Broadly speaking, the snack category can be divided in two, according to Dr Daniell’s assessment. On the one hand, you have snacks that are ‘tasty and moreish’ but not very good for you – such as crisps or even salty nuts and high sugar granola bars. On the other, there are healthy snacks that don’t necessarily deliver on flavour and convenience. Think carrot sticks and rice cakes.
“There is a challenge to actual healthy snacking,” Dr Daniell told FoodNavigator. “It would be nice to have something that gives you satisfaction in terms of taste that is also healthy.”
Spotting this need, Dr Daniell was able leverage her experience outside the food world to develop a solution.
She has created an all-natural, patent-pending process that can take vegetables and turn them into crispy wafers without the need to use sugars or starches as binding agents. “It’s not about removing sugars and starches. It is more that we don’t need to use them as binders. Depending on the vegetables, some starches are in the actual snacks. But if you are to make an ordinary cracker you would need flour as a base. We don’t need that,” she explained.
“It is an all-natural process. My background is in organic chemistry… It is effectively a physical process. We don’t add any chemicals, we don’t treat anything. Its just something people hadn’t really focused on,” she reflected.
The leap that this tech – developed for use outside human food – could be leveraged to create healthy snacks is the foundation her new start-up, Satisfied Snacks, is built on.
“There was a real recognition of a need for a snack that is healthy and tasty on my part. This was coupled with a technology that turned [vegetables] into an actual product but without the need to bulk them out with wheat or flour. The need and the technology came together.”
'Playing around with flavours': innovation and the development process
Dr Daniell then started a trial and error process and ‘played around’ with flavour combinations to figure out what worked.
“Having literally taken a tomato and feta salad, we blend it up and then dehydrate it. That just had the most intense, powerful flavours. And a portion of it was eating one and a half portions of vegetables. Here was something with a balanced nutritional profile, it was lots of vegetables, the flavour was really strong. I just thought wow, this is what I have been looking for.
“Then we tried things like the goat cheese and beetroot and red pepper and walnut. Those really worked they provided lots of veg and great taste.”
Satisfied Snacks has launched its snack brand Roughs in the UK. It offers a ‘brand new’ type of snack, with 80% of the contents coming from vegetables that are made into a thin and crispy wafer.
"We would look at Roughs as a replacement to less healthy or less tasty snacks. Having been able to combine health, taste and convenience. At the moment, you are always compromising on one."
Currently, four varieties are available: tomato & feta, beetroot & goat cheese, red pepper & walnut, as well as carrot & kimchi which is ‘soft launched’. Each variety has less than 100 calories per serving, which also contains ‘at least’ one of your five a day. The snacks are high in fibre – at close to 12% content - gluten-free and oil-free.
And, being entirely comprised of whole foods, the Roughs brand delivers a clean label. “Everything that is on the label is whole ingredients. Because we can create a recipe and a blend of whole foods we can adjust the flavour profiles as we want. We can add herbs and spices or do whatever is necessary to get the desired flavour.”
Flavour is a key component of the Roughs recipe for success. In fact, Dr Daniell noted, the company actually faced a bit of an unusual challenge – too much of a flavour hit.
“One of the problems we have perversely is that there is no flour base to dilute out the flavours – sometimes in the development process the flavours were too strong and we had to tone them down a little bit.”
Future innovation plans include new flavour combinations, free-from varieties suitable for vegans or those with allergies, and tailored nutrition, Dr Daniell revealed.
“There are a lot of exciting things that we have done and there is a lot of opportunity for creating different and exciting flavours down the line. We are developing a pea flavour, but I would like it to be free from everything – no nuts, no dairy – that makes the flavour profile a little harder to develop.
“We could tailor things to a particular nutritional profile. At the moment they come out with roughly even levels of protein, sugar and fat. They are high fibre – something like 12% - but that is not unsurprising given the amount of vegetables that are in them. If we wanted to do something tailored where we were adding protein powders or something – we could do that but we are working to use whole ingredients at the moment.”
‘I wanted to do things differently’
If health and taste are pillars of Roughs’ brand identity, sustainable production is also central to the Satisfied Snacks business model, Dr Daniell noted. “I really like to do things that are different. It is not only a totally different type of snack, sustainability and doing business differently is a core thing for us.”
The company’s products are packaged in plastic-free and ‘infinitely recyclable’ metal cans.
Beyond that, Satisfied Snacks has invested in a production facility that only uses renewable energy. Dr Daniell recalled that the builders thought she was ‘crazy’ when she explained it wouldn’t even be connected to the power grid.
“We are going to use a biomass boiler from a source of wood onsite to generate the heat to dry the snacks then a mix of sources on the electricity side: solar and hydrogenated veg oil. We haven’t connected the facility up to the electricity grid,” Dr Daniell told this publication.
The new facility, based in Sussex in the UK, has capacity to produce 80,000-120,000 units a month.
Dr Daniell sees strong consumer demand for brands that produce something healthy, tasty and sustainable. And she believes that as a new operator in the space, Satisfied Snacks has a unique opportunity to build something from the ground up.
“People are looking for brands to do this. We can start out from ground zero working these things in. A lot of times, it can be harder to have an existing brand and try and change course. We can start fresh. That is an advantage to us and something people are looking for."