Keith Belling, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Popchips, talks about the brand, which recently introduced tortilla Popchips to its line of healthy potato snacks.
What prompted you to create Popchips?
I’m a snacker, but also health-conscious. I thought there had to be an alternative to what was out there. But it had to taste good — if it doesn’t taste good, it isn’t a snack.
So how are Popchips made?
Potatoes are popped, with no oil, using the same technology used in the rice cake manufacturing business. It took a lot of trial and error and lots of practice, though, to get the right flavor.
What’s new with the brand?
We have 11 great potato flavors, and customers have been clamoring for tortilla. For over a year, we worked to develop the four flavors of tortilla popchips: chili limon, nacho cheese, ranch and salsa. They’re made with traditional stoneground masa, are gluten-free and have less than half the fat of other chips.
Have any flavors flopped?
Sometimes they don’t have mainstream appeal. We tried teriyaki, but it never made it out of the testing process.
Which is your favorite flavor?
It probably changes every time I open a bag.
With fans including Tim Lincecum — who recently teamed with Popchips for a benefit for the dog rescue group Muttville — and Ashton Kutcher, are popchips trying to appeal to an extra-hip audience?
We have a broad range of snackers — moms, kids and healthy active people. I get emails from moms who say “finally I can let my kids think they’re sneaking a snack.” — Leslie Katz