The trend for healthier snacking products hasn’t only reached the fresh produce aisles, but also the processed products and plantain chips have been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years as a healthy chip alternative. TropicMax is a producer of plantain chips and sources their plantains from Ecuador.
Moving to organic production
Daniel Falcon of TropicMax explains: “The plantains we work with are sourced from the countryside of the Manabí province in Ecuador, and the main manufacturing plant is in Portoviejo, the capital of the province. The plantains have a year-round production, though there is a high and a low season. Late winter through early spring is when the high volumes come in.”
TropicMax works closely with the growers to ensure that they plant the right varieties and are able to get the best yields. Falcon says: “We’ve been working on getting the growers to switch over to organic plantains. These have higher yields on the dollar, and then we are able to produce and market the chips as organic too. Moving forward, we believe that the market will continue to skew toward the growth of organic chips.” The company’s organic plantain chips are now available in bulk in the US.
Spike in demand during the pandemic
The panic-buying period at the start of the pandemic hit almost everyone in the industry. Some products, however, remained at elevated levels after this initial spike, while others dropped back to normal. “For us, the overall demand has been really high during the pandemic. The plantain chips are healthier than potato chips and this is something that consumers appreciate, especially now.”
No product available
The growers that TropicMax works with in Ecuador were hit hard by the pandemic. “The operations were disrupted in the past months, but we’ve been working hard to get everything going again. The volumes we were receiving were affected and we are just now starting to receive product that was ordered months ago. We actually ran out of product completely because of this, especially also because of the high demand, the crop availability wasn’t enough to cover this. Now, everything is starting to get moving again, fortunately,” Falcon explains.
Despite all the challenges caused by the pandemic, TropicMax chips recently achieved approval from SnackSafely.com. TropicMax US sales representative Brian Carr explains: “This website is a platform for consumers to find foods that are free from common allergens. Our chips have recently received their stamp of approval and will be featured on the platform shortly. This is something that helps our product stand out from other snacking products and helps build a high level of trust with the consumers.”
New varieties added to the product line
Sales in the snacking category have been growing, and this has led TropicMax to focus on expanding their product offering. “We have about 21 SKUs across our productions, which stretch across our three main varieties: chips, tostones, and croutons. We are going to be releasing our strips soon, too. We’re just homing in on the packaging for this right now.”
The TropicMax plantain chips are non-GMO, certified gluten-free, vegan, kosher and RSPO palm oil certified, Carr explains. “It’s important to us to have each of these certifications, and it will help us expand our distribution too. We are currently mostly active on the East Coast but have also expanded a bit into the Midwest and to the West Coast. We are also currently in a test-phase in the Houston markets, where our product will hit shelves in August. Our certifications are something that really set us apart from the other brands on the market,” Carr concludes.