True North Pistachio Crisps Merge Chips, Crackers, and Nuts

Frito-Lay creates another new brand and another new category with True North Pistachio Crisps.

By Hollis Ashman, Jacqueline Beckley and Jennifer Vahalik, Consumer Understanding Editors

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Key trends that can impact this idea are taste, convenience and healthfulness.

Taste: Pistachios have their own unique flavor and texture, which is driven by the form and the method of eating. While not used in processed foods much, it can be seen that this nut could have very broad appeal. The pistachio has a way of appealing to the classic mindset (due to its long history), or the variety-seeker (it’s not a common ingredient in foods) or the imaginer (imagine being on the Silk Road -- prior to 1976, all pistachios were imported from the Middle East).

Convenience: With a bag that has a zipper closure and a product design that leaves few crumbs or residue on the fingers, these crisps are easy to eat in public. It’s near-impossible to drive kids around and try to crack open pistachio seeds with your mouth.

Healthfulness: Nuts have both the halo of health and reality of health. With all the good news about pistachios (see, what is not to like about this ingredient? Other factors we look for in healthy foods today can be Kosher, natural and a few simple ingredients. True North appeared to check all of those boxes during product creation. The good fats and the protein story of pistachios are excellent.

The experience
It’s difficult to bring a new brand to life. Already, True North is covering the U.S. fairly quickly. Print and TV exposure are big and the website is playful. True North Pistachio Crisps can be purchased anywhere from a list price of $3.99 to deals that are two for $5.

There are two more flavors in this brand – almond and peanut) -- and three other nut forms (nut clusters, nut crunches and whole nuts). The standup, zippered, 4.5-oz. bag is an interesting shade of cream (not brown but slightly recessed green mixed with a creamy brown).

Taste, texture, aroma and size are critical to the perception of quality in a hybrid nut, cracker and chip. Aroma in the bag was very faint and evoked freshness. The visual of the cracker surprises. While it is most probably baked on a belt and therefore cut from dough, the crisp looks irregular, lacking the typical uniform appearance of, say, a Ritz cracker. The small green pieces of pistachios are easily seen and ample.

The crisp was light and delicate to the fingers and when placed in the mouth and chewed. In addition to descriptors like light and crisp, crunchy was sensed by many. Now here is the surprise: You know the wad of dough you always get stuck to the back parts of your mouth? There is none. While you get the sense of chewing food (and can perceive nuts on the tongue and maybe one of two that stick between a tooth) the crisp comes cleanly out of your mouth more like a nut than a cracker.

The pistachio flavor was low. Some said it had lots of immediate real pistachio flavor, but a few felt it was low (they eat pistachios all the time and are use to the direct hit of pistachio). The mouth, lips and fingers say baked – there is a dryness that seems to come from baking. Some found a little residue left on their fingers, which they loved licking off.

The aftertaste was surprising. It was not what was expected from a crisp. The aftertaste was that of pistachio nut. Pleasant but totally unexpected. Saltiness overall was good, though a few, hardcore fresh pistachio eaters said it was a little too salty.

There is some magic here. The 5g of protein in a serving (about 12 crisps) were felt to be very satisfying – like the feeling you get when you allow yourself to have that 1 oz. of almonds. That is a wow. Crisps that satisfy. Two grams of fiber and a modest amount of salt make these crisps a very tasty snack or meal bridge.

Does the product deliver?
True North Pistachio Crisps deliver on the promise of bringing a difference to natural snacking. We like the package graphics, they do inspire us. Pistachio Crisps are unique and present the tongue with an interesting taste. Tasters really felt these were much better to snack on than chips or crackers. They really seemed to hit the spot.

How to make the idea bigger: The crisp alone might need to work very hard to deliver everything this brand promises. But when you take the whole lineup together -- nut clusters, crunches (these are little works of art – who rolled the shell around those peanuts?) and crisps -- we are seeing that True North has created what they call a “movement.”

Opportunities in the future can build upon this platform and help people understand that combining this good source of protein with other foods could make for good meals that are exciting without going overboard. Given the base ingredients, we can see natural extensions that create more fiber opportunities and also bases that can be believable for functional benefit products. This is just the beginning.

Rating: Tasty and great. The entire product design hangs together well. This is an example of a manufacturer listening to the consumer, letting the scientists and engineers design a good product and bringing it together in a complete package.

Market potential: Excellent. For this megabrand creator, we might be seeing the birth of another billion-dollar baby. It is going to be fun to see how this brand and this product inspire the competition. Looks like the consumer can win with this one.




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