HIPPEAS Chickpea Tortilla Snacks: Cheesy Nacho Vibes

overall rating:

2.25

planets

Maya Patel
8/1/2022
No items found.

HIPPEAS is a US-based brand for selling chickpea snacks and launched in 2016. It was launched in the US and the UK by Green Park Snacks, which has remained a shareholder in the company. The brand’s character appears to speak to the ‘hippies’: those seeking a healthy lifestyle that has a positive social impact on the world and communities. This motto appears highly promising, given its vegan approach and appreciation for social sustainability. Sold by well-known US grocery markets such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway, the brand is popular and must be making efficient sales, as they said in 2021 that they were expecting to see 30% year-on-year sales growth. But I think a closer look at this food product will reveal some critical points for consideration, in examining transparency on ingredient sourcing and processing.

What it's made of:

2

This product is made of the following ingredients: Chickpea flour (32%), corn flour, sunflower oil, rice protein, rice flour, Salt, Onion Powder, Lactic and Citric Acid, Sugar, Natural Flavourings, Garlic pepper), Tomatoes, Yeast Extract and Paprika Extract. Overall, I would say this ingredient list looks harmless, but I can’t so easily dismiss it without looking a bit deeper through the (ingredient) magnifier lens. 

 

Chickpea flour is a more sustainable option as it is a nitrogen-fixing ingredient. Thus, means instead of the ingredient causing negative environmental impacts such as soil infertility, the brand has pulled a reverse UNO card as nitrogen fixation makes the soil more fertile! It also reduces the carbon footprint by a significant margin, given the sum of carbon emissions from the entire production process does not exceed that of the carbon sequestration through nitrogen fixation. Additionally, health benefit wise, the product has a healthy amount of 7g protein, and includes fibre which is required for a healthy balanced diet. As for avoiding the harmful ‘stuff’ (preservatives or additives), the product has no GMO’s, no MSG, and no palm oil. Avoiding the use of these chemicals essentially opens up consumer accessibility, especially for those on a gluten free diet. Now not only does this make the product natural, but also highlights an avoidance of unethical land practices such as deforestation. The extraction of plant oil, even if classified as ‘sustainable’ may lead to deforestation practices which result in a loss of biodiversity, and increased carbon emissions. So, I really appreciate the brand’s avoidance of palm oil! Now sunflower oil can be a sustainable ingredient, and is the substitute here for palm oil, but what really matters here about whether it is sustainable is the way in which its sourced. I’ll talk about this later in the “how it’s made” section. As for the rice protein and rice flour, they are quite harmless and are often used in sustainable food products.  Rice flour is made up of ground up rice grains, through the processing method of milling and sieving- this is a mechanical process which is preferable on my sustainability checklist. This is because no chemicals are used, which means there is no risk to soil infertility, or loss of life for living species. Overall, rice protein is used as a staple ingredient for making vegan products or avoiding key allergens such as milk, soy, wheat, or fish, which makes this product more accessible for market consumers. And lastly, I would assume the ‘extra’ ingredients which add some flavour to these chips e.g., onion powder, and paprika extract, but no mentioning of sourcing is available, which leads to my next section on how it is made! 

How it's made:

1.5

For this section, the product falters a bit in terms of a sustainable approach. There isn’t information on the sourcing of ingredients, which is a slight shame. I would assume chickpeas can be cultivated within Europe, but even then, transportation costs would have to be accounted for especially considering the company headquarters are situated in New York. Seeing as there is a lack of information on ingredient sourcing, my ranking has stayed quite low. Although according to their LinkedIn, the organic chickpeas are farmed using 10% of the water that other proteins use up. And so, seeing as 90% less water is taken up for this process compared to the water usage for other proteins’ cultivation, this is impressive and much more energy efficient. Moving on, Hippeas discloses that citric acid within the product is made via the fermentation process, which is sourced from cane sugar, but no other detail on what the fermentation process entails (including carbon/energy emissions and usage) is available. They also don’t explain why citric acid is used, and this is a common recurring issue I have noticed within food products. Where there are ‘mystery’ or extra ingredients mentioned, companies ought to be more transparent on why the use this ingredient, and what impact it has on the environment. This would appear to be the same case with the use of ‘natural flavours’ which could have from 50-100 ingredients but becomes generalised under the above label. Lastly, the ingredient sunflower oil may be questioned depending on its processing method- should the brand use the mechanical process (using a machine to compress/crush the seed to extract oil, this is a more sustainable way as there are no chemicals. But it is known for food brands to extract vegetable oils using chemicals such as hexane, which may impact on soil infertility, and contamination of rivers for example. To increase my ranking, I think more transparency on where these ingredients are sourced from, why they are used, and how they are processed is the solution. 

