Snack food brand Vegan Rob’s is bringing one of the hottest beverage trends, kombucha, to the snack set with the launch of its newest product, Kombuchabar.
Vegan Rob’s, which was started by Sexy Pop and Pirate’s Booty founder Rob Ehrlich in 2016, will launch the bars in the first half of December in four flavors: banana, cranberry, cacao and cranberry. Each of the non-GMO, cold pressed, vegan, and grain-free bars will retail for $4.99. Ehrlich was inspired to start the line in response to what he saw was a hole in the category: bars that address gut health benefits instead of focusing on protein.
“I’m in Manhattan and when you walk around, every grocery store has kombucha in the refrigerator case. It’s very popular and growing,” Ehrlich told NOSH. “There’s other angles of health benefits that people [and bars] are ignoring and digestive health is one of them.”
The base of the bar is quinoa, cashews and almonds and each bar also contains actual kombucha. Although Ehrlich can’t reveal his source for the fermented beverage, he told NOSH it’s being produced by a smaller brewer. The beverage does give the bar a slight kombucha flavor, but Ehrlich said he purposely dialed back the intensity to not overwhelm consumers.
While the kombucha added to the bars does supply some gut health benefits, Vegan Rob’s gave the bars a boost with an added dose of probiotics. Since probiotics can be temperature sensitive, Ehrlich said this addition also helps ensures that the consumer gets the full probiotic benefits and allows the bars to be shelf stable.“The only reason [we are adding probiotics] is because in the summer, if you put it in a van that’s 100 degrees, we don’t want to degrade the [good] bacteria,” Ehrlich said. “It’s sort of an added bonus and a lot of kombucha companies do this as well.”
Vegan Rob’s also cold presses the bars to avoid exposing the product to unnecessary heat.
The bar also includes 13 percent of a consumer’s daily fiber intake and six percent of a consumer’s daily B12 intake, a vitamin that Ehrlich said vegan consumers often don’t get enough of.
In the roughly one year since its puff and chip line entered the market, Vegan Rob’s is already sold in over 8,000 locations including Safeway, Albertson’s, Kroger, Wegmans and 7-11. While the bars don’t yet have announced retail partners, Ehrlich said he’s been approached by everyone from Starbucks to Costco. Rather than launching with an exclusive retail partner, as many CPG products do, Ehrlich hopes to launch in variety of channels at once.
Vegan Rob’s innovation pipeline doesn’t stop with bars. Ehrlich also plans to release a kombucha cookie, similar in shape and texture to the protein cookies on the market, but grain-free and focused on gut health. The company also plans to release a new line of cassava and seed chips that are gluten-free to appeal to the paleo or ketogenic consumer. One thing Ehrlich said he won’t be releasing are products that don’t emphasize brand and its packaging; Ehrlich said he’ll stick with products that allow the brand to “always be in your hand” and on display.
Across all of his snack innovations, it’s that philosophy that Ehrlich feels has been most important in building excitement among consumers.
“The things we’re doing are right at the cusp of the wave, if you will,” Ehrlich said. ““This is an exciting time to be in the industry… this is what the big companies are looking for, that connection [with the consumer]. It’s not just about the product.”