Cut to the crunch: Sunmo's simple snacking ingredients

Health, plant-based and a socially conscious product are the trends driving this brand.

22 October 2019

Snacks are often an impulse purchase, one of those unplanned decisions made by a customer as he or she waits idly for a free till. But as health makes further inroads into the category, founder of Sunmo, Victoria Omobuwajo, believes more people are going online to satisfy those cravings.

“People are happy to buy snacks on Amazon and get it sent straight to door, so I think there is more of that coming for snacking,” she tells Food Spark.

Omobuwajo launched her snacking brand last year with a range of plantain crisps that are available in Selfridges and Whole Foods – not a bad start for a fledgling company.

Plantain as an ingredient has become more common in the UK in the past few years. At this year’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair a couple of businesses were specialising in products based off the banana offshoot, while increased experimentation with cuisines as diverse as Nigerian and Puerto Rican have also encouraged an appreciation for the fruit.

At Sunmo, it’s sold in four flavours: naturally sweet, sea salt, smoked chilli and sweet cinnamon.

“I wanted a product that was natural and healthy, and with the flavours I wanted a combination of sweet and savoury,” Omobuwajo explains, describing the sea salt option as “moreish,” while the sweet cinnamon version has been compared to a muffin in taste.

“We have left the product natural as well, as the plantain on its own tasted absolutely delicious completely stripped back. The way we make the crisps, we make sure we use it at perfect ripeness for the sweetness.”

Spicy chilli and smoked hickory flavours are on the slate to broaden the range, while a trial with garlic hasn’t made the cut amid concerns about garlic breath. Larger bag sizes are also in production, ramping up the 45g format to 120g.

Key to the company is using minimal ingredients – for example, there’s just sea salt, sunflower oil and the plantain in that particular flavour – as well as promising a munch that is plant-based and gluten-free.

Health is a big seller for the brand: Sunmo’s plantain crisps have 30% fewer calories gram for gram than the average potato crisp. They are also high in potassium, fibre, and vitamins A and C, says Omobuwajo.

“We believe in clean eating as well, so we use better ethical oil,” she comments. “Palm oil is cheaper and full of saturated fats, while sunflower oil is better for the environment and for the body.”

Coming up next are plantain dippers to be eaten with guacamole, dips or a dressing.

From plantain to sweet potatoes

But Sunmo isn’t placing all its eggs in the plantain basket. Due to launch in 2020 are sweet potato puffs, which are baked not fried and will be available in sea salt and balsamic vinegar variants.

There’s also a range of Sunmo drinks in development, including a willow water designed for hydration after workouts and a coconut water that is infused with superfruits like acai, mango or peach.

A spin-off range targeting children is planned as well, dubbed Little Sunmo.

“We do find [children] suck on the plantain. It’s better than a rice cake but it doesn’t go everywhere. They hold it in their mouth and enjoy it,” she says.

The puffs are also due for a kid-friendly makeover with flavours such as apple and peach.

Every pack of Sunmo bought provides a meal for an orphaned child in Nigeria – part of a trend towards more socially conscious brands.

“I think there is a revolution of people wanting a product that they buy to do more,” adds Omobuwajo. “People want to have a purpose behind a brand and they are really buying into brands that give back... They want recyclable packaging and they want more ethical products on shelves – they want more than companies who just put products in a bag.”

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