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Aug 17, 2021

How do you commercialize a concept that’s centered around an esoteric ingredient? If you’re the founders of Pipsnacks, a brand of heirloom corn-based snacks, you literally start small. 

Launched in 2012, Pipsnacks debuted with a line of miniature popcorn, the aptly named Pipcorn, which founders Teresa Tsou, Jeff Martin and Jennifer Martin promoted as a better tasting and healthier version of the traditional snack. The product became an instant hit in the company’s home market of metro New York and later gained national recognition when it landed on Oprah Winfrey’s coveted “Favorite Things” list, followed by an appearance on the business pitch television series “Shark Tank,” in which Pipsnacks picked up a $200,000 investment from Barbara Corcoran.

In the years since, the brand has evolved into a platform of better-for-you versions of classic salty snacks, including its flagship popcorn, corn dippers, cheeseballs, crackers and cheese crunchies, all of  which is made with a base of heirloom corn. Pipsnacks products are available at more than 10,000 retail stores and expected to generate $12 million in sales this year.

In an interview featured in this episode, we sat down with Tsou and Jeff Martin, who offered a deep dive into the backstory and development of Pipsnacks, including the brand’s unique positioning, how they navigated a tumultuous funding round and a key partnership that has boosted its innovation strategy. 

Show notes:

0:42: Interview: Teresa Tsou and Jeff Martin, Co-Founders, Pipsnacks -- Tsou, who joined us earlier this year for a panel discussion about how Pipsnacks landed distribution at the founders’ dream retailer, and her husband and co-founder Jeff Martin, spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about initial R&D, how they define “heirloom” and how they perceived the potential for Pipsnacks early on. They also discussed the impact of exposure from appearing on Oprah’s “Favorite Things” list and “Shark Tank,” how they determine roles and responsibilities among three founders and why asking for help was a key lesson following a funding crisis. Later, they discussed how Pipsnacks’ alignment with Factory LLC gave the company the ability to rapidly scale, how they communicate the benefits and special nature of heirloom corn to consumers and the upside and downside of being known as “The Shark Tank Popcorn.”

Brands in this episode: Pipsnacks