Martín Acosta isn’t looking to take over the $7 billion U.S. market for potato chips. He’s just aiming for the slice of the U.S. market represented by the “elite group” of snackers who he is sure will be enticed by his chips from Ecuador.
“The 5 or 10 percent that can buy good stuff” is how Acosta describes the market his company, Inalproces, is after.
Acosta is general manager of Inalproces, maker of Kiwa chips, all-natural snacks made from vegetables grown by small-scale Ecuadorian farmers. Kiwa is on store shelves in eight countries today, including several in Europe (France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).
The company has always focused on the export market. Sales in Ecuador were an afterthought, but have been “extremely successful” despite a lack of marketing, according to Acosta.
“Now we are going to focus on the U.S. market,” he said while on a U.S. visit to meet distributors. “I would like 50 percent of the sales to be here in the U.S.”
The company is preparing to put Kiwa chips into packaging that meets U.S. requirements and deliver the first shipments by February 2012 to stores in the northeastern United States. Success with American consumers of the chips, made from Ecuadorian-grown cassavas, parsnips, green and ripe bananas, beetroot, sweet potatoes and native Andean potatoes, will make a substantial difference to the hundreds of Ecuadorian farmers who grow them.
“We work with small farmers all across Ecuador. We have 330 small farmers now in our supply chain, and the idea is to keep growing,” Acosta said. The small farmers get technical assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the private nonprofit group ACDI/VOCA, which provides U.S. volunteer experts.