 

Their packaging sustainable efforts require some attention too. Currently, the brand has a scheme for soft plastic recycling points to dispose of crisp packets to reduce landfill contributions and waste. These recycling points are available at a co-op or Tesco branch, which appears to be a sustainable partnership. However, this does place greater liability on the customer to make the sustainable effort, rather than the corporation. The company states they are seeking a more sustainable packaging solution, but I would like to see packaging solutions and initiatives present in their scope 1,2, and 3 targets which haven’t been made visible on their website either. 

Who makes it:

2.3

Livio Bisterzo is the founder of Hippeas, since he created Green Park Brands, which has the aim to make products that allow customers to choose healthy options for consumers whilst maintaining beneficial social impacts on the world e.g., community-building. Since their launch in 2016, they have partnered with local charities which fulfil and align to the UN SDGS. Such charities include FareShare, Feeding America, Veganuary, and supported the NHS with product donations during the Covid-19 crisis. One example of their charity schemes was that they donated over 1 million bags of chickpea puffs to reduce hunger through the scheme Feeding America, and some of their sales proceeds to Farm Africa’s work. Progress with Farm Africa includes the joint initiative, ‘Food for Good’, where Hippeas supports farmers in Ethiopia to escape poverty and build more economic and social prospects for their families. They are also on a three-year journey to fund and develop a fair trade, self-sustainable chickpea farming community in Ethiopia, which underlines their importance of empowering the consumer/recipient and strengthening fair supply chain standards. 

 

Additionally, in 2019, the company pledged a donation of up to $50,000 to Whole Kids Foundation, which is a nonprofit organisation founded by Whole Foods Market. This philanthropic move is associated to the above organisation’s campaign "Growing Healthy Kids Campaign," which creates investment funds for school gardens, salad bars and beehives, which ultimately advocates for helping 7.3 million children make healthy food choices. Also, for every HIPPEAS 4oz. bag or 6-pack of 1oz. bags sold in the month period between late August and mid-September 2019 at different Whole Foods Market locations across the U.S., HIPPEAS said they will donate a portion of sales to Whole Kids Foundation. Beyond this, the brand does also establish healthy eating habits, and access to healthy food in schools, as do many other brands which shows the common interest to address the SDG 2 of nutrition and health 

 

On another note, stakeholder wise, The Craftory Limited has become a recent investor which is a certified B-Corp and has invested $50 million in HIPPEAS® Chickpea Snacks. This organisation is recognised as a revolutionary investment foundation whose beliefs are counter-corporate, demonstrating a progressive approach of sustainability over (corporate) profit. HIPPEAS aims to use funds to boost innovation, expand production, increase distribution, and increase its social positive impact but explicit detailed sub-goals on these general aims would be even better. As for social issues regarding gender inequality, and fair wages (i.e. the workforce atmosphere), I do think this company would strive to close the gaps given their sustainable outlook- there is some partial evidence showing women in leadership roles from social media such as LinkedIn when the company celebrated International Women’s Day. However, disclosing a SEDEX or supplier code of conduct, with evidence of monitoring the supply chain providers would be much better, to ensure fair labour and wages of workers, and would up my ranking slightly. 

 

To finish on the aspect you all want to know… price!!! This bag comes in at a great price of £1.85 from Sainsbury’s (130g bag), and from Ocado, its 50p (for a 40g bag), making this product affordable and ready for customers who want to snack away the day! The brand’s motto for those who are snackers is ‘#give peas a chance”, and for this product, I’m saying to the tortilla chip fans out there: #give these a chance!