A Superfood Entrepreneur Shares His Tips For Selling An Unfamiliar Product
Aaron Gatti, the founder of BRAMI, a high-protein, healthy snack food of pickled lupini beans, is capitalizing on the rising popularity of plant-based foods as he introduces an unfamiliar product to the American audience.
Aaron Gatti first got introduced to lupini beans as a kid during his frequent visits to see his father’s family in Italy. “I didn’t know even what they were, just that I couldn’t stop eating them,” he told me.
But it wasn’t until three years ago, when he introduced his wife, Alenna, to the meaty yellow beans during an Italian vacation, that the entrepreneurial wheels started turning. Alenna, a vegetarian who works in business development at a creative agency, immediately saw something there. “She flipped over them and said, ‘it’s like an Italian edamame, except it’s not soy and you don’t have to heat them up,’” Gatti recalls her saying. “And she said, ‘what if you made them in different flavors?’”
Gatti then returned home to his job as entrepreneur-in-residence at Lerer Hippeau Ventures, a pre-seed venture capital fund. Gatti, who was working on a Bitcoin startup at the time, gave Ben Lerer, one of the partners, some lupini beans to taste and told him about the idea. After devouring them in short order, Lerer’s verdict was swift: Forget Bitcoin and focus on the beans…
Chef’s Comment: A relative of the peanut family, the lupini bean tastes and textures like half bean and half nut.
My first response was no, I don’t like them. The garlic and herb flavored lupini beans tasted like lemon, then I realized it was lemon flavored – didn’t get the herb or the garlic, since the lemon over-powered it all. Too dry, didn’t like the shell on, then didn’t like the effort of removing the shell. Dud. Steve ate the whole bag, stating all the while that he didn’t like them. The next day he said, “don’t throw those beans away yet. I’ll eat them, cause I know they’re good for me”. He’s on a heart healthy diet since having carotid artery surgery.
I recalled to him what the owner said about not being able to stop eating them and I wondered why. So today I opened a new bag – sea salt flavor. I still had difficulty removing the shell because it’s soft as far as shells go, so the peeling is like trying to peel a soft garlic clove with your fingernails, but then I read the back of the bag that told me how to do it by biting down gently using my back teeth, then popping out the bean from the shell – after I popped one out across the room of course. I’m glad I wasn’t a guest in somebody’s house.
They chewed more like a soft nut than a bean. They’re not creamy, but just soft enough where I think I can get used to them. In fact, when I went back to my desk, I resisted several times getting up to try more. I’ll save some for later.
Expense is going to be the big factor here. I paid over 5$ a bag (5.3 oz.) and although it serves 5 at 15 beans per serving, I think the impression will be that it costs too much, since if you can’t stop eating them, a 5$ snack is a lot for most people. However, if this company takes off and I’m thinking that it might just do that, then the cost will come down some with increased sales and production.
The unfamiliarity of the lupini bean is probably the stumbling block. I’ve never had one. I’ve seen them in stores in tall jars, looking all yellow, like these do, but I wasn’t curious to try them. Maybe I’ll try those now and compare the two. Maybe the jarred variety are softer, maybe not.
The bean word threw me, since it doesn’t texture like a bean. It’s probably more like a boiled peanut. I’m taking Steve’s direction on this, since I’m already wondering what the other two flavors will taste like. I could even become expert at removing the shells, or decide to partake of the extra fiber. There really isn’t all that much difference between the shell and the bean.
They’re very low fat, soy free, gluten free, low calorie, low GI, vegan, non-GMO.
Refrigerate after opening, if there are any left.