Pasta La Vista!

Crisps Mini-Series: Pastinos

This is the fourth instalment of my mini-series focussing on Crisps.

Anyone that has been following my Food Adventures will know that I am a big fan of the crisps category; it’s fun, fast paced, innovative and driven by one overarching factor: taste. This was my favourite, and most valuable, category as a Retail Buyer and I had to keep my ear close to the ground with new product developments, competitor activity and sales driving initiatives. For an ambient product, crisps, have a relatively short shelf-life and therefore it was of utmost importance for me that the rate of sale is high and I wasn’t left with any dusty packets.

The market has undergone a change in the last five years as the consumer base has been made to feel increasingly guilty for eating foods that they enjoy and crisps are an easy target. Therefore suppliers have worked tirelessly to find the golden egg and produce a great tasting crisp that ticks a number of boxes for the health-conscious, calorie counters. In my opinion, the big boys have failed at this and only managed to produce different flavours of cardboard that aren’t going to satisfy anybody craving a hunger fix. This has led to the growth of a, still relatively, new sub-sector: popcorn. This mini-series is all about crisps and not the whole snacking category but it is worth noting that the growth of brands like Propercorn have chipped (unintentional pun I promise!) away at the share held by potato crisps in the aisle and this trend doesn’t appear likely to slow down any time soon. A fact that demonstrates this seismic shift is that, in the last couple of weeks, Propercorn have been named as branded Snacks Supplier of the Year in 2015 by The Grocer.

So potato crisps have to react…

The artisanal world of crisps has exploded making it a very saturated market so the need for differentiation and something that allows your product to raise its head above the parapet is key. The mainstream market is dominated by very few, very large suppliers but they are very poor at reacting to trends leaving a bit of an open goal for smaller producers. However, this blatant opportunity also created a bottleneck with a plethora brown paper brands springing up almost overnight. The problem that I faced as a buyer presented with a deluge of options was how to make the right choice. They were all great quality, hand cooked crisps with an endearing heritage and backstory. A small supplier has a number of tools within its gift to create that point of difference (brand, flavours, packaging, marketing, target audience) but achieving the utopia of a unique proposition is no easy task.

However this mini-series is about more than just reviewing a selection of crisps. No, it’s much more than that. This blog is about reclaiming the meaning of quality, potato-based, snacking. I grew up with Kettle being a treat that was savoured only on special occasions but for too long has that ‘premium’ brand let me down. No bag of crisps that features on the shelves of B&M can boast a premium appeal. In fact I was in my local Lifestyle Express the other week and I saw a bag of Kettle crisps with a £1.29 price-mark on a Buy One Get One Free promotion. The buyer in me thought, ‘what an amazing deal, why wasn’t I ever offered that?’ but a little part of my crisp-loving soul cracked, broke off and shattered like the greasy little crumbs in the corner of the bag. 64.5p per bag of ‘premium’ crisps? No sir, I’m not having that!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: Pastinos

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: early-adopters, snackers with a little more class and a desire to impress at parties

Packaging

The packaging is perfect. It oozes authenticity and really encapsulates the Italian experience. There was always a risk with this type of product that it could be confusing to a shopper but the guys at Pastinos have done a fantastic job of communicating the right messages on pack – this is a gourmet snack!

Price

£1.99 (150g bag) – this is exactly where a gourmet sharing snack should pitch itself. If you go above the £2 threshold you run the risk of not achieving any base sales but £1.99 is just the right price to drive value but also encourage trial amongst curious foodies.

Delivery

So Pastinos are a gourmet snack made completely from pasta and they look exactly how you’d imagine fried pasta should look. I remember sampling these in my Retail Buying role with the whole buying team over lunch and everyone had the same reaction:

‘Erm, crisps made from pasta?’

‘Trust me, try them!’

Arrabbiata

The snacks are light, airy and have a satisfying crunch that leaves a smooth wheaty texture as you finish the mouthful. The chunky vegetable flavours that are held within the pasta snack envelope the whole eat in a neat parcel.

Classic Pesto

This snack is brilliant. It has an intense garlic opening which paves the way for a rich pine nut hit which compliments the light, crisp snack.

Tomato and Sweet Basil

If I had to pick my favourite Pastino, here he is! The rich tomato flavours is complimented perfectly by a sweet sauce that is accented beautifully by an uplifting basil. Spot on!

Chianti and Olive

Confession time: I don’t enjoy olives, I wish I did but I just don’t. However, it really doesn’t matter with this snack, I love them. The chianti is the first flavour I recognise as a light dry note that is surpassed by a rich, smooth oily flavour that lasts long after the swallow.

Verdict – in a word, different! In terms of reclaiming gourmet snacking Pastinos is an excellent ambassador. If you want to differentiate be different and do it well and this is exactly what Pastinos do. I can understand why you might be hesitant at first, it seems unnatural right? But trust me, you won’t look back if you overcome that nervousness. Be an adventurer and get on these!!

Details: http://www.martoranasnacks.co.uk

Northern Munkee.