green Park Brands, which has a joint venture partnership with beverage brand Ugly Drinks.

Serventi met Bisterzo while he was at BarkTHINS – which had recently been acquired by The Hershey’s Company – and came onboard with the puffed snack producer within its first year on the market. Since that time, he’s focused on setting up the U.S. division for success, including tweaking packaging and flavors from the U.K offering for the American market.

Bisterzo told NOSH that the leadership change was the right move operationally for Hippeas given Serventi’s background at Glacéau Vitaminwater, Pirate’s Booty and BarkTHINS.

“This approach of divide and conquer is just best for the brand…. I wanted to make sure the company had Joe at the helm leading the day-to-day while I kept working closely with Joe, but also kept doing what I think the company needs me to do best – which is focusing on the strategy, the innovation, the brand marketing,” Bisterzo told NOSH.

Both Bisterzo and Serventi told NOSH they want to grow Hippeas to a $100 million brand in the next three to five years. The brand is currently in over 50,000 doors including in natural, conventional, club, drug and mass retailers.

Growing a puff-based brand is something that Serventi knows quite a bit about. He previously was the VP of corporate development for Pirate Brands, producers of Pirate’s Booty puffs. Although Hippeas marks a return to the salty snack set for Serventi, he told NOSH there are many differences between the two brands.

“It’s very similar but there’s a lot of difference. I think this is way more of a modern, lifestyle brand then Pirates’ was,” Serventi said. “I think Pirates’ was more kid focused – it still is even though it’s still relevant. This can play to a much wider consumer demographic. I think [Hippeas] is today’s Pirate’s.”

Bisterzo said the company will be focused on its current offerings for at least the next 18 months, before eventually expanding into other use occasions and products. That innovation pipeline will include launching two new flavors in the first half of 2019, as well as going deeper on pack sizes and retail distribution.

“We know Hippeas has the strength to be a snacking platform. There’s going to be a lot of fun brand innovation work that we’re going to do over the next 18 to 36 months,” Bisterzo said. “We built a legume-based snacking platform that, right now, sells puffed snacks and I have no doubt will sell other products, other snacks, other food products that will touch consumers through many different occasions.”

Tosi Closes Investment to Grow Retail Presence

While the bar category may be a crowded set, Tosi Health thinks there’s room for one more leader at the top of the pack. Armed with new capital, the company has more gas in the tank to make this goal a reality.

The California-based company announced today the close of a round of funding led by Cambridge Special Projects Group (SPG). SBG Growth also took part in the round. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Cambridge SPG COO and partner Filipp Chebotarev told NOSH that his firm made a “significant multi-million dollar investment” that puts the group in control of 22 percent of the Tosi brand.

Tosi is most widely known for its line of Superbites bars, which are sold in over 5,000 doors, primarily on the West Coast, including Peet’s Coffee, Chevron Extra Mile, regional Whole Foods Markets, Bristol Farms and Jimbo’s. The Superbites – which contains two servings per package – retail for roughly $3 and comes in plain, blueberry or cappuccino with a base of roasted almonds or cashews.

Tosi co-founder Stefanie Hults told NOSH that the company was previously funded through friends and family. Although Chebotarev and his partner Polina Chebotareva both personally invested in the company in early 2017 as well.

Hults added that that she originally thought her six year-old company was too small for a strategic investor, but after getting to know the Cambridge team she understood the benefits that partnering with a firm could bring. One example, she said, is that Cambridge has helped Tosi assemble a board of advisors that now includes Greg Fleishman, co-founder of baking brand Foodstirs and design firm Purely Righteous, and Gigi Lee Chang, founder of baby food brand Plum Organics.

Going forward, the Tosi team will invest much of its focus on the snack side of the business – although it will continue to produce the assorted supplements and powders that it sells online. Hults told NOSH the brand plans to expand into single serve options and add more flavors, potentially including a nut-free children’s line. Tosi is already sold in the Middle East and plans to expand into the European market by early 2019.

Regardless of the direction the innovation takes, Hults told NOSH one thing she’s not interested in doing is pigeonholing the brand into use occasion or customer segment. Currently Tosi users – which range from children to seniors – consume the bar for everything from breakfast to a healthy dessert, she said.

“I think we are unique and I don’t think we’d partner ourself with one food tribe,” Hults told NOSH. “It is something that is really for everybody. People keep coming back because of the mouthfeel, the taste profile and the pure, simple ingredients. We’re not stuck in one place.”